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Encore Presentation - Children of the Storm

Aired September 1, 2007 - 20:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT: "Children of the Storm," Soledad O'Brien reporting.

AMANDA HILL, 18 YEARS OLD: This is my mother's grave. She died seven years ago. And we don't even have a nameplate for her.

All it is, is a square comment the I write on with a Sharpie.

I love you, mom.

I live in St. Bernard Parish. I live in a FEMA trailer with my grandma. I live with my grandma because my mom died when I was 11. She was 28, and she died of cancer.

Hey, mama?


A. HILL: What you doing? You better watch the road. Don't look at me.

D. HILL: What am I doing? I am driving home after a hard day's work. My bills are more than I can handle. I am very, very, very depressed about that.

A. HILL: Are you ever happy?

D. HILL: I used to be, but not no more, not since Hurricane Katrina got ahold of us.

A. HILL: I know what it is not to have the finer things in life. And I don't need that to be happy. But, when I wake up at 3:00 in the morning to hearing my grandma crying because she doesn't know if she's be able to have money to put milk in the refrigerator or have bread on the table, it's a little eye-opener.

And, before the storm, we struggled, but we made it, and we were fairly comfortable. Now she is so far in debt and so stressed out, I can physically see what it's doing to her.

So, what you think about us being on CNN?

D. HILL: All I know, it's about they want to film us.

A. HILL: You are not excited? You're going to be on national TV.


D. HILL: I look like a scarecrow, like somebody that's dead and forgot to die.


A. HILL: Our house has gotten so much worse, and because of the way the world is now, and that she can't find a job that can pay her a decent wage.

D. HILL: I'm all dressed for work.

A. HILL: I am scared that I'm going to lose her. And she's all I have. She told me she doesn't know how she's going to pay the bills this month, and it's enough to make someone want to commit suicide.

All I could say was, it's going to be OK, when (INAUDIBLE) I don't think it is.

D. HILL: I'm opening a letter from FEMA.

A. HILL: What's it saying?

D. HILL: It's saying that we can -- we have to try to move out of this trailer. They're trying to get us out of here to be put in a house, and the house is not even livable. It's not even ready to live in.

A. HILL: Well, welcome to a day in my life. We get letters like this every so many months saying that we need to get out. But we don't even have a place to live, if they take the trailer from us.

This is just a couple of things we have to deal with, just to name a few, every day after Katrina.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: We're really thrilled to have you. We're very excited. And we're looking forward to you guys turning out some really great work. But the person who knows everything...

SPIKE LEE, DIRECTOR: Not everything.

O'BRIEN: ... about this kind of stuff is really Spike.

LEE: You see we have a very diverse group here. And you're each going to be given a camera. And we want you to record your life, what you're doing, what's in and around you. Shoot, shoot, and shoot again. And I would suggest that you start at home. Start with your family.

DESHAWN DABNEY, 15 YEARS OLD: I like the idea of starting at home, because that's one thing that has really carried me all the way through Katrina, and up until now, is family. We stuck together everywhere we went. We were all over the place, but we stayed together as one. BRANDON FRANKLIN, 19 YEARS OLD: What I want to do is make it an inspiration to kind of inspire other young people, our peers, I should say, and show them, even though that big tragedy happened, you know, if your mind right, you still can strive through, even though it's a big, big struggle, because it is hard. Me, myself, I stay with -- myself, with me my girl and a little one. And I'm still in school, still trying to get out of school.

LEE: How old are you?

FRANKLIN: Nineteen.

LEE: Nineteen.


A. HILL: The reason why I wanted to do this is to show that Katrina wasn't only something that happened a year-and-a-half ago. It still, like, affects us every day. And the way life is, from money to friends to family, just I want to show the nation that it's not anything like it used to be, and it probably never will be.

SHANTIA RENEAU, 17 YEARS OLD: A lot of tourists come down to New Orleans just for the French Quarter. So, we're concerned about rebuilding the French Quarter, instead of the East or the Lower Ninth Ward, because I'm from the Lower Ninth Ward. And my grandma and most of my people are all from the Ninth Ward or the East.

