There's no place like home, and the beautiful Mississippi Gulf Coast will always be home to me. Having lived there beginning at the age of 8, I had become accustomed to hurricanes. But Hurricane Katrina was different with forecasters using words like “catastrophic” and “historic.”

The morning of Katrina I went to work as usual, co-hosting GMA alongside Charlie Gibson and Diane Sawyer. During commercial breaks I would call and check in with my family in Mississippi. My mother was too ill to evacuate so my sister, Dorothy, and her two girls stayed with her in our Biloxi home. The initial video we saw of the storm did not seem as bad as predicted. So I didn't worry too much when the phone lines back home went dead. But by early afternoon everyone realized it was even worse than we thought it would be.
ABC immediately got me on a plane to report from the storm zone the next morning. Truth be known, I wasn't going there to report. I was going there to find my momma. The closest we could land was Lafayette, Louisiana. We drove all night and as we got closer to Mississippi the devastation took my breath away. While the GMA crew set up for a live shot in Gulfport, MS, I drove on to my mom's home in nearby Biloxi. My heart was pounding seeing houses completely destroyed. Familiar landmarks were obliterated. I was relieved to see only a portion of my mom's roof gone, and thankfully the house was still standing. I didn't want to leave my family. But momma insisted I go do my job and let people know just how bad things really were.
I got back to the live location just minutes before we were to go on the air. I kept my composure and reported on the massive flooding in New Orleans and the destruction I had witnessed on the drive from Lafayette. When I wrapped up my report, Charlie asked me about my family. Simply put, I lost it.
I've lost count how many times I've returned home to the Coast and New Orleans the last 10 years since that morning. My first trips back were to my hometown of Pass Christian. I was overwhelmed when ABC executives came up with the idea to "adopt" The Pass, which it is affectionately called by locals. It was an initiative we called "GMA Gets It Done," and GMA viewers came to the rescue donating all types of resources to help the Pass and other devastated areas rebuild. I joined amazing volunteers from all across the country, removing debris, doing whatever was needed. Sometimes it was just a much-needed hug.
What I wanted most was to let folks back home know that they would not be forgotten. I remember reporting from New Orleans and walking the abandoned streets lined with homes beyond recognition. Time and time again over the years I reported from the Pass and New Orleans. Each time the crowd was a little bigger, signaling that people were slowly returning home. And each time I could feel the spirit returning as well. I marveled seeing the resilience and strength of people who had lost so much. Their faith was unwavering.
At the 10-year mark there has been great progress. There are more restaurants in New Orleans than ever before. Habitat for Humanity has helped build new homes all along the Coast. The area is not only being rebuilt, but revitalized as well. But there is still much work to be done to fully restore the region. My family moved to MS in 1969 just weeks before Hurricane Camille. Many felt the Coast would never be the same and it came roaring back bigger and better. There's no reason not to believe that will be the case again. Katrina is a story that's still unfolding. There are many wonderful chapters left to be written. It takes courage to believe that the best is yet to come.


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Designed by Kevin Bartels, Design Director Lori Neuhardt | Produced by Lauren Effron, Eric Johnson and Danielle Genet | Photo credits: NASA, ABC