[StBernard] Enduring Katrina and Starting Over: The Loze Family

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Mon Aug 28 21:19:15 EDT 2006

Enduring Katrina and Starting Over: The Loze Family
By: Gretchen Young, St. Bernard Columnist
Updated: 9 hrs ago
This is a story of courage and survival, of an Arabi family who faced all of
the fury of Hurricane Katrina and held on against all odds.

Like many others who suffered great losses, Tina and Bernard Loze must now
endure a tidal wave of memories with the approach of the storm's

The Lozes now second-guess their fateful decision not to try to evacuate
their home, a decision largely made out of the fear that their car, which
had not been running well, would overheat and leave them stranded on an
interstate in the middle of the storm.

It was about 6:30 in the morning of Aug. 29 when the Lozes, who were
watching a portable television, heard what sounded like three explosions in
the distance and suddenly lost all power.

It soon became obvious that their house could no longer protect them and
their 7-year-old daughter Sara, and in fact was becoming a death trap.

Within a half-hour, water started seeping into their living room, and they
started hurrying to get dressed. They managed to get everything on except
their shoes.

It was a heartbreaking moment, the Lozes said, when their daughter Sara lay
crying on the bed, begging her parents not to let her die.

With a calmness in her voice that she did not feel, Tina told her daughter
that if she listened to Mommy and Daddy, everything would be okay, that they
would keep her safe.

Bernard put his daughter into the attic then pulled himself up through the
opening that had no pull-down stairs. He then reached down to help his
wife up, but she couldn't make it. The water was coming in fast now and it
was then that they decided they had to get out of the house.

Bernard dropped his daughter down to his wife, who was now standing in
four-feet-deep water.

The front door had blown in from the pressure of the water so the Lozes put
their daughter on top of it, threw a blanket over her to protect her from
flying debris and floated her out.

As the Lozes stood outside their home under the overhang, the water
continued to rise rapidly and soon was high enough to allow them to climb
onto their roof. It looked, they said, like they were on an island
surrounded by deep water.

Mercifully, the little girl, exhausted from the ordeal, later fell asleep on
the roof in the middle of the wind and rain, while her parents kept reciting
the Lord's Prayer over and over. They could hear tornados in the distance.

Eventually, Bernard was able to make a hole in the roof so they could climb
down into the attic and get out of the gusting winds and heavy rain.
Inside, they found their lovebird and two cockatiels in their birdcage and
two of their three cats that Bernard had placed there earlier.

About two hours went by as they sat in their attic and prayed, asking God
for help and guidance. Sara was awake and hungry, but they had nothing to
give her until an unopened box of Fruit Loops floated by and Tina was able
to grab it and give her daughter a few handfuls.

Not long after that the water began coming into the attic so they climbed
back onto the roof. Bernard saw a capsized boat and a couple of men in the
second story of the house across the street. The men couldn't help them but
motioned for them to come over if they could.

Looking around for something that floated so they could get to the boat,
they soon found a large board. They all got on the board with the birdcage
and the two cats and pushed off the roof. But soon the board started to
sink, and the birdcage went under and cats jumped off and swam away.

Instinctively, Bernard grabbed his daughter and they both went under. The
swift current separated them from Tina, who was able to swim to a tree in
their front yard and grab hold of a branch. Knowing her husband couldn't
swim well and fearing the worst, Tina was terrified until she saw their
heads finally pop up.

The couple said they were praying for God to save them when Bernard found a
power line to grab hold of. The next thing he knew he was pulling up on it,
and he and Sara made it to a tree.

Tina, who could swim well, fought the strong current to get to the capsized
boat across the street, but had no luck overturning it. So when a tire
floated by, she reached for it and then had to struggle to hang on to it in
the gusting wind, as she anchored herself in a magnolia tree.

At times the wind was so strong that the tree where Bernard clutched his
daughter bent in half.

Minutes turned to hours. Eventually, Tina spotted some wires and was able to
use them to pull herself along the magnolia branches to reach her husband
and child, with the tire in tow.

Tina put her daughter on the tire, reminding her of her Red Cross swimming
lessons and telling her to kick as hard as she could. Then Tina navigated
the tire in the floodwaters toward the two-story house, thinking only of
getting her daughter to safety and not about the odds against her. They
made it and the two men pulled the little girl inside and Tina went back for
her husband.

Once the couple made it to the house, the men gave them blankets, priceless
gifts after being in the wind and the chilly floodwaters for so many hours.

That was just the beginning of their ordeal.

The sheriff's office came by that evening, but there was only room in the
boat for one parent and the child. Bernard took Sara out while Tina waited
behind for the next boat, which wouldn't come until the morning. She
remembers spending the night listening to screams for help.

The next morning, the fire department arrived with another boat and took
Tina to the sugar refinery. But her husband and daughter were not there.
Tina would not learn of their whereabouts until Wednesday when she was taken
to the Port of St. Bernard.

There she was overwhelmed with emotion upon seeing them. A family had
"adopted" Bernard and his daughter and had given him a pair of shoes. Tina
and Sara still did not have shoes, so Bernard carried his daughter on his
back across the metal grate of the port and then sent his shoes back to his
wife with a member of the coast guard.

They spent the night at the port and were told they would be taken to a Red
Cross shelter Thursday morning for medical exams since they had been
stranded so long in floodwaters.

But instead, they were shipped by barge to the Gretna ferry landing, where
they were loaded into an army truck that brought them to the I-10/Causeway
overpass in Metairie.

Once there, the situation only got worse.

They would spend the next two days on the interstate. There were cots there,
but the Lozes said they were unable to sleep because of helicopters flying
in and out every ten minuets. The heat and human waste made it all the more

Finally, early Saturday morning they were able to get on a bus that took
them to the Houston Convention Center.

The Lozes arrived there without any identification, credit cards or money,
but they were thankful to be alive. "We may have lost everything we owned,"
Tina said "but we still have each other, and can testify to the awesome
power of God."

Actually, Houston turned out to be a blessing. They got their first hot
meals in days. They were able to take much-welcomed baths and given clean,
dry clothes. And they finally got medical attention. What's more, Sara was
loaded down with toys and books.

Eventually, they were able to reach Tina's father's house where they
remained until March, after which they stayed in different places before
buying a house in Baton Rouge with an SBA loan.

They were also able to purchase new furniture and are thankful to be
sleeping in their own beds again. Sara is thrilled to have not only her own
bedroom, but another room with a desk and a computer. She calls it her
office, but it doubles as a classroom where she's being home schooled.

Sara, her parents are happy to say, is making new friends and thriving,
thanks to Family Services of Greater Baton Rouge and the counselors at Camp

While they are grateful for their new life in Baton Rouge, they said their
hearts will remain forever in St. Bernard.

If you would like to share your story of rebuilding your home or have
interesting news to share, please write an e-mail and you will be contacted.
Email me at StBernard at StTammany.com.

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