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August 29th, 2008
03:00 PM ET

"Why can’t they put up lights?"

[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.

Kimberly Segal
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
soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. ben

    This is a very touching story. It really shows your human side Ms segal. Sooner or later the two of you will meet again under much happier circumstances. God bless you, Andersson Cooper and so many other other reporters who really care.

    August 31, 2008 at 12:16 am |
  2. amy

    kim – thank you for demonstrating that, for the most part, people like you don't go into this line of work for the glory. they go into it because they care deeply about the rights and well-being of others. keep it up!

    August 30, 2008 at 9:59 am |
  3. Michelle Mansukhani

    Kim, It is people like you that make a difference in this world, keep up the good work and stay safe.

    August 29, 2008 at 9:42 pm |
  4. Melton

    Keep searching for Bria, I hope and pray that she is alive well. I pray that NOLA and other Gulf states, villages, towns, and cities will be spared this time.

    August 29, 2008 at 8:18 pm |
  5. Marcia

    Keep up the good work. Your accurate coverage of the news is so important. Hope New Orleans and other cities are spared this time, but if not ,I know you coverage of the news will help those impacted such as Bria was three yeasrs ago.

    August 29, 2008 at 6:58 pm |
  6. Joyce

    Please find Bria. I hope she has become what she deserves to be. We should always be ashamed of our lack of response to our neighbors in New Orleans. I hope that one young girl managed to overcome what seems to be the impossible.

    August 29, 2008 at 6:08 pm |
  7. malisa

    Kim-
    If anyone will find her it will be you. Good Luck and stay safe. My thoughts are with the people of NOLA right now.

    August 29, 2008 at 6:08 pm |
  8. scott

    ty kimberly for doing these storys you mom is very proud of you and so am I being your her wonderful daughter. Keep up the good work and god bless you in your efforts

    August 29, 2008 at 5:13 pm |
  9. Zola

    I concur with Brian, I am sure this young lady will appreciate you reconnecting with her. We need to be our brother and sister's keeper.
    God bless

    August 29, 2008 at 4:19 pm |
  10. Brian

    Ms. Segal, I would encourage you to continue to try and find her. It will mean so much to her to have you follow up. After all that has happened and feeling like there is so many people who don't care, seeing your face would bring her hope and encouragement.

    Thank you for following up on these stories and letting people know that there is still much to be done. I appreciate your work.

    August 29, 2008 at 3:30 pm |