A refugee's tale: Former county resident opens home to relative who lost all in hurricane

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:54

SUSSEX COUNTY-Faced with the prospect of leaving things to chance or fleeing before it was too late, Lacy Abshire chose the latter—and it very likely saved her life and that of her two-year-old daughter, Destiny. Abshire, 23, was a resident of Chalmette, La., a suburb of New Orleans just four miles to the east. When the weather forecasts on Saturday, Aug. 27 predicted bad things for the Gulf Coast region, Lacy, the sister-in-law of former Hamburg resident Jason Webb, felt the pressure of the approaching Hurricane Katrina and made her move. "I emptied out all my picture frames and the things that meant the most to her (Destiny), and we packed up in my little car and left," Abshire said by phone last week. Driving a 1996 Nissan Ultima that had 190,000 miles on it, Abshire and her daughter headed east to Jackson, Mississippi. But on Monday, Aug. 29, the single mother had to make another move since Katrina had torn parts of Mississippi to shreds and damaged the hotel she was staying in. That meant turning west and making a lengthy drive to Shreveport to get away from the killer storm, whose heavy rains led to the collapse of the levees around New Orleans, leaving some 80 percent of that city under filthy, contaminated water. Chalmette suffered the same fate, leaving Lacy's apartment flooded nearly up to the rooftop. By the time she got to Shreveport, Abshire was becoming desperate, and she made one last move: Calling her sister Jennifer, who lives in the Philadelphia suburb of Horsham, Pa. Via the internet, Jason and Jennifer Webb had a plane ticket waiting for her at the Shreveport airport. On Wednesday, Aug. 31, Lacy and Destiny's flight took off for Houston. With no connecting flights to Philadelphia available, she flew to Newark. There, Jason Webb, the former Hamburg resident, picked her up after driving two and a half hours up the N.J. Turnpike with his two-year-old daughter, Melissa. Webb took Lacy and Destiny back home to Horsham, where they are sharing an apartment with her three in-laws. "They don't have too much room, but it's better than them living in a shelter," said Linda Webb, Jason's mother. "She had no one else to turn to because all of her relatives had evacuated, and at that point, no one knew where anyone was." "It was a little hectic and a little different," said Jason Webb, also by phone. "I mean, just the expectations of going to the airport and getting luggage, and driving with two kids. But it is what it is, and you've got to make do with the situation. "It's different, it's a little tight and a little more going on in the house, but we're doing okay," Jason added. "The kids are getting along great. And it gives my daughter a playmate. Every morning, Melissa gets up and asks for Destiny." Since the time of her arrival in Pennsylvania, Lacy, with the help of her sister, has landed a job at Applebee's and is beginning the road back to recovery. But that recovery does not mean a return back to her native state of Louisiana -- not ever. "I don't plan on going back," Lacy said. "I don't want to have to remember anything (there) the way it is now. It's never going to be the same, even if they do rebuild it. It's crazy." Jason Webb comes from a music-oriented family. Since graduating from Wallkill Valley Regional High School in 1993, he has become a professional trumpet player and plans on doing a benefit concert in Philadelphia for the victims of Katrina, via the American Red Cross. But for Lacy, the need for an apartment and a car is obvious, and the Hopatong Rotary Club is accepting donations for the Abshires at P.O. Box 8541, Landing, N.J., 07850. In the meantime, Lacy Abshire is keeping a journal of her ordeal, and has managed to stay "pretty busy lately." When asked why she heeded the call to evacuate instead of staying with her home and possessions like so many others, she did not mince words with her reply. "Because I have a two-year-old child," she explained. "And she is the most important thing in my life."