And they haven't done anything. And a lot of my family aren't coming back because nothing is getting done down there.

FRANKLIN: I feel like we're the lost city. And, really, to me, New Orleans feel like an island to United States. We pretty much like Hawaii now, where it's like they don't really care.

O'BRIEN: You guys, I want to take a moment and hand out your cameras.

LEE: Amanda.

O'BRIEN: Take a look. They're yours.

LEE: We're expecting to get some great...


LEE: ... footage. So, you're doing this for the world. Remember, it's not just for yourself, because the world is going to see this stuff. So, you got to come correct. You don't want to go out and half-half rudypoot (ph), right?



O'BRIEN: All right, guys. So, Dave (ph) is going to give you a tutorial on how to use your cameras.

DAVID ALLBRITTON, CNN PHOTOJOURNALIST: Everybody, turn their camera on and hit record. Say, "Hello" and give your name on the camera.

RENEAU: My name is Shantia.

ALLBRITTON: Everybody do it.


O'BRIEN: So, that was the first thing that Amanda ever taped for us. And, as she got more familiar with her camera, she started sharing a little bit more about some of her concerns, with their debt, which was growing, and with her grandmother's health, which was very bad. And some of the things she started to tell us really began to concern us.

D. HILL: I don't know what the doctor is going to tell me once they look and see what's going on. My main concern is that I might have to have an operation on my arteries.




A. HILL: One of the things that has been making me cry lately is being worried about my grandma. She has been very sick lately and hasn't been able to work for about three weeks.

Grandma, how are you feeling this morning?

D. HILL: I'm feeling a little better. As long as I rest, I'm OK. My main concern is that I might have to have an operation on my arteries.

A. HILL: She felt like her heart was about to give out on her. She kept having heart palpitations, and she would get really weak. And she finally found that everything is OK, but she just -- I think it was a lot to do with stress.

OK. This is my aunt Wendy.


Love you.

A. HILL: Love you.


GONZALES: She's scared to death of losing her grandmother. And it's a reality. The stress that she's going through that people don't realize from the storm is unbelievable. And it's nowhere near over.

D. HILL: I love you.

A. HILL: I love you, too.

GONZALES: Grandma does what she can, but it's like Amanda is taking it care of grandma. Amanda does it all.

O'BRIEN: OK. So, now it's May, and Amanda's graduation is approaching. Amanda is trying to get some scholarship money, because she is trying to pay for school. She got in, but she can't really pay for it. She used to dream of going away to school. But then, with her grandmother's health and now their living conditions, that's kind of off the table.

So, we air a small piece of Amanda's story on CNN. And, really, for the first time, there is some good news to report about Amanda.

A. HILL: And this is what I think is one of the best things about St. Bernard, the volunteers from other states. They are painting my living room right now. And it will be a few weeks before I get in. We thought at least a year-and-a-half before we would get in.

It looks good. How was painting?


A. HILL: After the first piece aired about a day in my life on CNN, I got many, many generous contributions. I have received checks. I have received gift cards. I got some clothes. Someone even donated a laptop to me. I'm going to open a savings account and I'm going to use that towards a car and towards college.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With honors, Amanda Lynne (ph) Hill.


A. HILL: Hey, mama?

D. HILL: What?

A. HILL: What you doing?

D. HILL: I'm fixing chicken in the new house. I'm going to celebrate the stove in the new house today.

A. HILL: This is my living room. We have electricity. As you can see, the fan is moving. This is my room. Here is the bathroom with mama in it.


D. HILL: Hello.

A. HILL: We got $96,000. So, the house can be paid off. And we can start pulling grandma out of bed.

Are You Excited?

D. HILL: Yes, I am. I have tears in my eyes at this particular check.


A. HILL: And the story behind this is, after they showed that I was writing on a piece of square cement with a Sharpie, someone donated this. We just so happened to come here on Mother's Day, and it was already here. So, Mother's Day was the first day that we saw it, which was pretty amazing.

