[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/08/29/art.katrina.convention.jpg caption="A woman cries as she waits with other flood victims at the Convention Center in New Orleans, 3 years ago"]
Editor's Note: Anderson Cooper 360° is in New Orleans tonight, as Tropical Storm Gustav barrels toward the Gulf of Mexico, expected to reach Category 3. We'll look at whether New Orleans is ready, after being devastated by Hurricane Katrina exactly three years ago today. Watch our special report tonight at 10p ET.
CNN Supervising Producer
Bria Johnson would be 15 years old by now. Before I sat down to write this I decided to try and find the teen, again. I dusted off those Katrina reporter notebooks that I can not seem to throw away yet they are kept in the bottom of an out of way drawer.
I met Bria three years ago outside on the New Orleans Convention Center. Our cameras were the first to arrive at the convention center where thousands of evacuees made their way to escape the flood waters. Some had been there for days with no water, food or medical assistance. Bria had spent a long, dark, fearful night on the street in front of the convention center. When I met her she was hysterical, terrified that darkness would fall again as she sat on the corner of the town where she once felt safe. "Why can’t they put up lights?" she wept. Bria said people fought and yelled things at night. She did not want dark to come. Bria was my niece’s age and since that day, just like my niece, Bria holds a special place in my heart.
After taking pictures and doing interviews CNN aired the shocking story of the evacuees stranded at the convention center. That was all we could do for Bria and the others there. Relief would come but not soon enough, Bria spent another night in the pitch dark streets of New Orleans. A few months after the storm I just had to find out what happened to that beautiful strong little girl. Through websites set up for Katrina victims I was able to find out she was with family members out of state and she was safe.
Today, not for lack of effort but I haven’t found her yet. I did find a city I believe her Grandmother is living in. Since every anniversary of the day I met Bria, I continue to hold out hope. Hope that Bria has grown into a typical teenage girl, like my niece worrying only about friends and clothes.
Filed under: Hurricane Katrina
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
Questions or comments? Send an email
Want to know more? Go behind the scenes with