Robin Roberts' Diary: Five Years After Katrina, 'Life Does Go On'

Robin Roberts: Too Close to Home
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We remember the shocking drama, the scenes of despair that unfolded as people struggled to survive the floodwaters and to find out what had happened to their loved ones.

I had driven all night with our crew through the land where I spent my youth, banging on my mom's door. She was all right.

I barely made it on the air.

Hurricane Katrina's destruction was staggering.

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For me, going home back them was an emotional personal journey, and hard to put into words. I was so grateful that my family and loved ones survived.

But the places I loved as a child were gone, erased in one fierce stroke.

The Chimney's, a popular restaurant, was gone. My high school, too, was gone.

Relatives and childhood friends lost everything. Dear friends of my parents were swept away by the waters.

So many thousands of stories in those days -- stories of loss, fear, hope and humanity.

Hope Amid Despair

Perhaps nothing symbolizes hope as much as new life.

On Sept. 1, 2005, a very pregnant Chervanti Hilton, just 19 years old, was about to give birth in the most dramatic way possible.

Chervanti was in labor on an overpass in flooded New Orleans.

"I was just, like, screaming. I didn't know what to do. I was scared," she told "Good Morning America."

Larry Thomas was part of a volunteer rescue team. Tracked down after all these years by local television affiliate WGNO, Thomas recalled the scene.

"There was a helicopter trying to come down and get her. But so many people were rushing the helicopter," he said.

So Larry put Chervanti on a rowboat, with no oars, walked for six hours through waist-high water until he got to dry land and she was loaded onto a pick-up truck.

"She was just screaming and crying , you know," he said. "She was in pain."

"I just thought I was going to die," she said.

In the back of the truck, Larry helped deliver the baby and got them to Ochsner hospital. The baby ? Colby ? and his mother were both okay.

"If those guys hadn't been there, she could have bled to death," Dr. Ellen Kruger, an obstetrician/gynecologist with Ochsner Medical Center, said.

Like so many others, Chervanti and Larry moved away from New Orleans, and they never saw each other again. But as little Colby grew, New Orleans and the Gulf coast did some growing, too.

Devastated City Rebuilds

The areas were slowly but surely coming back to life.

Even on that first day of my reporting, I saw and felt the glimmer of hope.

Volunteers came from as far away as Australia. We learned the true meaning of charity. We at "GMA" even helped rebuild neighborhoods, up and down the shoreline.

The Chimney's restaurant has been rebuilt.

I saw progress on Seal Street in my hometown of Pass Christian, Miss., just a few blocks from my family home, which has also slowly come back to life.

I want to say thanks to the man who drove me to my mother's house that morning, and got me back in the nick of time to get on the air.

Thank you, Ryan Frazier. He's a detective now, wears a suit and tie now!

Life Goes On

There have been lots of hugs these last five years. It's been five years of healing. There are lots of shiny new buildings and homes, but there's still a lot of work to do.

Remember Chervanti and Larry? They were strangers on the night they met and couldn't fight each other for five years. Well, we found and reunited them.

They all have returned to New Orleans.

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