Guardsman Recalls Ravaged Town
In the chaos after Katrina, the National Guard was responsible for everything, from feeding survivors to stopping looters.
Last September, most residents abandoned Kenner. Now, vehicles are back on the roads, and students are back in schools.
In Columbia, National Guard member Jude Florek is back behind the wheel, driving trucks for Pepsi-Cola. But, he still has Kenner on his mind.
"I think about it a lot, yes," he admitted. "I mean, you wonder how these people are doing."
Florek spent many nights in the Kenner gymnasium, where defense had a different meaning.
"It was set up as a compound, secured, with fence and guards," he recalled. "And we had our own fuel, water, things of that nature. Baseball field was our motor pool."
The Missouri National Guard used every part of the gym for its mission, setting up a communications center in the locker room, and putting an armory in a concession stand.
"I tell you, it was just like you was on the Army base," said gym administrator Leon Bonner.
Bonner also coaches Kenner's baseball team. And, as gym administrator, he helped the Guard move in.
"I really enjoyed working with them," Bonner remembered. "I really enjoyed it. It was my first time ever working with Army people, and it was really a good, a great, experience for me."
Kenner's mayor says the Guard played a vital role in the town's recovery.
"Everything from security to helping feed people, organization. You name it, pretty much they did it," said Mayor Phil Capitano. "The guard, I tell you, they gave us a big helping hand."
But, Kenner is already preparing for the next hurricane season.
"They're already telling us it will be a worse season this year than last year," said Capitano. "Don't look forward to it."
Watch KOMU News this Thursday to see how the battle over reconstruction is heating up in Kenner.