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Mike and Jeanne Melon- 5108 Feliciana Drive

DSC03467.JPGJeanne and Gregory left New Orleans mid-day on Saturday before Katrina hit.  Mike, a bi-vocational pastor, completed his work shift and got home just after Jeanne had left.  He had planned to leave immediately.  But, when he got home he discovered that two senior adults had no way out of the city and would not leave.  Mike purposed to ride out the storm and try to take care of them. 

Mike’s storm pictures are a bit daunting.  It evidences the magnitude of the wind damage and the amount of water that came into his neighborhood in Gentilly.  His house began taking water about 8:30am and he watched as the water came up the road.  He said it was almost surreal.  He and the dog relocated to the attic with some food and an axe in case he had to cut his way out.  About 1pm in the afternoon after writing his name and social security number on his body, Mike and his dog came out of the attic.  He waded in chest deep water to see how the two women had fared.  He went first to Ms. Shirley’s.  She had been standing on tiptoes for several hours unable to get out of the flood water.  He then went to Ms. Connie’s.  Carrying both women and his dog he swam to Mirabeau and Press Drive.  It was all he could do to keep their heads above water.  Exhausted, he saw a boat and was able to get all of them into the boat and to dry ground on Gentilly Blvd. 

Mike stayed through the week and did not leave until Friday.  He worked with Bethel Colony out of their building in Indian Village trying to get as many people to high ground as possible.   (photo gallery) 

MIKE MELON
Stayed in the neighborhood
Felt Katrina’s wrath
Saw the water coming
Got out of its path

Senior ladies stranded
Carefully rescued two
Carried them to safety
God sent a boat to use

No way to explain
Courage well displayed
Mike just knew he was needed
Jesus carried him through

Through hidden dangers
Through hours filled with pain
The work was hard and daunting
Mike did what he could do

This isn’t just a story
It’s a flesh and blood event
How Christ used his servant
Mike was heaven sent

Mike is not a quitter
Neither is his wife
A bi-vocational pastor
They worked hard to make their life

Today they still serve Jesus
Although in another locale
But when Katrina came calling
Mike was there to meet the demand

Many things together
Make a person what they are
Mike is a Christian hero
In Gentilly he made his stand

Clay Corvin 8/8/06

MICHAEL KNIGHT -5428 Roman

Michael Knight sharing from his front porchOn the morning of August 29, 2005 it looked like Hurricane Katrina had passed by the lower ninth ward.  It had not done a great deal of damage.  The lower ninth ward had survived.  Sometime after 8 a.m. Michael Knight had purposed to begin assessing his damage and see if there was anyone he could help.  The wind had slowed down and then with very little warning the water swept in.  In a matter of minutes the water was chest high and Michael was looking for his boat.  One of his boats was swooshed up into a tree.  He used one of his other boats that he subsequently renamed Katrina to begin his survey of the area.  All around him people were trapped.  Michael began a four day campaign to save people from drowning.  He pulled more than 100 people out of the murky waters now occupying the Lower Ninth Ward.    Initially Michael transported people to a nearby church building.  The water continued to rise.  The number of people Michael rescued from potential drowning quickly overwhelmed the space at the church.  Then Michael had to move all of them to the school just across the street.  For four days the numbers grew.  Michael said that the number of bodies floating in the water, people, and animals, created a smell that would overpower the senses.  It was a desperate situation.  They kept thinking surely someone would come.  Finally, Michael had to go and find the Coast Guard to get them to rescue the folks from the church.  Michael lived on the roof of his house for more than a week.  Each day he would make forays around the area searching for folks.  He had to get water and food.  He had to deal with the odors.  It was beyond difficult.  But, this was his house-his land and he would not be denied.  Michael persevered.  Freddie Hicks was with Michael during this whole mess.  He helped at every opportunity and was in every sense an able partner.  Freddie was willing to work.  He was willing to stay.  Freddie was an outstanding partner in helping Michael help others get out of the lower ninth ward.  Michael’s trade is junk.  He is the junkman.  He turns others castoffs into something useable and useful.  His home belongs to him.  He is deserving of admiration and thanks.  Both Michael and Freddie are courageous Americans.  For additional pictures of Michael, Freddie, the lower ninth ward and the devastation along the Industrial Canal  

