by Casey Cheshier, Studio Account Manager
On the morning of Friday, September 4, my partner and I loaded a rented truck and headed to Lake Charles, LA, which took a heavy hit from Hurricane Laura and sustained widespread devastation. This is our story.
2020 has been quite a year, so when I saw on the news that a hurricane was forming in the gulf as a category four, my heart sank. My partner, Ashley, grew up in Lake Charles, LA, so when it was very clear that Lake Charles would take a direct hit, we knew this one would be different than Rita, which hit in September of 2005. As Ashley’s friends and family evacuated as quickly as they could, we held out hope that the storm would weaken or shift paths. Unfortunately, it did not. In fact, it strengthened to a borderline category five and as Hurricane Laura struck in the early morning hours of Thursday, August 27, it sat on top of Lake Charles, destroying everything in its path.
As the following days unfolded and residents were allowed back into the city, it was clear the town had never seen such horrific destruction. Not a single home or business went without some type of damage. Without water or electricity, the conditions were extremely poor and unsafe.
Sadly, the storm received little to no media coverage and the locals are essentially on their own to try and rebuild their town. With this in mind, Ashley began reaching out to contacts on social media to raise awareness about the help that was needed and the donations of supplies began to pour in from people where I live in Austin, TX.
Arriving in Lake Charles
As we drove over the main bridge into Lake Charles, the damage was as equally jaw dropping as it was heartbreaking. With the money Ashley was able to raise through donations, we were able to purchase a generator for a family whose home had been heavily damaged. They had run out vouchers from FEMA, had no income from losing their jobs as a result of the storm and had nowhere to go. We were also able to purchase roof tarps for several families, along with some groceries and supplies they needed to get back on their feet. We also partnered with a local church to help distribute all of the supplies that had been donated to us in Austin. The resiliency of the Lake Charles community was something so beautiful to see and experience in the midst of such devastation.
Ashley’s mom’s home took a direct hit and was heavily damaged, so we spent hours going through the debris and trying to salvage what we could of her personal belongings. Most importantly, she is safe and we will help figure everything else out from here.
As the Labor Day weekend ended and we made our way back to Austin, we reflected on the experiences we shared while in Lake Charles. Although the damage will take years to fully repair, our hearts felt full because we were able to see humanity, love and compassion in people, which were things that seemed to have been lost this year amid the chaos of 2020. It was a powerful reminder of what’s truly important in life and that’s the love and safety of those we care about.
Lake Charles is still very much in need of help and here are a couple of local groups where donations are being utilized very effectively throughout the city.
Professional football star Trey Quinn, also from Lake Charles, is raising money via GoFundMe here.