DENVER - Hurricane Katrina devastated lives and left emotional scars that may never heal for many of its survivors. The trauma is further compounded for Linda Selestan, because the whereabouts of her brother Wilfred, 58, are still unknown two years after the storm. DENVER - Hurricane Katrina devastated lives and left emotional scars that may never heal for many of its survivors. The trauma is further compounded for Linda Selestan, because the whereabouts of her brother Wilfred, 58, are still unknown two years after the storm. The sixty-year old last saw her sibling in 2005 while watching a CNN news broadcast where he was pictured wrapped in a blanket and getting into a "military truck." By that time she and twenty-three others, who had been stranded for days on the roof of a three-story housing project in New Orleans' ninth ward, had been flown to Colorado, one of many states survivors were evacuated to. Selestan is unsure if her brother is still alive, and if he is, it is certain that he does not know she is now far away in the mountain region. She has two other siblings residing in New Orleans with whom she re-established contact six months after the hurricane. None of them, however, have heard from Wilfred.
Tearful Linda Selestan at a civil rights workshop after sharing that she has been unable to locate her brother whom she lost contact with after Hurricane Katrina. Photo: Lens of Ansar.
Selestan shared her story recently as part of a three-day conference hosted by the Colorado Coalition of Civil and Human Rights Leaders in which she was a panelist for a workshop entitled: "Katrina: The Face of Injustice in the 21st Century." She broke down in tears when relaying the story of her brother, as well as the housing difficulties she had experienced while in Denver. Currently, she lives with the family of Ruth Sanders Hughes, 47, a woman who sat with her on the panel and whose family she had lived with for fifteen years in New Orleans prior to the hurricane.
After arriving in Denver, Selestan - along with the twenty-three others - stayed in the government-run shelter established at a former air force base for the evacuees. Months later she obtained a private apartment with rent paid by a local charity whose funds ran out in 2006. From there, Selestan sought assistance from FEMA, but was denied after representatives informed her that since she had lived with another family prior to the storm, she would have to find the same living arrangements again.
She was still in tears as she told those in the workshop what happened next: "I got evicted from my apartment, with snow on the ground. Where was I supposed to go?" she asked. "I would be on the street right now if it wasn't for Ruth." Sanders Hughes had also secured housing by that time and gladly opened her doors to help her longtime friend.