Hurricane Katrina: House call

"Not everybody that's fled this horrible, horrible disaster has gone to a shelter," says Dr. Phil as he stands in front of a home in Dallas. One woman, Judy, lost everything in Waveland, Mississippi, and moved in with her sister 550 miles away. There are now 12 people living under one roof.

 

Dr. Phil makes a house call. "We just wanted to come in and visit with y'all today and talk to you a little bit about what you're going to do," he tells the family. "How long were you sleeping outside?"

 

Judy explains, "These children slept three nights outside and then we had four nights out." She begins to cry. "When we were trapped in Waveland, in this area with no lights, the importance of seeing one light and knowing there was life outside of where we were ..." 

 

Dr. Phil asks Judy about the smell in the streets. "You guys said when you were there and having to deal with the water, that the smell was something you'll never forget?"

 

"When you're going down the street, you're smelling these funny smells," she explains through tears. "We realized there were dead bodies in these houses because they were recovered on the street. There were 17 bodies hanging out of the apartment buildings." 

 

"So you just saw things that people don't need to see?"  

"That people should never have to see," says Judy.

Dr. Phil points out that even after going through what she did, Judy wants to go back to New Orleans.

"Yes, sir. That's home. That is home," she tells him.

"You've lost friends there?" asks Dr. Phil.


"My cousin's husband died the next morning after the hurricane," says Judy. "People that I worked with. People that I love. They're gone."

 

Dr. Phil asks Judy's son, Chandler, how he feels about returning home.


"I've been there for 18 years and I'm going back there one day. After all this mess and clutter is gone, I'm going there to live," he says confidently.

"Do you worry that you're going right back in and it could happen again?" Dr. Phil asks.

Judy says she doesn't know what her family will do. "We're homeless. I've never been homeless in my life," she cries. "I worked two jobs for almost all my life just so I could be independent, to have my own home, and to not have to depend on someone else. And this is what happens. This is the reward you get."

 

Dr.  Phil tells Judy the reality of the situation: Her home is under 15 feet of water. "I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that's gone. You can't go home," he tells her. "You can go back there and start a new life, but you can't go home. It's not like it was."

 

He tells her to make a decision once things have settled down a bit. "I think it is really a bad practice to make life decisions in the midst of emotional turmoil," he says. "You're in shock. You may have post-traumatic stress as well. But right now, I'll promise you, you're not thinking clearly. You're safe, you're warm, you're dry, you're with people that love you. What you need to do is give yourself permission to live in the moment."

 

Dr. Phil advises, "You need to and must return to your home there, for no other reason than to get closure." He offers to fly her back to her home when she is ready, and if she is willing, he would like to go with her.

 

"This is a time that society holds you up," Dr. Phil tells Judy. "But you've got to let people help you." He explains that a friend of his runs a major company in Dallas and if she decides to take Dr. Phil's advice and let things calm down before returning home, they will provide her with an apartment in a nice, safe neighborhood, for six months rent free. They will also pay all the bills and arrange job placement for her.

 

"It's hard to accept other people giving and doing for you," Judy responds.

 

"You've got to learn to receive and accept, just like you do giving," Dr. Phil tells her, and gives her a hug.

 

"Thank you so much," says Judy.