- Associated Press - Sunday, September 17, 2017

NEW ALBANY, Ind. (AP) - When Brandon Thompson’s phone makes a certain dinging noise, he knows it means a new traveler has requested to stay in his downtown condo through Airbnb

To Thompson, the owner of So IN 2 Dance in New Albany, the noise usually means meeting new people and some extra money.

On Sept. 6, it meant something more.


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The five-person family asking to rent his property were from Jacksonville, Fla. They were escaping Hurricane Irma.

FLEEING FLORIDA



The news channels said that the hurricane could be a category four or five when it touched down in Key West.

Letroi and Xeryus Miller, who live in Jacksonville with their two children, Bryce and Zaiya, decided not to chance staying in their home.

They took Xeryus’ brother, Zachary, their two dogs and left the city.

Originally, they wanted to stay in Atlanta, but so, it seemed, did everyone else.

“It was packed, and we couldn’t find anything,” Letroi said.

The Millers started looking everywhere else they could: from Alabama to Tennessee. Many places, however, didn’t accept pets and others were too expensive - as much as $1,000 for three nights.

The Millers were on a budget.

“My husband, he’s military, you know, and we have kids and a dog,” Letroi said. “And we didn’t know what we’re going to come back to because of the hurricane. So we were just like, trying to get anything that we could possibly get.”

The Millers decided to look at Airbnbs in Louisville and, from there, found a place in New Albany. They knew nothing about the city, but wanted to try something new.

FALLING IN LOVE WITH INDIANA

Thompson originally thought that the Millers chose New Albany because they had family in the area.

When he met them on Sept. 10, he learned that wasn’t the case.

The revelation made him think more about their situation: the stress they must be going through and the way other Airbnbs had increased their prices.

He decided to not charge them at all for their stay: a $507 deal.

“It just felt like the right thing to do,” Thompson said.

The family responded with shocked silence at first.

“We were speechless,” Letroi said. “It was very - it was great, you know?”

The Millers were suddenly able to explore the area without having to worry so much about their spending. They ordered pizza in the Highlands at Louisville and visited shops on Pearl Street in New Albany - feeling better and better about their temporary home.

“We loved everything about New Albany,” Letroi said.

Thompson felt proud to have introduced the family to the city.

Heading home to the unknown

The Millers left New Albany on the morning of Sept. 12, ready to make the 10-hour trip back to Jacksonville. The long drive made for plenty of time to think about what they would encounter back home.

“We have no idea,” Letroi said.

They haven’t talked to their neighbors, but they know the flooding in downtown Jacksonville, near where they live, has been bad.

No matter the state of their home, it will likely take a while for things to go back to the way they were in Jacksonville before Irma.

When they do, the Millers might take another trip back to New Albany.

“My husband was saying, ‘We’d love to come back and visit,’” Letroi said. “We had such a great time.

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Source: News and Tribune

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

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