O'BRIEN: You feel like things are coming along for you? Do you feel...

A. HILL: Absolutely.


A. HILL: Absolutely. Absolutely, yes.

O'BRIEN: So, things are clearly turning around for Amanda and her grandma, Dolores. But all their good news made us start thinking about people who didn't have a lot of good news.

What happens to them? You know, people who didn't have their stories profiled on CNN, what happened to their lives? What happened to their dreams?

DABNEY: You, sir, if you can hear me, we are marching because the violence has gone too far. Senseless acts of violence are murdering our teenagers.

O'BRIEN: Deshawn Dabney is a teenager, but he is literally an activist. And his family never had a lot of money or really much of anything, but, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, he spends his time showing kids in his neighborhood how they can stay out of trouble.

DABNEY: Wow, I'm right on time.

I attend O. Perry Walker High School across the river.

Here is our principal, Ms. Laurie.

How you doing, Ms. Laurie?


DABNEY: Here's a great view of our courtyard. We have different signs. There is one that says "Respect."

DELLICA SCOTT, HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: New Orleans is a good city. It's just people need to stop killing people, and for nothing. ANITA DENNIS, HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER: I really couldn't tell what you to do to stop the crime, because it's gotten to the point where I'm considering leaving the city.

DABNEY: Even after being born and raised here, and living in New Orleans all your life?

DENNIS: But, unfortunately, you take a chance when you are traveling in certain areas of the city. And I will give you a perfect example. I'm traveling on North Broad on my way to Canal Street. And I look up and about two blocks ahead of me, up at (INAUDIBLE), I see police cars everywhere. I later find out there was a shooting in broad daylight.

DABNEY: And that's actually, like, a few blocks away from where I live, too.

KIMBERLY DILOSA, YOUTHANASIA FOUNDATION: Right now, we're practicing for a performance for the Jefferson Parish DA's office.


DABNEY: I am member of YOUTHanasia Foundation, Inc. YOUTHanasia is a group which was founded by Kimberly Dilosa. And it's a play on words. It actually means, we're killing what's killing our teens. I joined the group after being in a talent show that she held. From then, we have conducted a lot of performances and meetings and things about how we could help out the teens in the community.

Here's the banner.

DILOSA: Saturday is the (INAUDIBLE) They are going to walk from the front of the neighborhood to (INAUDIBLE)


DABNEY: I can't even walk through my own neighborhood, because they have tape lines saying I have to go around because someone was murdered on my street. That could have been me.

I would like to welcome everyone to the unveiling of the campaign to rebuild a teen-friendly greater New Orleans.

And our plan is to have -- we have a youth recreational center. It's our headquarters. And it is going to be a place where kids can come on Friday nights or weekends between the ages of 13 to 18 and have a good time, have fun, hang out. And they will be safe and they will have something to do, because the bottom line is that we just have too much idle time on our hands.

O'BRIEN: Deshawn lives in Mid-City. And, like a lot of New Orleans neighborhoods, Mid-City can be dangerous.

May 27, there was a parade. Everybody has gathered. And shots are fired. And, by the time they figure out what has happened, one young man is dead. DABNEY: That really got to me. And I am going to get a chance to speak with his family about it. And I'm actually going to go to the murder site, so we can film there. His family is going to explain all that.




DABNEY: One of the most terrifying, one of the most life- changing, eye-opening things happened just over a week ago.

My next-door neighbor was like, did you know the boy that got killed? And I was like, somebody got killed?

And when I went around there, and I heard who it was, it was so shocking to see one of my peers, a 17-year-old male, laid out on the ground with a gunshot wound in his head.

I was actually scared to take out the trash, because it was late at night, and I was scared of being hit by a stray bullet.

I don't want to be dead at 15, when I have a whole life to live. I have dreams. I want to be this huge entertainer. I want to sell millions of records. I want to win a Grammy. I want to win an Oscar. I want to perform on Broadway. I want to do it all. And there's no way I can do that if I'm dead.

