- Associated Press - Friday, August 5, 2016

NEW ALBANY, Ind. (AP) - On August 23, 2005, Hurricane Katrina unleashed its fury on the states of Louisiana and Mississippi by taking the lives of 1,836 people over its nine-day reign.

It was estimated that the storm affected over 15 million people, including having to evacuate their homes, rising gas prices and the economy suffering severely.

The after-effects of Katrina are still felt to this day. There are still 705 people currently reported as missing as a result of this deadly natural disaster.

While there were far too many people taken by the storm, the Anderson family decided early that it was time to go before mother Chasida, husband Kevin, 11-year-old Kevin Jr., 4-year-old Koby and 3-year-old KaRon were directly affected by the storm.

On the Sunday before the storm hit, the Andersons - along with seven more family members - decided to load up in a five-passenger truck and leave the region. The only necessities they brought were a week of clothes, important papers and a breathing machine. The 12 family members decided to abandon their homes in New Orleans before tragedy struck. It was a difficult decision that turned out to be the right one.

“When Katrina was approaching, my husband didn’t want to leave,” explained Chasida. “I got to the point where if he’s not leaving, I’m not leaving. I asked my mom to take the boys to go with her and we would stay. But no she said that if she was leaving then they had to go with her because he didn’t want to leave. I’m so grateful that God put it in her heart to tell her to take them with you because we didn’t want to leave.”

It took an entire day in bumper-to-bumper traffic to reach Texas, where they would stay for two days in an attempt to lay low while the storm hit. The family had nowhere else to go, and they also didn’t expect the storm to be as bad as it was.

“We left there, and once we left there was nowhere to go and not much money because we had just moved from one place to another and then with my father dying, we literally had 40 dollars to our name,” said Chasida.

The Andersons eventually decided to make their way back to Rayne, LA because once it was time to head back home, they wanted to be close to home. They stayed in a shelter but this was no place for kids. There was gun shootings, guys dressing as girls, and other situations that made it an uncomfortable atmosphere for them to stay in. Chasida and her family separated from her parents and wound up meeting up with her in-laws, then eventually found a shelter that was with a Christian church.

“It’s hard especially when you have kids asking why you can’t go home, why they can’t play with their toys, it’s hard on a parent going through that, especially as an adult you are going through your own emotions of not knowing what tomorrow is going to bring without a three and four year old constantly asking you these questions,” said Chasida.

Her sister-in-law saw a signup sheet that was for families who wanted to start over in Kentucky, Wyoming or Buffalo. None of them knew anything about Kentucky, but they couldn’t just stay in a shelter for long. Deciding there was nothing to lose, Chasida signed her family up, and on Sept. 8 - her birthday - they received the blessing of the Joseph Project.

The Joseph Project was an organization formed by a group of churches in Kentucky and Indiana, coming together to provide shared services for those in need. The families had to go through an extensive background check. After a family was chosen, if it wanted to start over, it could do so by allowing them to help by sending the family somewhere new to live. Chasida liked it for her boys because it took them away from all of the “riff-raff” going on with the other shelters.

The Andersons were moved to an apartment in Louisville but were only there for a few months until their kids had to start school. The family of five moved into the White Court Apartments in New Albany and Koby Anderson was thrust into an elementary school and a new community of kids that he didn’t know. It came with its rough patches, but there was one thing that allowed Koby to help fit in. That was football.

Koby Anderson got into flag football in kindergarten, then as a second grader, was bumped up to tackle football. He was forced to play against the likes of kids one, two, or three grades ahead of him simply because he was excelling.

“Football was the outlet. That’s when I really saw them blossom,” said Chasida.

His first coach pushed him because Koby didn’t like the sport that much. He continued to be his coach even in middle school. Coach Demetrius helped him become the player he is today.

“Honestly, I didn’t like football the first couple of years. I hated football until fourth grade. Football is what really helped me get settled around here. I even met my best friend through football,” Koby said while cracking a smile.

In fact, Koby knew this is where he really could excel and stand out from everyone else. After middle school, he decided to step it up a notch and try playing football for the New Albany Bulldogs.

“Watching them grow from little league to help them putting on their jerseys, it’s pretty phenomenal to see,” Kevin said with a sense of pride in his voice.

By his sophomore year, Koby Anderson was already a starter on varsity as a 235-pound defensive end. The Bulldogs finished the most recent season with a 4-6 record and a 35-34 sectional loss to Jeffersonville.

“Koby as a sophomore is mature beyond his years,” New Albany varsity coach Sean Coultis said. “He, first and foremost, leads by example. He is also a vocal leader, but I think people respect him because he walks the walk. He was a three-sport athlete with football, wrestling and track, but nobody works harder than him. In the weight room, he was one of our strongest and best looking kids. Koby is a kid that already has a year of varsity football under his belt (and) we still have him for two more years. I pinch myself thinking that he is only going to be a junior.”

Chasida eventually worked her way up to becoming a production worker at New Albany High School, Kevin is currently working at a restaurant in Louisville after he landed his first job at New Albany Bistro when they moved here, Koby is about to start his junior year of high school and KaRon is going to begin his sophomore year of high school. Both of them plan on following the footsteps of Kevin Jr., by graduating and playing varsity football for the Bulldogs.

This is all a culmination of the family never giving up when the odds were against them to move forward with their lives.

“Don’t ever give up. It’s going to get hard, but you have to stay prayed up and keep moving forward because if you put your head down, you’re only going to see down,” Chasida said with a few tears rolling down from her eyes. “Keep your head up so you can see the prize and where your blessings come from, for what you went through then to now. You don’t have an option to give up. This is all we have and you don’t have the option to give up.”

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Source: News and Tribune, http://bit.ly/2aB7UwM

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Information from: News and Tribune, Jeffersonville, Ind., http://www.newsandtribune.com

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