Coming home to my Roneagle family
Tivonsheia “Tee” Broussard grew up on Galvez and Charbonnet in the Lower Nine in a house her great grandfather built on his own. Before the storm she lived in this house with her mother along with her grandparents. Like most 16 year old kids, she was consumed by social media and the prospect of driving. She recalls a time when hurricane evacuations in New Orleans had little significance and instead, became the justification for extra vacation days from school.
On Friday, August 26, 2005, Tee’s mother made sure her family evacuated the city. Tee’s grandpa drove the family to Houston to make sure they were comfortable. Tee spoke with her mom after arriving safely in Houston and without much concern, she got off the phone and said, “See you Monday mom.” They went to sleep Friday and woke up Saturday to the chaos and devastation brought on by Hurricane Katrina. As TV stations began to air images of people on the roof of the Desire, she knew this wasn’t an ordinary hurricane “scare”. The storm had ripped through the city. She remembers hearing constant mumblings that families needed to begin planning their lives elsewhere and that parents needed to find new schools for their children to attend.
From 35 to Providence High
Tee was a 10th grader at McDonogh 35 when she left New Orleans. She had no home, no school and they hadn’t heard from her mother in over a week. They eventually left Houston to stay with family in Florence, MS, however, Mississippi offered Tee few opportunities; to the point of suffocation, so she was sent alone to stay in Charlotte, NC with an aunt. Her favorite childhood cousin lived there and her aunt promised to enroll her into the best school in the city.
Her aunt kept her word and enrolled her into Providence— a nationally high-ranked high school with over 50% of its student enrolled in Advanced Placement (AP) courses. Tee remembers seeing herself as a smart child and a good student— after all she had tested into “35”. Every morning she woke up before 5am to get to school. There, she was faced with challenging coursework. Her experience at Providence turned out to be too overwhelming so she left. She pleaded with her aunt to enroll her into her cousin’s school— Vance the local neighborhood high school. Vance wasn’t as challenging, her cousin went there and it was closer to home. As she thinks back she says, “It had to be the stress and pressure of the storm’s aftermath along with not being with my family and not being used to being a struggling student that made me leave Providence.”
Seeing Mom and Coming Home
It had been six months since Tee had seen her mom. Seeing her mom for the first time since the storm confirmed that her dream of going away for college and going to study medicine at Howard University would no longer happen. She knew she never again wanted to leave her mom’s side.
In February 2006, as promised her mom found a place, sent for her daughter and moved the family back to New Orleans. They rented an apartment in Gretna— the same apartment Tee rents for herself now. McDonogh 35 was one of the first schools to reopen and Tee was desperate and couldn’t wait to come back to see her Roneagle family. Prior to the storm there were kids she had classes with that she never spoke to and because of the deep need to connect to her city and to be in relationship with the familiar she without question became friends with anyone she could connect with via Myspace. These relationships filled some of the void of things that were lost in the storm.
On orientation day at “35”, the anticipation was thicker than summertime humidity in New Orleans, Tee recalls.
“I walked into the auditorium and knew I was home.”