Marguerite didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving at her church in New Orleans as she usually does. On Wednesday, November 23, she went to a different church, the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in St.Paul. Marguerite, and other Katrina refugees, had her traditional Thanksgiving dinner organised by the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer.
“The aim of this reunion dinner was to spend a good time together and to give happiness for the Katrina refugees,” says Orpah Keaton, a member of the staff in charge with the dinner. This event was meant especially for Katrina refugees but isolated people were also welcomed.
“I am used to celebrating Thanksgiving with my big family so I know it is important for people not to be alone at this time of the year,” Orpah Keaton said. Keaton has worked with the refugees since their arrival in the Twin Cities area. The Katrina refugees received a package with maps of the Twin Cities, information about the housing, the employment center and a brochure about how to survive in the cold Minnesota winter.
Marguerite, 9O years old, was sitting at a table eating her Thanksgiving dinner. She won a blanket at the lottery. Marguerite left her New Orleans’ house full of water to live with her daughter in St. Paul where she arrived two weeks after the hurricane. On Thanksgiving Day, she ate Gambo, an African dish made by her daughter. This Thanksgiving was the first one since a long time celebrated with her daughter.
“We used to celebrate Thanksgiving with a very large group; this year it will be just us,” Desiree said. She lives with her husband, their three daughters and her parents in a rented house in Stacy, Minnesota, where they settled after leaving New Orleans. “Usually, we go to our Episcopal church for a large potluck, but this year it would have been impossible because, like our home, the church was destroyed by the hurricane,” Desiree added. She and her family were invited by their neighbors to celebrate Thanksgiving. Lynnwood township had also organised a dinner for Katrina refugees.
“I’m gonna miss New Orleans’s history, but I’m looking forward to learn the area and to explore the museum and to try ice fishing,” Desiree said. “Ice fishing is experimenting the first. It’s kind of a chance of getting back a child!” she added.
Desiree said she doesn’t want to return to New Orleans because her daughters are now readjusted to school and it would take two years to rebuild their house which has been under eight feet of water for the past two weeks.
At their arrival, Desiree and her family stayed six weeks at her brother’s house. Desiree’s company transferred her in the Twin Cities area. “I resigned to help my family,” she said. “They need time to take care.”