When Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast in 2005, over 800,000 people evacuated from the city, and Bessie Simien was one of them. This week on Senior Voices, we hear about Bessie’s journey from New Orleans to Dayton. She shared her story last fall with Dayton Metro Library volunteer interviewer, Cynthia Wallace-King.
Bessie Simien (BS): I was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on July 4th, 1928. In them days things were really hard and tough and things; all I can say is I had a good life. It was not easy as what the people, the children have now, but was a lot of love. We didn’t have a lot of money, a lot of food and everything, but we made it. I moved to Dayton after the hurricane in New Orleans, Hurricane ‘Trina. I came from New Orleans to Georgia and I really didn’t like Georgia, so my son was living here in Dayton, so I was crying every day that I was in Georgia, so he said, “Mama you don’t have stay there, you can come here.” And by him living and working here, at Wright-Patt, that’s how I came here from New Orleans, and I’ve been here ever since.
New Orleans is a great city, a big city and everybody come there, you know they have things going on everywhere, but was raised there and I really loved it until the storm came. Probably I would’ve still been there.
Cynthia Wallace-King (CW): Did it destroy everything that you had?
BS: Yes, I lost everything, when I went back home, from the storm and the water. There was four feet of water in my house so I couldn’t save anything. But I was blessed to have all my family got out. When they told us we had to leave, we left there, we was in Georgia when the storm hit New Orleans so we wasn’t there to see, you know, so we was blessed by that we didn’t lose any family member, but we lost everything.
CW: So then you moved to the Dayton area?
BS: We moved to Dayton and I’ve been here ever since. And I made it this far. (Laughs) I’ve made it this far, so I can just say blessed. I can’t say anything bad about it.
CW: Would you say that the storms in New Orleans were the worst time in your life?
BS: Yes, every time the storms would come up, well the worst one I seen was Hurricane ‘Trina, but I went through a lot of ‘em that, you know, we had to all get together and wonder which way we was gonna go, until Hurricane ‘Trina came and then we really had to get out. That was the worst one, but I went through a lot of storms.
This interview was edited by Community Voices producer Zeb Reichert. Senior Voices is a collaboration between the Dayton Metro Library, Rebuilding Together Dayton, and WYSO. This series is made possible through the generous support of the Del Mar Healthcare Fund of the Dayton Foundation.