Herbert Collins is a victim of Hurricane Katrina's wrath, yet Mr. Collins describes himself as "lucky and blessed."
"It was rough. But imagine how it could be if I was still there with my four small children. I'm just lucky and blessed that I got out of there," Mr. Collins said. "I'm still on my knees praying, thankful that I got out of there."
Herbert Collins (center) poses with his children, (from left) Bria, 6, Aaliyaha, 3, Jeron, 5, Jeremy, 7.
Mr. Collins, who lived in east New Orleans close to Lake Pontchartrain, fled his home Sunday night during the evacuation, and headed to his mother's house in Thomson.
"I'm just lucky I had somewhere to come, everybody else headed west, but I said 'I'm going home,' he said. "When I made that decision, I thought I was just running from a storm, thought I would be back in a few days. I'm glad I headed east."
Mr. Collins said he "threw some things in the back of my truck, one suitcase, some bags, some canned goods, a few papers, and my kids. The wind was beginning to get rough." He said he is fortunate that the gas tank of his truck was already full. The drive to Thomson, which normally takes nine hours, took 15, due to the evacuation traffic.
Mr. Collins and his four children, Jeremy, 7, Bria, 6, Jeron, 5, and Aaliyaha, 3, are now living with his mother, Queen Collins in the Cherokee neighborhood on Dunn Street in Thomson.
Mr. Collins said his wife remained in New Orleans to take care of her parents. Mr. Collins received one phone call last week from his wife. She was in the Superdome at the time. Mr. Collins has not heard from her since.
"You can't call in, unless they've got another way I don't know about," he said.
Mr. Collins learned from his wife that their house was "totally destroyed." After seeing the devastation of his neighborhood on the television, Mr. Collins has decided not to return to New Orleans, where he has lived since 1970, working for Waste Management.
"I'm not going back to New Orleans except to assess my damage and take care of my business. I stayed there for 35 years, and I'm not going to live there anymore," he said.
Mr. Collins said he was born and raised in Thomson, his whole family is here, and this is where he will stay.