By Galen Holley / NEMS Daily Journal
PLANTERSVILLE – Craig Chilton is just now getting used to leaving his door unlocked, but then, as he put it, Plantersville is a long way from New Orleans East.
“I’m getting used to living instead of worrying,” said Chilton, 49, who fled Katrina with his wife, Kristy, and their then-8-year-old daughter, Samantha.
The Chiltons, both of whom were born and raised in the Crescent City, had a comfortable life and a nice home, but all that changed when the levees broke.
Everything they owned was lost in a sea of tea-colored flood water.
When they left New Orleans just before the storm, the Chiltons weren’t sure where they were headed. They knew they couldn’t go far without finding suitable accommodations for the family dog.
“I said to my wife, ‘Let’s go on up there and see Elvis,’ so this is where we landed,” said Chilton.
The family began attending St. James Catholic Church. When they found out that the Rev. Henry Shelton, then St. James’ pastor, knew their parish priest back in New Orleans, it seemed almost like a sign that they should stay in Tupelo.
Today the Chiltons rent a home on a nice piece of land in Plantersville. Chilton said he loves New Orleans, but he feels a lot safer in the Lee County countryside.
Kristy now works at Kroger, Samantha is doing well at Tupelo Middle School and Craig has forged strong friendships within the Knights of Columbus, a men’s group that meets at St. James.
“People call us evacuees, or refugees,” said Chilton. “I call us survivors.”