From despair to hope: How one National Guardswoman reconciles memories of Katrina

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The girl was 8 or 9 and had cerebral palsy, and she was having a seizure. Of course, she was just one person among a crush of thousands who had gathered at the Superdome to escape the flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina, but she needed help, and she needed it immediately.

Ebony Carter, then a 2nd lieutenant with the Louisiana National Guard (she's now a major), heard the commotion and hustled through the crowd to see what was going on. She picked the girl up, cradled her in her arms, and started running.

The girl's mother, carrying an infant, followed Carter as she darted down the concourse. She reached the escalator, which wasn't working, and hustled up the steps.

More coverage of the Hurricane Katrina 10th Anniversary from AOL.com

Carter expected to find help when she reached the top -- that's where medics had been set up since people had started arriving at the stadium a few days earlier. But when she got there, the medics were gone. The Superdome had gotten so crowded that they had been forced to move to the convention center across the street. Somebody else grabbed the girl and took her to find help.

Flooded with adrenaline from her dash up the escalator, Carter felt helplessness wash over her. Thousands of people milled around her; they all had come here to escape death, only to find misery they couldn't get away from. With no power or running water, the Superdome teetered on the edge of lawlessness. Carter found her way outside so she could be alone.

"I just cried my eyes out," Carter says. "Like, what in the world was happening? ... When you go to Iraq, you're prepared for devastation over there. But not at your home."

For years after Katrina, Carter's memories of the Superdome were so powerful that she refused to return there. But 10 years after the hurricane, now that both the Superdome and many parts of New Orleans have been rebuilt, that famed football stadium has come to represent for Carter not destruction but restoration; not despair but hope.

***

Carter, now 37, joined the Maryland National Guard while she was still in high school. She transferred to the Louisiana National Guard so she could attend Grambling State University in Grambling, Louisiana, where she was a cheerleader for four years.

Each year, she cheered in the Superdome during the Bayou Classic, the annual showdown between Grambling State and Southern University, two longtime football powerhouses among historically black colleges and universities. TV cameras beamed images of the game, the bands and the cheerleaders to a national television audience, and she loved being there in the thick of the action. The hype, the lights, the attention and the crowd combined to give her a joyous high.

"I remember how mighty I felt," Carter says.

During Katrina, she was working down on the playing field one day, helping someone lying on a stretcher. When she looked up and saw that the stadium was filled with as many people as had attended the Bayou Classic, she thought of her days as a cheerleader on that same field. This time, though, she didn't feel mighty -- she felt sad and helpless and "so, so small."

During Grambling's games, Carter was an observer of the main action -- albeit an enthusiastic one. But when she returned to the Superdome the day before Katrina made landfall, she was a leader.

As a 27-year-old acting company commander, she estimates she had 60 soldiers working under her. She describes herself as soft-spoken and "five-foot-nothing," so she wondered if anybody -- soldiers or citizens -- would listen to her. "I had to give all these orders. I thought -- initially to myself, and I would have never said it out loud -- 'Oh, these guys are not going to do what I ask them to do, or they're not going to respect me,'" she says.

But they did. Under Carter's direction, her soldiers first provided security at the Superdome as 10,000 people arrived before the storm. That number swelled to 35,000 as breached levees caused flooding in the city, and Carter's duties expanded. She and her soldiers did everything, including screening people as they arrived, helping evacuees find loved ones and assisting those in need of medical care.

Katrina 10 - The faces of Katrina:

44 PHOTOS
Katrina 10 year: Faces of Katrina - found photo albums
See Gallery
From despair to hope: How one National Guardswoman reconciles memories of Katrina
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 12: 'Faces of Katrina'. Family albums and happy snaps found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September 12, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The town of Slidell, Louisiana was completely flattened by Katrina and very little remains of the former lives of this small suburb east of New Orleans. But on the ground, ditches, mangled sidewalks and debris strewn streets there lays a chilling reminder of the town's past. The sea water corroded photo albums of its former inhabitants. (Photo by Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)
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She thinks that being a woman, even one wearing a uniform and carrying an M16, helped her amid all that chaos. "I recognized, and I don't apologize for that, that a male soldier can say something, and I can say the same thing and get the same result, but the feeling is very different," she says.

