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Broderick Kelley, left, and brother Wilbere Kelley

Broderick Kelley, left, and brother Wilbere Kelley

Wilbere Kelley considered himself lucky that his home was still standing.

"It was mostly the vehicles that was the wettest," the 20-year-old forklift driver from New Orleans said. "The house is all right. Some of the windows are broken and it's wet, too, but it's nothing too serious."

His brother Broderick Kelley, 25, a security guard, said both of them were in Centerville, Miss., when Katrina hit Aug. 29. Their third brother, Scharjonn Kelley, 30, was at home in New Orleans. As the hurricane subsided, they wanted to return to make sure Scharjonn was all right.

But public transportation no longer operated, and they had no way of getting back, Broderick said. A radio station broadcasting from Baton Rouge offered a glimmer of hope. "The guy was offering rides to New Orleans, so we called him and got on. But [the truck] broke down and we walked like, 12 miles, to get my brother."

Though he's grateful his family is still together, Wilbere recalled with controlled anger that the police "were no help in evacuating."

The brothers hopped a military tank to the New Orleans Convention Center and spent the night there before boarding an 8:30 a.m. flight that brought them to Washington.

Wilbere Kelley  describes their journey to the convention center and then Washington.
(13 seconds; Real Media file)

Though they didn't know before they got on the plane that they were headed this way, Broderick said they do have an aunt and other family in Silver Spring, Md. On Tuesday they were eagerly trying to get in touch.

Three days later, they still hadn't reached them. But the brothers didn't seem fazed, returning from downtown Washington with shopping bags filled with brand-name shoes and clothes.

"This is our home now," Broderick said of the Armory.

They were doing their best to make the $2,000 debit cards they were issued by the federal government last. And they are consulting with job placement officials and housing advisors inside the Armory about finding a place in the Washington area, Broderick said.

Wilbere doesn't want to go back to New Orleans. "There's no jobs there," he said. "No money. There's nothing there."

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Photos and text by April Chan
Published  Sept. 16, 2005

Banner graphic by April Chan, incorporating photo from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Newsline Web content edited by Chris Harvey; Capital News Service stories edited by Adrianne Flynn and Tony Barbieri.  

Copyright 2005 University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism

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