Life after Katrina: A former New Orleans socialite’s big move

Special Reports

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Over the years, the Southeast has faced several deadly hurricanes, one of the biggest being Hurricane Katrina in 2005. 

During the storm, thousands of people were forced to evacuate their homes, including 81-year-old Annie Avery, who relocated from New Orleans to Birmingham.

“I never crossed the threshold of my house, my door,” Avery said. “I couldn’t go back [to] the house, it was devastating to me.”

Avery evacuated before the Category 5 hurricane hit and decided not to return to New Orleans. Avery first moved to Denver to be with her son before relocating to Birmingham shortly after.

She remembers the moment she returned to New Orleans to find her flooded home. She suffered great loss, but she’s grateful to be alive.  

“You have to look at it like people said to me. You lost everything. No, I didn’t. I didn’t lose a life. I lost stuff. S T U F F. That’s what I lost,” she said.

However, Avery has experienced even more loss since moving to Birmingham. Nearly two years ago, her brother died.

“My brother and I were sorts of inseparable. We talked on the phone every day. Twice a day at a certain time of day. And when that time came that day when he didn’t call me, I knew something was wrong,” she said. “I’m doing what my brother would want me to. Live and be happy. And I am happy.” 

Despite her losses, Avery is thriving in Birmingham. In 2018, she was named the first African American Miss Alabama Nursing Home. She now lives at the East Glen Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Trussville, a place she said is proud to call home. She also founded the “Ladies in Red” organization and gives back to the community.

“Well, we started Ladies in Red here. Well, I started Ladies in Red in New Orleans, but it had a different outlook than it does here. But here I just wanted the ladies to really shine. Because everybody is somebody. And everybody has a past, a presence, and a future. And that’s what I wanted them to portray. We do crafts. We try to reach out to the homeless. We do things with churches and different organizations. And I just feel we’re really involved, ladies in red.” 

Avery has advice for others living in a Hurricane Zone. 

“Prepare. Be aware. And do what you’re supposed to do. When they say leave, leave,” she said.

For now, Avery said she will enjoy each and every day and encourages others to do the same. 

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