After surviving through heavy mosquitoes, no air conditioning and little food, 40-year-old New Orleans native Troy Brown has a new perspective on life.
"People are just happy to be away from the storm, and the love that has been shown to us by the people of Rockford; beautiful," Brown said.
Fifty-one evacuees who arrived in Rockford last night, relaxed at Singer Health Center on this warm September night. However, Brown was anything but relaxed when Katrina's fury and floods reached literally to his front porch.
"They talked about the quality of the water, and I saw rats and things in the water, and then they had the bodies and the mosquitoes, it was time to go," Brown said.
Although he is safe and sound in Rockford, the safety of Brown's 20 plus family members is unknown. New Orleans area phone lines remain largely out of service, so Brown remains out of touch, and concerned.
"When they left, I was there, but I want them to know that I'm alright and I want to feel that they're alright," Brown said.
And after facing excruciating hardships in the Big Easy, Brown went from having nothing to having more than he had before, which right now, means everything.
"I want to thank the city of Rockford for opening your arms and your hearts, and just giving us a place to come," Brown said.
A place these evacuees now call home, for now, and maybe even forever.
Aside from a place to stay, soon the evacuees will have some money.
On Monday, they received their Red Cross debit card.
Wednesday their account will be filled with cash.
Also, on Tuesday, the evacuees begin their bureaucratic maze, meeting with all the agencies to decipher what aid they qualify for, and what programs are available.