[StBernard] Club brings 'Lost Cajuns' together

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Sat Nov 18 10:08:08 EST 2006

Club brings 'Lost Cajuns' together
People join to talk about life in Louisiana before Katrina and after


Friday, November 17, 2006

Louisianians displaced to the area by Hurricane Katrina found a taste of
home Thursday night at the first meeting of the Lost Cajuns of East Texas at
a local New Orleans-style seafood restaurant.

About nine adults and four children from various parts of Louisiana gathered
around a table, talking excitedly and comparing experiences from their home

Kathleen and Brian McCalla, originally from the west bank of New Orleans,
spoke to Cheryl Laylle, originally of Chalmette, La. Laylle lives in

Laylle spoke about the conversations she had with people from East Texas
shortly after moving from Chalmette.

"I had people come up to me and say 'I know what you're going through. My
house burnt down, and I lost everything,' " she said.

"I know people meant well, but they had no idea what I was going through.
You can't go to your parents, family, friends or employers for help, because
everyone has lost everything," she said.

Maria Laylle, mother-in-law to Cheryl Laylle, came from Arabi, La., in Saint
Bernard Parish.

"I came to the meeting because I am a lost Cajun," she said.

She was happy Thursday, though, because she had just landed a permanent job
as an English-as-a-second-language teacher for Hallsville Independent School

An oak tree fell on the McCallas' home and destroyed half of it.

"The people of East Texas have been very nice to us," Brian McCalla said.

What he misses most is the fresh seafood he could get in New Orleans.
Kathleen McCalla said it is sometimes difficult to find all of the spices
here she used in her cooking in New Orleans. They plan to stay and have
bought some land in Diana, where they want to build a house.

Patterned after a group two years ago in Knoxville, Tenn., the local group
can thank Elaine Sena, 76, of Longview.

Sena relocated a year ago from Chalmette after Katrina left 12 feet of water
in her home.

She wants the group to be a kind of social club for people who have been
through the trauma of Katrina and who just want to connect with others from

"It's healing to talk with other people who have been through the same
thing," she said.

Sena, along with her two sons and their families, fled the area in August
2005, just ahead of the hurricane.

"It took us 17 hours to get to San Antonio, and we ended up staying at a
hotel there for two weeks," she said. They had originally expected to be in
San Antonio for just a few days.

When Sena's younger son got a job in Longview, she joined him and stayed in
a hotel for six to eight weeks, courtesy of the American Red Cross.

Sunday will mark the anniversary of the day she relocated to East Texas.

Sena speaks highly of the people in Longview, particularly the members of
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church.

"Without them, I don't know what I would have done," she said. "I also like
the wide-open spaces and pretty autumn colors."

What Sena misses the most about leaving her home is not having her friends
and family close by. She talked about the condition of Chalmette now.

"It's being rebuilt, but it will never be the same," she said.

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