How did you, like, handle that, being told that your brother was murdered in broad daylight, and you had to come around here and see him like that?

JAMELL HURST, BROTHER OF SHOOTING VICTIM: I was shocked. I couldn't believe it, really.

DORINDA PLACIDE, MOTHER OF SHOOTING VICTIM: My little boy came told me, ma, Anthony is dead.

I said, no, he's not. (INAUDIBLE)

He said, ma, I'm telling you, ma, I saw him, ma. Ma, I was touching him, ma.

I was saying, Anth, Anth, you all right?

O'BRIEN: In just a moment, Anthony Placide went from being a high school senior with his whole life ahead of him to being a corpse with a number, corpse number 74 in the city of New Orleans, 74th person killed.

His body ended up just a few hundred feet, in fact, from Deshawn's front door. Now, keep in mind, only half the population is back in New Orleans, and the city is among the deadliest cities in the country. DABNEY: I think that a lot of crime in the city is related or somewhere -- around something dealing with drugs.

And something that really gets to me is that sometimes when I'm outside on my porch or downstairs, a lot of grown people, or just random people will come up to me and ask me if I wanted to buy drugs or if I was selling drugs.

And I would just be like, are you serious? Well, do I look like a drug dealer?

Remember that press conference we had about -- meant for the teens doing the violence in the city? Well, look at the result of it, the Teen Center for Non-Violence.

Let's go take a look inside, see what's going on.

How you all doing? How you all doing?

I hate to see young African-American males being murdered in the streets. And we're supposed to be the future of the city, and I'm trying to change all that around.

(singing): I really (INAUDIBLE) singing, but I'm just singing anyway.

FRANKLIN: See the name of that street? Bourbon.

See, Bourbon is pretty much where I made most of my living from, you know, playing my for tips, playing my saxophone for tips.

My plan is, I'm going to go to college for four years, going to get me a music degree, and become a band director. That's what I want to do for a living.

O'BRIEN: Brandon Franklin cracks me up. This is a kid who has got this plan in his head about what he's going to do.

First, he wants to graduate from high school. Then he wants to go to college, so he can be a band director. And then he wants to get a job as a band director, kind of has it all mapped out.

And, yet, Brandon really wasn't always that way. You know, after Hurricane Katrina, in fact, he didn't even bother to go to school for a whole year. But now he has got a goal.

FRANKLIN: This old O. Perry Walker. This is the band room right here. Check it out. I love this school, you know, because it really helped me.

Now, who we have here is my -- I'm going to say my second daddy. I can't even call him the band director, my second daddy, named Mr. Wilbert Rawlins.

And we just pretty much want to hear what you got to say about me, the great Brandon Franklin. If we was to put my life on a graph, say, a line graph I'm going to use, saying from when you first me all the way up until now, where would you think I will end up in the future?

WILBERT RAWLINS, BAND DIRECTOR, O. PERRY WALKER HIGH SCHOOL: Well, honestly, your graph is going to go off the chart, as long as you don't do anything to hurt yourself. The only person who can hurt Brandon Franklin at this point is Brandon Franklin.

I remember at (INAUDIBLE) one time, there was a situation with a guy -- I'm not going to mention any names, but a guy in your section. And you all were outside and you all were going over some music. And he did something wrong. And your way of handling it was, you balled your fist up and you hit him in his jaw, breaking his jaw, and causing him to go to the hospital and get stitches. His mouth was all wired up.

DABNEY: Everybody had to be one of a kind back here to survive back here. I was the drum major. I was the man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You all got that? There go the chalk. One through seven (INAUDIBLE) time.

DABNEY: What would you say the big change you have seen before Katrina vs. the attitude I have now, after Katrina?

RAWLINS: I believe that difference is probably just life.

DABNEY: We got my lovely old lady, Ivorionne, future wife, if you feel me.

