Faces in Our Midst
Homesick or Happy, Katrina Evacuees Reach First Holiday

Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, November 24, 2005 10:40 AM

They are the guy behind the deli counter in Rockville, the quiet gentleman staying in Room 1117 at the College Park Holiday Inn, the identical twins on the school bus in Beltsville and the senior at Damascus High.

Some are settling in comfortably and intend to stay, others live in the uncertainty of bureaucratic limbo and still others weigh a powerful yearning for home against the shallow roots established in the Washington area over the past three months.

They are the faces Katrina deposited in our midst, several thousand of the estimated 1 million people caught up in the diaspora after the worst natural disaster in U.S. history. The fortunes of those who came to the area after the Gulf Coast was devastated in August reflect the myriad sentiments and circumstances of those who landed elsewhere in the nation.

As the first major holiday since the hurricane -- a holiday cradled in the notion of home and family -- comes around today, it is a moment for taking stock among those who were wrenched from their homes and often separated from their families.

"As long as you have your life, you have everything," said Bruce Norwood, 48, who landed in Montgomery County. "As long as the family is there, everyone is alive and together, everything else is material."

Norwood is one of several hundred people whose misfortune made news when they arrived in the Washington area. Here is a glimpse into the lives of a handful of those people -- and a dog named Bourbon -- who will spend Thanksgiving 1,100 miles from home in a place they never imagined living.

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