LONGMONT — There were hugs and hugs and hugs and tears.
There was laughter and jostling among young cousins.
There were nerves soothed and plans to be made.
The emotional celebration commenced immediately after a small procession of vehicles with Louisiana license plates made its way into the parking lot at the Loaf & Ladle restaurant at 11th Avenue and Francis Street on Wednesday evening, reuniting a family that had been spread between Colorado and hurricane-stricken New Orleans.
Lester and Sheryl Thorne own the Loaf & Ladle, which they bought four years ago from Lester’s aunt and uncle, after moving to Longmont from New Orleans.
They have been preparing for the visitors for a couple of days but still may need help.
There was a little Cajun twang in patriarch Jimmy Carroll’s speech as he told of the trek the family had taken and their fears for their homes and neighbors. The 81-year-old drove in a caravan of six cars with his wife, 16 other relatives ages 11 months to 81 years, a dog, a cat and two fish to land in Longmont at about 7 p.m. to await the day when they could return to Jefferson Parish to assess the damage and rebuild.
“What bothers me are those tens of thousands of people on the freeway,” Jimmy Carroll said referring to some stranded evacuees who are trying to walk away from New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina’s devastation, adding that when he and his family get back on their feet he will donate everything he can to help the others.
The family had not intended to come to Colorado. When it became clear that they were not just evacuating outside of New Orleans for a few days, the family began the drive to Longmont, where they will stay with either Lester and Sheryl, or Terry Bale and her husband Noah in Pinewood Springs.
Randy Carroll, Lester’s uncle, flew in from Houston on Wednesday night. He had taken shelter in Galvaston, Texas, but it became clear that he could not stay for the month, which is how long he said evacuees are expected to stay out of Jefferson Parish.
He waited with Lester and Sheryl for the arrival of their extended family. He said even though they knew the family was OK, it was more important to see them so they could develop a plan together to recover.
“We just want to see them, we want to touch them, we want to hug them,” he said of the family coming in.
He said it is tough not knowing the extent of the devastation back in Louisiana.
“I don’t have nothing, and it is just so hard for me to say because I was not bad off,” Randy Carroll said.
He worked as an airport security officer. He said that he used to see victims of disasters on television and believed that he empathized with them when they said they lost everything. He said that he now knows he truly did not understand.
Jimmy’s wife Yvonne Carroll, 81, received word when she arrived in Longmont that her home had only about a foot of water in it and that a generator rigged to her freezer was allowing rescue workers, including her grandson, to eat while they worked. Her cat, Reba, also was OK.
“We heard from my grandson, and he got to my house,” she said, after literally jumping and clapping for joy.
Because the family was not planning a trip to Colorado, each of the 19 assembled visitors has only a three-day supply of clothing meant for warm weather.
Anyone who would like to make donations to help the family can send them to Brent Nunnally, A.G. Edwards, 1707 N. Main St., Longmont, CO 80501, or by calling 303-651-0100. Donations may also be directed to the LifeBridge Christian Church, 10345 Ute Highway, Longmont, CO 80594, or by calling 303-776-2927.
Pierrette J. Shields can be reached at
303-684-5273, or by e-mail at email@example.com.