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Dominican Life | USA
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Everybody Has a Story

“Everybody has a story,” or so the saying goes in New Orleans today. Every person’s narrative adds a special dimension to understanding the impact of Hurricane Katrina. Here are two such stories from the Dominican High School community.

Looking at the girls today in the halls of St. Mary Dominican High Schol , you would never know there had been a Katrina and a flood. Everything is so normal!

But talk to senior Erin Grefer and you hear a story that is fresh and easily re-lived in the telling. “My family evacuated first to Mississippi and then to Keller, Texas, where my aunt lives. We spent two months there, fourteen people in the house, three of them ages 2, 3, and 5. I bet my aunt was thinking: When can I have my house back?”

The thin 17-year-old shook her ponytail with an easy laugh as she said “How blest we were. We lost our house, but I was never hungry. And we had a home to stay in. And I made new friends that I still call today and keep up with. If anything good could come out of that storm, it did for me. When asked what she missed most from her lost house, she said: “Of course it was the family pictures, videos of my mother who died when I was seven.”

Erin commuted to Arlington to attend Nolan High School, a catholic high school run by the Marianists who “did their best to make me feel welcome. It meant a lot to me when someone asked me to sit with her in the cafeteria. But I missed the sense of bonding that I had with the other girls back at Dominican High School.

“Losing the material things showed me how unimportant they are, but being home and with my family is what really counted, and that’s something I used to take for granted. If I’ve learned anything from this experience, it is to be grateful, and I want to try to live out my gratitude by doing for others the way someone did for me.”

Beverly Gaines, the attendant secretary at Dominican also considers herself blessed. “I got a frantic call from my mother, who is usually very calm, to say we had to evacuate. So my mother, father, brother, sister, husband, and my little son Forest, caravanned to Humble, Texas, just north of Houston. Another sister thought she was safe on the 3rd flood of her condo, and had to be airlifted by helicopter as the waters rose. We picked her up in Baton Rouge.”

Gaines’ son cried every day as he went into his 2nd grade class in a strange school.

“When I talked to someone from Dominican, I would always say: ‘Tell whoever is doing attendance not to get too comfortable because I am coming back.’”  Gaines and her family came back in September, in time for Forest to start third grade at St. Anthony of Padua, the Dominican-run parish and school where Sister Ruth Angelette, a member of the St. Mary’s congregation, is principal. The Gaineses are living in an apartment while their house in Gentilly, which had to be gutted, is being rebuilt from the inside out.

But no matter what, Gaines is happy to be home. “When students saw me in the halls at Dominican, they would squeal with delight, ‘Miz Gaines! You’re back!’ That made me feel so good.” When asked if she felt safe moving back to New Orleans, she said: “This is home! Houston was wonderful, but you want to be home.”

Story Contributors: Beth Murphy, OP (Springfield), Janet Brown, OP (Grand Rapids), JoAnn Niehaus, OP (Houston), Joan Smith, OP (Blauvelt)



St. Mary’s Dominican High School:
A Wave of Success

St. Mary Dominican High School website

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