Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College Of Dentistry Employee Profile
Nearly two years after flood waters forced her from her New Orleans home, dental assistant Gerelda Buggage has settled in to her new life in Dallas.
Born and raised in New Orleans, Buggage worked as a dental assistant at the Medical Center of New Orleans Charity Dental Clinic before she and her family made the unexpected and unplanned move to North Texas. In January 2006, she joined the staff of Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry, where she works alongside graduate dental students in the third-floor clinic.
Most of Buggage’s family evacuated New Orleans prior to Hurricane Katrina’s landfall in August 2005, but Buggage and her mother stayed behind to look after a family member who had recently suffered a stroke. Aside from power outages and remnants of the heavy rain, she remembers the city was in good shape immediately after Katrina passed by New Orleans. However, when the levee broke, the gulf coast town known for its low elevation was under water virtually within minutes.
Upon receiving instruction to report to the Superdome, Buggage and her mother made their way to the downtown sports arena where flooding forced them to wade through four feet of water to get inside.
“All that stuff you heard about what happened at the Superdome was true,” says Buggage, who witnessed the maelstrom firsthand.
After two days of living among the fighting, gunshots and fires at the Superdome, Buggage and her mother boarded a bus bound for Houston, where the rest of her family had been evacuated. After a 360-mile drive with an overworked bus driver struggling to stay awake, the bus arrived at an over-packed Astrodome unable to accommodate additional bodies. Buggage was then transported to Dallas’ Reunion Arena where she stayed for another two days before finding temporary residency with a family friend.
The next few months were difficult for Buggage and her family as they grew increasingly unsure of when they would be able to return home. Eventually, she and her husband established permanent housing, and her two adult children both settled in the Dallas area as well. With her friends scattered across the country, Buggage is getting used to her life in Dallas while the city she says will always be her home still struggles to rebuild.
“If I do go home, it will not be anytime soon – not the way it is now,” says Buggage. “I’ll just have to be content with going to visit.”