Michael Knight

Courage and strength
Standing alone
Knowing Jesus cared
He would not fold

Seven days on a rooftop
More than a hundred souls
He found and freed
The water wouldn’t leave

Neither would Michael
He could not go
This was his home
He would not be overthrown

Standing alone
Three hundred days
Others returning
Their land he saved

Sometimes a man
Must draw a line
Here I stand
This life is mine
Courage and strength
Standing alone
Michael was God’s man
The lower ninth still his home
 

Clay Corvin 7/20/06  

 

Louis and Latasha Banks III, 5447 North Derbigny Street

aDSC03461.JPGLouis and Latasha Banks III had been married for nine days before Hurricane Katrina struck.  Their neat home at 5447 North Derbigny Street was comfortable and adequate for their new family including daughters Renisha and Mikala.  They lost all of their wedding gifts in the flood.  They left on Saturday driving to Mississippi out of the storm’s fury with only enough clothes to stay three or four days before coming back home. 

aDSC03336.JPGIt has been nearly eleven months now and their journey had carried them through MS, to North Alabama, back to Baton Rouge, to Dallas and then back to New Orleans after Christmas where they are now residing with Latasha’s mother in an apartment. 

Louis has worked many different jobs during this time including a period with Comman Ground and has volunteered to help many that are gutting out their homes in the old neighborhood.  Renisha said she wanted things back the way they were.  She misses her schools and friends.  Latasha says she has had a difficult time keeping everything moving forward.  The only way she can deal with the daily struggle is to turn it over to the Lord. 

GENTLE PEOPLE

Gentle people
Have a way
Of helping others
Encouraging their day

They walk and talk
As others do
But in a pinch
They always come through

They set aside
What might have been
Changing lives
Enabling others to mend

Reaching out
A helping hand
Working through
Returning again and again

You are just
That kind of soul
An inner glow
A Godly know

A friend to those
In need of help
A gentle person
Will be your friend
   Clay Corvin 7/19/06
 

 

Janet Benjamin, 5620 Tonti Street, N. O., LA

aDSC03320.JPGJanet Benjamin is a determined survivor of Hurricane Katrina.  Three generations of New Orleanians have lived in and owned this former residence in the heart of the lower 9th Ward of New Orleans.  The beautiful home was already raised 4 feet off the ground and the flood waters from the break in the Intercoastal Canal reached up 6 more feet and swept her home off of its foundation.  Janet, her grandmother and many other family members had spent many hours on the front porch of their home, talking with neighbors and creating community.  Her neighborhood is now a beautiful memory that she hopes to recapture one day.  As we stood in front of her home, we were reminded once again of the destructiveness of nature.  Janet said this house had provided “a place she could always go” and now she is struggling through the devastation of loosing everything she owned.  Janet’s faith is strong and she states that “the Lord has seen her through.”  She believes that in time she will be able to rebuild and return to this place she loves in the lower 9th Ward.  Janet is a member of the Harvest Ripe Church, Gretna, LA pastured by the Reverend Jesse Pate, Sr.  Janet says that her church is an important part of her life and has been critical in her continuing recovery from Hurricane Katrina.  Janet’s first visit home was in late October 2005 and her house was still flooded.  At that moment she said that she was reminded that the Lord would take care of her and He is even to this day. 

For more pictures click here

Pastor Mel of Bethel Colony South

Pastor MelPastor Mel Jones is the leader of a drug rehabilitation program located on Old Gentilly Road near the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in the Gentilly community of New Orleans.  Pastor Mel grew up in this neighborhood and has committed his life to giving back to the community.  He began the Bethel Colony Baptist Church which sponsors the Bethel Colony South drug and alcohol rehabilitation program more than two years ago.  Pastor Mel a recovering addict himself knows all the ins and outs of helping those caught up in addictions.  He has survived his own addictions and he says “by the power of Jesus will survive and thrive.” 

Bethel Colony South is a grassroots organization that has survived by the power of the Lord and through Jesus’ strength working through its leader Pastor Mel.  The stories of their survival through Hurricane Katrina and subsequent rebuilding are many.  It is a blessing to hear of the way the Lord is faithful to this struggling ministry in the heart of New Orleans.  Pastor Mel can be reached at 504-259-3453 or at revmel90@netzero.com.

For more pictures click here