Notebook: Hope In Katrina's Wake

By CBS News correspondent Kelly Cobiella.



Of all the stories surrounding Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, Michelle O'Reagan's was one of the hardest for me to believe, perhaps because this one had a happy ending.

It wasn't that surprising that the O'Reagan family, their adoption case worker Danna Cousins and the birth mom all evacuated to Houston. After all, tens of thousands of people from New Orleans ended up there. However, that they all managed to find each other among the thousands was surprising.

The birth mom, Cousins told me, was stranded for two days in the attic of her flooded family home before being rescued and brought to Houston. All of her family members survived, but they lost everything. She thought she'd lost the O'Reagan family as well. She didn't have their name, only a few details to describe them. She knew they had a daughter named Molly, three dogs and two cats.

"When the birth mom called the office in Houston, they said there's no way we're going to be able to find that family," Michelle said. "There's no way. Why don't you chose a family here in Houston? And she said no, she had found the family that was right for her child and she was sticking with it."

Meanwhile, the O'Reagan family didn't know how much they had lost. The news coverage didn't include their neighborhood west of New Orleans. So, after hearing they were going to have a baby, Michelle's mood went from joy to panic in a nanosecond.

"When you're pregnant, you have nine months to prepare," she said. "We had a few weeks!"

They also had post-Katrina madness. The family returned home in late September. They were lucky to have only minor roof damage, and did a rush job on the nursery. Megan was born Oct. 28 and she went home to her new family three days later.

Cousins now tells the story to anyone who will listen, she says, because with all the loss and hurt Katrina brought to her city, it helps to hear that something good came out of the storm, too.

And as a reporter working in New Orleans for the past month, I can't tell you how much of a pleasure it is for me to finally be able to tell a story with a happy ending.
  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for CBSNews.com

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