Katrina evacuee makes lifelong dream real in Charlotte

Katrina evacuee makes lifelong dream real in Charlotte

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - This time ten years ago, Hurricane Katrina was churning off the gulf coast, gaining strength and headed straight for Louisiana. Byron Jackson's mom said it was time to go. So, they hit the road. Like many others they left New Orleans when the outer bands became Katrina's calling card, announcing the monster storm was on its way.

After a stop in Georgia, the Jackson's ended up in Charlotte. As the country remembers Katrina's wrath on this 10th anniversary, WBTV is celebrating how our community stepped up to help families like Byron's.

From the comfort he finds behind his chair at the Ideal Barber shop in west Charlotte, Byron Jackson looked back on one of the most painful times of his life, "To have to pick up and just move everybody just spur of the moment like that, it was tough!"

Byron's family was forced to leave New Orleans and ended up in Charlotte with hundreds of others trying to piece together a new life as they watched their homes crumbling under Hurricane Katrina.

That's where Patrick Anderson, owner of Prestige Barber School, comes into Byron's story. "First thing I remember looking at TV showing clips and I see all those people floating in the water it was devastating. I said how can I help?" Mr. Anderson told us.

Anderson and his wife Michelle went to a job fair for evacuees and suggested barber school for those interested. This had been Byron's dream his entire life, in fact he had already been cutting hair in his neighborhood back home.

As Patrick Anderson points to the wall of graduate certificates in his Prestige's new location in Cornelius, he beams. "There's Byron's up there," he said.

Byron Jackson spent a year at Prestige. And get this, he graduated August 29, 2007. How beautifully poetic to fulfill his lifelong dream on the second anniversary of Katrina making land in New Orleans. "That'll make you feel good to be about one of the first graduates out of that school!" Byron said.

Mr. Anderson smiles wide when remembering Byron and his other graduates. He's like a proud father. "Ten years had about one hundred and thirty graduates, eleven or twelve of them own their own shops. Like I said, makes you feel real good!"

"I owe a lot to 'Mr. A' because he helped me out, showed me the ropes about how to be a barber, and be a professional," Byron said.

This offering of a gift, the knowledge Mr. Anderson shared with Byron, and Byron's gratitude, show us that while Hurricane Katrina could ravage communities, take countless lives, for one young man the storm could not destroy his dream.

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