The difference, says Louisiana National Guard Colonel Ed Bush, Carter's boss, is the wisdom and grace with which Carter gives orders.

The two met in the Superdome at the height of Katrina. Bush was a major in the public affairs office then. His job was to walk around the stadium with a bullhorn, refuting unfounded rumors of rampant crime and reassuring people that the National Guard cared about them and was there to help. Carter saw him and thought, I want to do that.

"What I was doing is about as intimate as you can get. I was talking to people all day and trying to calm fears and solve problems," Bush says. "The caring side of her, that [work] appealed to her tremendously."

It appealed so much that Carter walked up to Bush and told him she wanted to work together. Bush wrote down her name and number and promised to call her. A few months later, he did, and he's been her boss in two different jobs since then. Today, Carter serves under Bush in the Office of Family Programs, where she works directly with families of soldiers in the Louisiana National Guard.

"She's tremendous at it because that is who she is," Bush says. "She cares. She genuinely wants to help. The way to make Ebony quit is to stick her in a cubicle and make her do paperwork all day long. That would drive her insane. She needs to be connected to people and help them."

And the Superdome was full of people who needed help.

Katrina 10 - Life inside the Superdome:

33 PHOTOS
Katrina 10 year: Life inside the Domes - Rebuilding the Superdome
See Gallery
From despair to hope: How one National Guardswoman reconciles memories of Katrina
Some of the thousands of displaced residents take cover from Hurricane Katrina at the Superdome, a last-resort shelter, in New Orleans about midnight, Sunday, Aug. 28, 2005. Officials called for a mandatory evacuation of the city, but many residents remained in the city. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 29: The roof of the Louisiana Superdome is seen damaged due to the strong winds of Hurricane Katrina August 29, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Katrina made landfall this morning as a Category 4 strom with sustained winds in excess of 135 mph near Empire, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
National Guard trucks haul residents through floodwaters to the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina hit in New Orleans, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2005. Officials called for a mandatory evacuation of the city, but many residents remained in the city. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
UNITED STATES - CIRCA 2005: Lawrence and Vanessa Arnollie take shelter in the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, which hit the Gulf Coast states on August 29th, 2005. After three days with no running water and intense heat and humidity the shelter has become unsanitary and unsafe. Officials prepare evacuation despite the flood water surrounding the building. (Photo by Michael Appleton/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - CIRCA 2005: Light streaming down through the ceiling of the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana illuminates a ragged crowd of refugees taking shelter at the arena in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which hit the Gulf Coast states on August 29th, 2005. (Photo by Michael Appleton/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
IN FLIGHT- AUGUST 30: The damaged roof from Hurricane Katrina of the Louisiana Superdome is seen August 30, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Approximately 100 people are feared dead and estimates put the property loss at nearly $30 billion as Hurricane Katrina could become the costliest storm in US history. It is estimated that 80 percent of New Orleans is under flood waters as levees begin to break and leak around Lake Ponchartrain. (Photo by Dave Einsel/Getty Images)
Huge shafts of light filter through the damaged roof of the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans on Friday, Sept. 2, 2005. The dome is littered with debris after serving as a shelter for victims from Hurricane Katrina. A huge military presence has arrived in the city, restoring order and bringing with them food and water to feed the thousands of victims of Hurricane Katrina. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)
Thousands wait to be evacuated from the Superdome, Friday, Sept. 2, 2005, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, pool)
Huge shafts of light strike the playing field of the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans on Friday, Sept. 2, 2005. The dome is littered with debris after serving as a shelter for victims from Hurricane Katrina. The light is filtering in through holes in the roof. A huge military presence has arrived in the city, restoring order and bringing with them food and water to feed the thousands of victims of Hurricane Katrina. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)
Volunteers set up cots on the floor of Houston's Astrodome Thursday, Sept. 1, 2005. More than 20,000 evacuees from Hurricane Katrina are expected to be transported from the New Orleans Superdome to the Astrodome over the next two days. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
