Houston a 2nd home for Lewis after Katrina

Houston a 2nd home for Lewis after Katrina
June 6, 2014, 10:15 am
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(USA Today Images)

A young, scared Kendrick Lewis had his eyes glued to the television screen.

The new Texan was just 17-years-old in late August of 2005 when Hurricane Katrina ripped through and demolished his hometown of New Orleans. He had already evacuated to Houston with his uncle, whom he had been living with at the time, and his mom fled to Georgia, but Lewis hadn’t been able to contact some of his other relatives.

So he did the only thing he could: he watched the television, hoping and praying for a glimpse to know they were safe.

And finally, it came. He spotted his family boarding a Greyhound bus out of downtown New Orleans, away from the devastation.

“It was a big relief,” Lewis said. “I was sitting there crying back and forth, my uncle’s trying to keep me calm. But at the same time, I still had faith. I was just watching the news knowing that the news was filming the area that I was from. I was like man, ‘if I’ma see them, I’ma see them on this news, and I sat there and just constantly, constantly watched them and I just saw them getting on the bus.”

The reporter on the news program said the bus was heading for Houston and Reliant Stadium, so Lewis was there when it arrived.

“It was a crazy deal not being able to contact your family,” he said, “not being able to see your family, physically be there with them and then at the same time, you got friends and stuff who were trapped down, who couldn’t get out, who wasn’t fortunate and stuff to get out and have rides to evacuate and go to other places. You just had to sit there and kind of watch it all unfold before your eyes. I just stood there watching it on the news.”

When Lewis pulled up to Reliant Stadium on that day nearly eight years ago to pick up his family members, he drove into the entrance at Kirby and McNee, the same entrance he now uses to go to work as a member of the Texans.

Some of Lewis’ family members stayed in Houston for a while after the storm. Some family – two aunts –and friends still live in the city. And every time Lewis drives into the stadium entrance, bad memories from a tough time in his young life come flooding back.

“I try not to think about it because it was such a bad situation, such a devastating situation but every time I pass here, it brings back memories,” he said.

Lewis initially stayed in Houston for two months before heading to play his final high school football season in Gainesville, Georgia. After the school year, he returned to Houston and stayed there until he went to Ole Miss as a freshman in the fall.

Houston became a second home.

“(Houston) showed us major love,” Lewis said. “A family took my grandmother and them in that didn’t know them from Adam and Eve. They took them in with welcome arms and treated us like we were (family), fed us day in and day out, no complaints. And whenever we were able and my grandmother (was) able to get on their feet and make the move to get out of their house, that’s when they let it be done. But as much as we needed them, they were there for us.”

That’s why when Lewis became a free agent, after four years in Kansas City, Houston was an appealing destination. It wasn’t the only reason, of course. Lewis played in Romeo Crennel’s defense in Kansas City and playing in it again was attractive. And his mother was already planning to move from New Orleans to Houston. But coming back to Houston was exciting.

Lewis is looking forward to playing on the field inside the newly renamed NRG Stadium this fall; his family is already working on getting season tickets to watch him.

But really, it’s just special for Lewis to get a chance to play in and for a city that meant and still means so much to him.

“That’s why I say, man, everything happens for a reason, man,” Lewis said. “And God has a plan for you and can’t nothing change it. All the chips fell where they may. I thought about it and everything that I put into as far as making this decision here, it all was positives. It was nothing negative about me making this move in free agency to come here. I just went with my heart, went with my gut and I made the decision.”

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