RAWLINS: And then with the addition of the girlfriend with the kid, the child.

DABNEY: Oh, it's young J'Layah.

RAWLINS: That changes a person, also.

DABNEY: What's up, J'Layah? I don't want your juice. And go see what mommy doing. What's you cooking up, Iv?


DABNEY: Grease.


DABNEY: She's trying to do her homework. Look at her. She got notebooks and everything.

God bless you.


DABNEY: You are welcome.

Yes, we teach her that. You know what I'm saying?


DABNEY: I love her dearly, just like she loves dadu (ph). That's what she calls me, dadu (ph). I love the title. And I can't wait until my little one get here, so she can have someone to play with.

O'BRIEN: Yes, you heard him right, a little baby brother, another baby on the way.

Brandon, in some ways, had his life put back on track by Hurricane Katrina, as strange as that sounds, because Katrina made him realize his priorities. You know, he went back to school. He started heading in the right direction. But he has got all these big dreams, big goals. He wants to be a band director. He wants to go to college. And that's going to be hard anyway. And then you factor in two babies, that's a lot.

And I think a lot of people think, is Brandon really going to be able to achieve his goals?

RAWLINS: It's going to be a situation he's going to embrace. He's just -- you know, he's going to roll through. He's going to take all the punches, and he's going to come out on top. He's going to come out on top. I have no doubt in my mind.

DABNEY: I need to go to college. You know, I want to go, but I need to go.



RANDI KAYE, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: I'm Randi Kaye in New York, "Children of the Storm" continues in a moment. First, here's what's in the news right now. President Bush toured the Gulf Coast today, on the second anniversary of Katrina. One stop, the first new public school to open in New Orleans' devastated Lower 9th Ward.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This town's coming back. This town is better today than it yesterday and it's going to be better tomorrow than it was today. And there no better place to find that out than in -- than in the school system.


KAYE: The president says the government has turned over 80 percent of $114 billion budgeted for Katrina repair work.

Also today, a White House spokesman says they're disappointed over the scandal involving Republican senator, Larry Craig. Larry was arrested in June in an airport's men's room by police trying to crack down on gay sex in public bathroom. He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, but says he is not gay. Three Republican congressman, including Senator John McCain, are now calling for Craig to resign. Craig, himself, says he's temporarily giving up his Senate Committee leadership posts.

Pakistani president, Pervez Musharraf, may be ready to step down as the country's military chief. Former prime minister and opposition leader, Benazir Bhutto, says Musharraf has agreed to the move which would clear the way for her to return from exile.

Real estate billionaire, Leona Helmsley's will is now public. She died on August 20 at age 87. And now we know where all the money goes: $10 million to her brother, five each to two grandkids and her two other grandkids, well they get nothing. But her dog gets $12 million. Most of the rest goes to charity.

And it was a big day on Wall Street. The Dow gained nearly 250 points.

I'm Randi Kaye, now back to "Children of the Storm."




BRANDON FRANKLIN, KATRINA SURVIVOR: You know, I just got out of school. I'm glad I'm done with that and all. My plans are I need to go to college. You know, I want to move, but I need to move. You know? I'm going to stress that.

Check this out, Brandon Anthony Franklin. It's real. I did it. Happy what day? It say Father's Day, Who that for?


FRANKLIN: That for me? Thank you, baby. While I talk to you guys, I'm cutting me a piece of cake my girl bought me. I know she's mad because I ain't even taken one piece of it yet. There. (INAUDIBLE)

My girlfriend name's Ivorionne, she pregnant with my little boy right now. So, I have a little boy on the way, another little me. That's about to go down, you know? Show him everything I know, everything. Y'all got to excuse me for a second, I had to get me a glass of milk. Always must -- you must thank the Lord. I don't care if you about to chew on this, thank the Lord for having it.

Today is check-up day, you know. Got to check for "Little B," make sure he all right, he breathing OK.


That's your competition. FRANKLIN: That's the heartbeat. That's "Little B."

