On this day 10 years ago, I remember auditioning for MTV's "Wanna Be a VJ" contest at the Mall of Louisiana, and it was a completely gorgeous day outside. I had just started college a few days prior, so I didn't have a TV or access to the internet in my dorm room yet, but I do remember being confused about an emergency hurricane meeting held that night in the dorms and getting a lot of phone calls from worried family members asking if I would be driving home. Once I finally figured out what was going on, it was too late to leave as contraflow had already started and traffic was jam-packed. I wasn’t too worried though, because I had been through hurricanes before. Hurricane Katrina quickly changed my perception of hurricanes when it hit later that night, and it was hard seeing so many people around me literally lose everything they had. Following the storm, classes were cancelled for a while, and since our campus was one of the few locations in the city with power, I spent the next couple of weeks volunteering at the LSU PMAC where they were flying in victims from the storm on a daily basis. Whether it was helping with triage, sorting through donations, or just talking to people at the center, I tried to help out in any way I could. To this day, I still wonder about a few children I helped entertain, feed, and spend time with while I was volunteering there.
When many people think about Hurricane Katrina, images of flooding and individuals in despair come to mind, but I choose to stay positive. For me, Hurricane Katrina represents resilience, hope, and strength. To witness people lose their family members, personal possessions, and homes, and yet still have the strength to smile and say that it would be OK, really made an impact on me. It was an experience that exposed me to the power of a community coming together, and it taught me to always be thankful and maintain hope, even in the darkest of situations.