Hurricane Katrina responder recalls aftermath 12 years later

Bilek: "It was like stepping into another nation."

Hurricane Katrina responder recalls aftermath

GOLETA, Calif. - Thousands of people flocked to areas affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to help in any way they could. 

Many residents from different backgrounds and areas of expertise from Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties traveled to the Gulf Coast to help. Ariana Bilek, a high school student from Atascadero at the time, flew to Louisville, Mississippi with her church group.

"We had obviously been hearing a lot about in the news about all that's going on, the devastation, the poverty that was ensuing because of the storm and it was this crazy thing and we thought let's go over there," said Ariana Bilek, a volunteer coordinator at Habitat for Humanity of Southern Santa Barbara.

They spent two weeks cleaning up.

“It was amazing to see the rubble and things just laying on the streets. There were mattresses up in the trees," said Bilek.

She and her group also spent time comforting and talking to evacuees. 

“I didn’t even know how much of an impact with we could make as high schoolers with really no construction experience or anything like that. They were so thankful to have people there," said Bilek.

She didn't forget about her experience there. It inspired her to continue to lend a helping hand to strangers and people in her community. Bilek now works at Habitat for Humanity. She hopes her story will persuade others to be good samaritans. 

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