PERRET: Probably another week or so. You're not going to make it to your due date I don't think.



Brandon Anthony Franklin, Jr. "Little B." Born July 5, 2007.

"Little B" is 11 days early and Brandon is playing a gig out of town. Three days later...


FRANKLIN: And you wouldn't believe the man looks just like daddy. I'm too proud. Brandon Anthony Franklin, Jr. And me, myself and Brandon Anthony Franklin, Sr. (INAUDIBLE) How do you think life going to turn out now?


FRANKLIN: How good?


FRANKLIN: Oh, look, he get mad. And Mama's stealing all of the camera time. I got you, "Little B," I got you. I got you.

Texas College. I think college, it's going to be a little difficult going to school with two little ones, not one, but two. You know, I feel like I am a little too young for the responsibilities that I have, you know, but this is one thing about me. I feel I can do anything I put my mind to. You know? Anything.

O'BRIEN: You have to love Brandon's optimism, I mean, really, but there are some basic facts, now. Texas College, where he got his scholarship, will cover his housing and will cover his food. His girlfriend, if she decides to enroll, will be covered as well, she can get a scholarship, and their childcare is covered through the university.

But it's four people and they're not talking about covering clothes and they're not taking about coving food for everybody else, so that's clearly going to be expensive for a guy who's on scholarship in his first year of college.

WILBERT RAWLINS, BAND DIRECTOR: I'm convinced Brandon is going to be a success because of his drive and determination. I believe if Brandon wanted to be a brain surgeon, he could be a brain surgeon, because he's that dedicated. He's a real true jewel.

FRANKLIN: What I want y'all to do for me is sit watch me do my thing. In just a few years, just be looking for me, you know? Because I'm going to be real successful. I can feel it. I really can feel it.

SHANTIA RENEAU, HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR: This is where I sleep. As you can see, that's just the sofa, and it's really small. I'm used to having my own. So, it's a big change for me. And right now, since I'm just waking up, I have to go over to my grandma's and do whatever I need to do to get ready for the day, because one of our propane tanks -- something is wrong with the knob, and FEMA themselves have to come out here and fix it because it's stripped. So we don't have a heater or a hot water, so we have to use little portable heaters, now.

O'BRIEN: Shantia is 17 years old and she grew up she grew up in the 9th Ward, surrounded by her cousins and her aunts and her uncles and now she lives in a trailer, which is in a parking lot. She is desperate to get out of New Orleans, desperate to get out. And she's a good student, scholarships, and she's been going to community college as a high school student, so there really should be no problem in going away for school.

S. RENEAU: Today we're going to Southeastern, which is the college I want to go to. And we'll pay for my dormitory fees and application fee and things like that. So, you'll get a chance to see the college that I would love to attend next year.

I just found out that I got accepted into Southeastern. I didn't get the letter yet, but the lady told me since I have a "W" number they've already accepted me, so I'll be attending Southeastern in the Fall semester.

O'BRIEN: So, Shantia just got her ticket out and she cannot wait to cash it in. So there should be no problem, tight?

S. RENEAU: My future plans are unsure at the moment...because, New Orleans has nothing to offer, nothing, not a thing.


S. RENEAU: We're at my aunt's house and I just noticed that this is like the first real bed I'm sleeping in tonight (INAUDIBLE), a real bed with pillows and everything, with a TV and a mirror. My first real room since like before the hurricane. I'm so going to enjoy this night. And this is only one night only, which sucks.

Today is graduation day.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shantia M. Reneau with distinction.


S. RENEAU: My future plans are unsure at the moment because I was planning on going to Southeastern, but it turns out that I might not have enough money (INAUDIBLE).


Shantia's financial aid is not finalized. She fears she is short $3,500 per semester.


So, I might have to end up staying down here. But, the problem is I applied to Southeastern and Southeastern only and got accepted to Southeastern, so now I have to go apply for other schools and see if they accept me. I really want to go to Southeastern. But, if not I'll have to stay down here and I didn't want to because, New Orleans has nothing to offer, nothing, not a thing.

