For the fourth installment of the After the Storm series, I’m bringing you the story of Attorney Colette Pichon Battle. Unlike the previous stories in this series which were based in New Orleans, Colette is a resident of the Bayou Liberty community in Slidell, Louisiana. With much of the news coverage of Hurricane Katrina focusing on New Orleans, it is easy to forget that the storm also greatly affected many neighboring cities. Slidell is located about thirty miles East of New Orleans and on the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain.
Personally, Slidell is important to my Katrina story because I sought refuge there briefly after my initial evacuation to Mississippi. We had no power, no running water, and very little resources for food. I remember waiting in long lines in the heat to receive cases of bottled water and boxes of MRE’s (or surprise grab bags of fun, as I liked to call them). I watched as residents slowly trickled back into the neighborhood I was essentially camped out in, waiting for my city to re-open for its own residents. There was so much heartache on every face as they drove down the vacant streets, surveying the damage. That heartache would not end soon for many.
Colette was one of the people who stepped up amidst that heartache to give back to the community that had helped her become an attorney. Many residents struggled with literacy and found the legal terminology in the papers they received from FEMA or their insurance companies difficult to understand. Colette helped them with their paperwork, making sure they got the aid they needed to get back on their feet. She had every intention of returning to her new home in D.C. but she knew how much her friends, relatives and neighbors needed her. So she decided to stay and has dedicated her law practice to helping people in need.
Watch her story in this video produced by Neighborworks America, StoryCorps and LRW Photography.