Couple Says Katrina Was a 'Good Thing' for Them

ByABC News
August 29, 2006, 12:58 PM

Aug. 29, 2006 — -- Shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit, ABC News sent seven reporters to follow the lives of evacuated families. Dan Beckmann shadowed the Wilson family from their shelter in Baton Rouge, La., following their journey across the South in search of a place to call home. Beckmann has stayed in touch with the family throughout the year, and here is his reporter's notebook summarizing their experience.

A little more than a year ago, Nigel Wilson and his girlfriend Lattrice Franklin were sitting in their apartment, living their lives and not in any way prepared for the year that would blow them away from all the people, places and things that they had always known. Twelve months later, they're still cleaning up after Hurricane Katrina.

I met Nigel and Lattrice just before they got married in Baton Rouge, in their evacuation shelter, in early September 2005. At the time, Nigel was the hero who got the family out of the storm and post-apocalyptic New Orleans alive.

Living under the roof of a church-operated shelter that weeks earlier had been a gym, Nigel and Lattrice were rebaptised. They were given a free car, and they were handed welcoming sponsors in Little Rock, Ark., who provided them with housing and furniture, and settled Lattrice's son, Malike, in a nice new school. It seemed like they were well on their way.

Now, almost a year later, the car is gone, the church has cut off contact, and the Wilsons don't live in Little Rock anymore. Malike is about to start another school in the fall in Montgomery, Ala., where they live now.

A theme for the Wilson family this past year has been that it took a hurricane as strong as Katrina to get them out of their funk. They were happy to have, not only this opportunity start over but -- in their eyes -- to start over with the help and grace of god. What happened?

Nigel and Lattrice have been running from something the entire time, and wherever they go, they can't seem to totally shake it--it's their past.

When I left the Wilson family in the gracious hands of their Little Rock sponsors in October 2005, there was talk of Nigel getting a job in the hospitality industry as soon as the next week. He was eager to get back to work, to return to some sort of normalcy and to give back to all the people who had helped him. But by Thanksgiving, despite the appointments set up by his sponsors, that job never materialized. Lattrice, who was trained as a nursing assistant, also found it hard to start working again.