And one of the reasons that I really wanted to go to Southeastern is it's like so calming around here. It really sucks to know that I won't be going here.


In June, Shantia visits Southeastern still hoping her finances will come together.


But, I'm going to have to deal with it.

CARLETTA RENEAU, SHANTIA'S MOTHER: I can't afford it right now. It's very hard as a mother, and I explain it to my daughter, and I sit down, and I showed her the figures of the price that I had to renovate home. I cannot afford $75,000.


Carletta says quotes to fix the house are around $75,000.


I have -- with Shantia, I have a son that's in college also, here at New Orleans.

S. RENEAU: I feel like, it's not even home anymore because, I don't stay there anymore. It's been a whole year and something since I've been in that house.


The house is in the 9th Ward where Shantia was born and raised.


C. RENEAU: We're on our way to another university, soon.

S. RENEAU: I am here at SUNO.


Shantia begins to consider the Southern University at New Orleans, "SUNO."


The only thing that really sucks about this school is that I would have to be in a trailer for god knows how long until they fix this building up. That's one of the things I was like, no, I don't want to go to SUNO because it's in a trailer. But, I've gotten pretty used to trailers, as you can tell, since I've been in mine since June.


Then...Shantia gets a call from the Admissions Director at Southeastern, her first choice school.


He said that I will only have to pay like $400 a semester to go to that school, plus I would get Job Study. After debating whether or not I should attend Southeastern or SUNO, I finally made my decision to come to Southeastern, which I've been wanting to come to since I was like in the second (ph) grade.

O'BRIEN: So, it looks like Shantia is getting out of New Orleans. It was her dream, and it's happening. But what about Amanda and Brandon, and Deshawn (ph)? Did their dreams come true? And what about our seven other "Children of the Storm?"

BRITNEY RUIZ, HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: Tomorrow you're see the life of me, my school. Oh, fun!

CORNELL CARNEY, HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: I'm aspiring to become the mayor of New Orleans at the age of 17 years old.

SOPHIE BOUDREAUX, SEVENTH GRADER: I want to go. I want to go, mom! I don't know what to say, but my room is pink.



January 31, 2007


SPIKE LEE, FILMMAKER: I just think it's a great ideal, giving these cameras to these young people here in this city that's been abandoned. And I'll be very interested to see what these young minds are going to come up with.

DAVID ALLBRITTON, CNN PHOTOJOURNALIST: Technically, they all grew, you know, leaps and bounds from that first day where they turned the camera around and said, "hi, my name is."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My names is Deshawn.


O'BRIEN: Amanda, Brandon, Deshawn, Shantia, four of our would-be journalists who've been chronicling their lives for us in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. But we started with 11 "Children of the Storm." What happened to the rest of them?

BRITNEY RUIZ, HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: Tomorrow you will see the live of me, my school. Oh, fun!


Britney Ruiz, 16 years old, high school sophomore


RUIZ: Hey, all. Bye, mom. This is third period biology. This was some buildings like K-Mart, Fantastic Sam's, (INAUDIBLE).

I want some pizza.

Right here is a sign that says no dumping. And behind me, as you see, we have some tires that aren't supposed to be there.

This use to be Varmints (ph) Park, a place where I use to go when I was younger to play softball. All of that use to be a baseball field, now it's just a big field of field.

My Saint Bernard!

CORNELL CARNEY, HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: Sorry about the shirt and tie, tons of meetings to go to today.


Cornell Carney, 17 years old, high school junior.


The opportunity that Hurricane Katrina provided for me was that it gave me an opportunity to explore the outside world.

Right now I'm in Washington, D.C. on our way walking to go visit Congressman Bill Jefferson.

We need school buildings. We need teachers. What are you doing in Congress to help us make our life better?

Another group that I'm part of is called Young Planners Network. The kids from Brooklyn and New York and Oakland, California decided that they wanted to take a tour of the Lower 9th Ward.

