CBN.com "If you would have been airplane dying, knowing your airplane was going down and nothing you can do, that’s probably how we felt," says AJ. "Nothing we can do, but just hold on and fight."
As Hurricane Katrina had approached, AJ, Gracie Anne, and Mike decided to ride it out. It would become a battle against nature itself.
"The first thing I saw was when we were in our home, the roof, a tornado or something took the whole roof up and put it into the street.," says AJ.
They had been trying to save the house, with their beloved pets inside, when suddenly the 20 to 30 foot storm surge began to fill the rooms. The waters overwhelmed them. They found a small boat to try to keep them alive.
"So I told my sister and my fiancé, 'Just hang onto the boat.' As we hung onto the boat, it went around the roof of the house. We couldn’t even get to the roof, because the current moved us past," AJ says. "A cypress tree is where we wound up with the boat upside down."
Miraculously they were still alive and even had managed to save one of the dogs. But things were about to get worse, much worse.
"We had a 150 mile an hour winds," AJ says. "We were in full force gale winds at that time. The current and the waves – we had four to five foot waves coming over us, while we were holding onto the boat."
But Gracie Anne, Mike and Mike’s mother had to let go of the tree and drifted to a roof, which was floating on top of the storm surge.
"Then we’re on this roof, and I was hanging in that tree," says AJ. "We were there for four and a half hours."
Gracie Anne was thinking her own thoughts during the ordeal.
She says, " I was just keeping an eye on him and trying to get him and his mom to safety and my 16-year-old dog. I knew if I could keep those two safe we’d be safe. We were blessed."
Then came a second tragedy. Mike’s mom tried to jump to a second roof and fell into the water.
"When mama tried to jump on, she fell, and the water kind of went down," Mike says. "She was underneath the roof we were trying to get on. Another roof came and basically just came up and crushed her underneath it."
The storm surge finally subsided, revealing the extent of the devastation. Yet even as we were taping, stories of miracles continued to unfold.
One of Gracie’s friends walked up the road. She was sure he had died in the storm. A short time later it happened again. Gracie met the man whose roof had made it possible for them to survive, a young man she had never met before.
"Thank God for your roof, because it saved our lives," Gracie Anne tells the man. "That little roof saved our lives."
AJ, Gracie Anne, and Mike all survived the storm without serious injury. Mike’s mom, however, needed to be hospitalized with broken ribs.
" I did pray the whole time it was going on, when I could," says AJ. "All I could do was just ask that if I have a chance to make it through this, I could do something better with my life. In a weird way for me this is kind of a blessing in a way, because it’s a new beginning, even though it’s a very rough new beginning."
No one comes through a disaster like this unaffected, so we took a moment to pray for those who are now trying to pull their lives back together. As for AJ, Mike and Gracie Anne, it’s become even more personal than that.
" This is the way God gave us another chance to do something with ourselves and for others," says Gracie Anne. "That’s the way I look at it. He kept us alive for a purpose."
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