In February 2006, Michael and Leon Vaughn found me. It was early morning and I was leaning against my car in the Lower 9th Ward. Another car pulled up alongside me and a man got out and asked, “Do you want a story?”
Michael and his brother Leon had just driven all night from Grapevine, Texas where they had been evacuated the day before Katrina struck. I followed them to what remained of their houses on North Galvez Street. Michael’s pink house was tilting to one side and the roof was on the front steps. A neighbor’s house was on top of his daughter’s car. The three of us made a circle and held hands. Leon sang gospel songs and they prayed for the house, the neighborhood and their family.
Since that day, I have met most of Michael and Leon’s family –13 brothers and sisters and their children and grandchildren. Some are now scattered throughout the United States; others are back in New Orleans trying to rebuild their houses or still living in FEMA trailers.
Hester, the matriarch of the Vaughn family, was evacuated from her home before it was destroyed in the flood waters. She went to a son’s house in Alabama and then to a nursing facility as her health deteriorated from the stress of not being able to return to New Orleans.
We met for the first time at the nursing home in Alabama on her 96th birthday in July 2006. A year later, she joyfully celebrated her 97th birthday back in New Orleans surrounded by her family.
On November 8th, 2008 Miss Hester Vaughn died of colon cancer. She was laid to rest at Mount Olivet Mausoleum, New Orleans.