Look at this. The floors are all messed up. It's pretty bad.

I'm aspiring to become the mayor of New Orleans at the age of 17 years old. I want to be a leader, you know, somebody that changes the politics of Louisiana.

SOPHIE BOUDREAUX, SEVENTH GRADER: I want to go. I want to go, mom! I don't know what to say, but my room is pink. (BEGIN GRAPHIC)

Sophie Boudreaux, 12 years old, seventh grade.


Our house is on Florida Avenue. It's right across from the Forty Arpent Canal. If another hurricane comes towards us, I am taking every single thing in my room, and I don't think we're going to be moving back into this house. We mighty find another one in the parish or we might move somewhere else. I'm not sure.

As you can see all of our furniture has been moved in. Now, on to my room. Ta-da!

Today, June 20, 2007, we're moving back into our house.

ARIANNA CASSAR, HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: This is the front of my house. And as you see, we had two front doors -- two French doors. And the house is gutted, as you can see.


Arianna Cassar, 17 years old, high school junior.


We don't feel safe here at Saint Bernard. The problem that the water is so close to where we live. Until this tour that I took, I had no idea that we were so close to the water line. It's scary.

Well, we're moving again. Oh gosh.


In February, Arianna's family moves into a home near Baton Rouge.

She's commutes to school 130 miles round trip.


Anyway, and the house is upside down, but we're finally getting to a place where it's permanent, like you know, it's our house now, and moving out of the rental house. The bed is gone, ladies and gentlemen, the bed is gone. OK, the move is basically complete and now it's time to unpack. Isn't that fun? Hoo, and look at the mess.

JERELL EDGERSON, HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: Good morning, America. This is Mardi Gras morning. (INAUDIBLE)


Jerell Edgerson, 16 years old, high school student.


Me and my best friend Laci (ph) about to go to the parade.

I don't even live with my mom down here. I live with a close friend of mine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where's your mother?

EDGERSON: In Atlanta.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's in Atlanta.

EDGERSON: Um-hum. And it's really hard.

JOSHUA KAGLER, HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: This is the beginning of my journey, Josh the people. What's up?


Joshua Kagler, 20 years old, high school senior.


This is the life of us, here with the organ, here at the great church. We're in here practicing. It's late.


KAGLER: Right now a lot of doors are opening up for me. I'm getting ready to go to Paris. I'm going to continue my singing, I'm not going to stoop. Anybody looking for a singer, y'all look me up.

DAROLD ALEXANDER, HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: See, when my kid's born, I cry. Yes I cry. My two little ones, I cried for sure.


Darold Alexander, 15 year old, high school freshman.


The happiest day of my life, January 18, 2007. The name of this is my first fan at 15, Deshawn (ph), the sun I wake up to, the only light of my week, and Darnell, that's my other twin boy. The son that brings my soul (INAUDIBLE), I love both of them (INAUDIBLE) daddy love them.

O'BRIEN: We started this hour by introducing you to four "Children of the Storm," So, how are they doing? Well, we'll end by letting them tell you.

AMANDA: Hi, my name is Amanda. I'm about to start my freshman year at Our Lady of Holy Cross on scholarship. My grandma has her house paid off and both of her credit card debt paid off, I have a brand new car that's paid off.

DESHAWN: Hi, my name is Deshawn and finally I'm a junior at Old Parry Walker (ph) High School. I'm also a level one student attending the New Orleans Creative Center of Arts where I study theater and I'm just living life to the fullest.

RENEAU: Hi, my name is Shantia and I'm a freshman at Southeastern Louisiana University and I finally made it and I'm really looking forward to spending the rest of my college years here.

FRANKLIN: My name is Brandon Franklin, I'm attending Mile College, I'm loving it.


Miles College?


I just left T.C. College, which is called Texas College, it's all good, you know, I'm just trying to find out what's best for me, for my life and my family. You know? But, I think this is going to be it, right here. And I'm waiting on my girl to come down with the babies and that's when the life is going to start.