Touching story of how a toddler and her mother reunited after Hurricane Katrina

Dollita Okine April 17, 2024
The Oct. 2005 story after the mother and daughter were reunited. Photo: PEOPLE

Keishall Barrow was unprepared for the extent of the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, as were many other New Orleans residents.

At that point, she had lost her spouse in a terrible vehicle accident and was a 22-year-old single mother of three children: 2-year-old Kenya, 20-month-old Kalise, and 10-month-old Kalin. She was supporting her family while juggling her job and school.

She recounted to People, “The hurricane hit. We didn’t know it was going to be as bad as it was, so we were all scrambling. Everything was flooded. Everybody’s crying. The next morning I told my aunt, ‘I have to go to the [New Orleans] Superdome. I have to see if I see my mom, my son, and [daughters].’ ”

When she arrived at the Superdome, she found her mother and son, but not her daughters. She then traveled to Texas in search of them, and when she couldn’t find them, she burst into tears. She calmed down a little when an aunt of one of her children called to let her know that Kenya was in their care in Atlanta, but she was still unaware of Kalise’s location.

The mother of three had no idea that while she was busy looking for her daughter, PEOPLE was already working on a story about Kalise’s safety in Mississippi. The publication even launched an appeal for aid in identifying the girl and locating her guardians.

After leaving the Astrodome, the distraught mother went home without knowing where her daughter was. Suddenly, her phone rang again, this time “off the hook.”

“That day was the day that Kalise came out front page, People Magazine: ‘Who is this child?’” she recalled. “People began to match the names with the story. The first lady that called me, I’ll never forget her, she said, ‘Keishall? Kalise is in Mississippi. Call the sheriff’s department. They know where your daughter is.’”

Barrow quickly purchased her bus ticket to Mississippi. Luckily, she discovered Kalise secure under the sheriff’s and his wife’s supervision.

Kalise is currently a 20-year-old student at California State Dominguez Hills pursuing a career in journalism, according to Barrow.

The proud mother shared, “I say, ‘Kalise, tell your story. Because what are the odds you were in PEOPLE, and now here you are? You’re going to be telling other people’s stories, but guess what? You already have a story to tell, baby.’”

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: April 17, 2024


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