Rescuer to meet kid from Hurricane Katrina hug photo

The three-year-old girl pictured hugging a helicopter crewman that plucked her from a New Orleans rooftop after Hurricane Katrina struck will be reunited with her rescuer later this month.

AFP| Last Updated: Sep 03, 2015, 03:50 AM IST
Rescuer to meet kid from Hurricane Katrina hug photo
AIRMAN 1ST CLASS VERONICA PIERCE/AIR FORCE

New Orleans: The three-year-old girl pictured hugging a helicopter crewman that plucked her from a New Orleans rooftop after Hurricane Katrina struck will be reunited with her rescuer later this month.

The picture, taken by a military photographer, was one of the few images of hope amid the devastation unleashed by Katrina in 2005.

Ten years ago, Staff Sargeant Mike Maroney, a US Air Force pararescue jumper, was called in to help evacuate residents from their rooftops as floods consumed large swaths of the southern US city.

One of those rescued, a three-year-old pigtailed girl in a pink shirt, wrapped her arms around Maroney`s neck after the helicopter landed out of harm`s way.

As both toddler and Afghanistan veteran smiled from ear to ear, a military photographer captured a shot which warmed the hearts of the nation, still bitter at a lukewarm government emergency response effort and reeling from images of damage to one of its major cities.

People magazine reported Wednesday that a social media campaign has helped Maroney, now 40, to finally track down the girl whose hug he said helped melt away the havoc he had witnessed in New Orleans and Afghanistan.

LeShay Brown, now 13, left New Orleans following the storm and doesn`t remember the hug, the magazine reported, but her mom does; she got the same timely embrace on that rescue flight.

"The helicopter had open doors, so I looked out and you could just see all the water over everything," Shawntrell Brown told People, "and it was just too much for me, so she was comforting me."