Joshwa Coyette, 3 cries inside the Houston Astrodome on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2005, in Houston. Joshwa and several of his siblings were rescued by their child care provider, Natasha Collins, who floated the children to the New Orleans Superdome on a mattress. Coyette's mother is one of the missing. (AP Photo/Jessica Kourkounis)
New Orleans, UNITED STATES: The last of the Hurricane Katrina survivors who used the Superdome in New Orleans as shelter wait 02 September, 2005. The New Orleans sports arena that housed hurricane refugees for five days in lawless squalor was finally emptied Friday, though many remained stranded with no immediate prospect of evacuation. While relieved to leave the confines of the Superdome, where many testified to pitch-dark nights of gunfire, rioting and rape, the evacuees found the devastated city outside offered little in the way of comfort. AFP PHOTO/JAMES NIELSEN (Photo credit should read JAMES NIELSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Workers begin the job or repairing the roof of the Louisiana Superdome Saturday Oct. 15, 2005 in New Orleans. The Superdome will undergo temporary repairs to gaping holes in its massive roof. An architectural firm is set to be picked next week and it will come up with a plan for restoring a stadium that was left waterlogged and vandalized during Hurricane Katrina. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)
Cleanup work continues on the inside of the Superdome in New Orleans, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2005, as workers are about to finish patching up the roof, damaged by Hurricane Katrina. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
NEW ORLEANS - MAY 25: Painter Anselmo Martinez, originally from Mexico, goes over plans as work continues on the Superdome, which was damaged by Hurricane Katrina, May 25, 2006 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The stadium is scheduled to be repaired and 'football-ready' in four months for the New Orleans Saints home opener against the Atlanta Falcons September 25, 2006. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - JULY 18: Workers continue to repair the dome of the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana, on July 18, 2006. Superdome was severely damages in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. (Photo by Andy Nelson/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - MAY 25: Work continues on the Superdome, which was damaged by Hurricane Katrina, May 25, 2006 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The stadium is scheduled to be repaired and 'football-ready' in four months for the New Orleans Saints home opener against the Atlanta Falcons September 25, 2006. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - JULY 25: Work continues on the Louisiana Superdome to repair damage from Hurricane Katrina July 25, 2006 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Superdome is scheduled to open for the first New Orleans Saints home game on September 25. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - JULY 25: Rows of new seats are covered to protect them during construction inside the Louisiana Superdome July 25, 2006 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Following the damage from Hurricane Katrina, the Superdome is scheduled to reopen for the New Orleans Saints first home game on September 25, 2006. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Seats are covered and heavy equipment fills the floor as construction continues for the opening of the Superdome for the Saints next season in New Orleans on Wednesday April 19, 2006. The Superdome, used as a shelter during Hurricane Katrina, was heavily damaged and is closed for repairs. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
** ADVANCE FOR SUNDAY, AUG. 20 **Workmen repair the roof of the Louisiana Superdome, badly damaged Hurricane Katrina, in New Orleans June 8, 2006. They completed replacement of the 9.7-acre roof by July 19, weeks ahead of schedule. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
NEW ORLEANS - JUNE 13: This is a satellite image of downtown New Orleans, Louisiana collected on June 13, 2006, New Orleans Louisiana. (Photo DigitalGlobe via Getty Images)
Kelly Johnson, from Austin, Texas, center, with Sportexe is framed by the center of a zero as he works to install the new turf in the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans on Tuesday Sept. 5, 2006. The Momentum turf was damaged during Hurricane Katrina. The Superdome is being readied for the Saints home opener on Monday, Sept. 25th against the Atlanta Falcons. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Carlos Ortega watches through the hole as he lowers a piece of the old vent to the floor of the Superdome in New Orleans on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2006. The roof of the Superdome heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina, has been completely redone, with only the vents on top left to be finished. The New Orleans Saints will play the Atlanta Falcons for the first event in the Superdome on Monday, Sept. 25th. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
**FILE** Francis Castaneda wipes off seats as the Superdome is readied in New Orleans in this Sept. 18, 2006 file photo. Two years after Hurricane Katrina almost nothing seems the same in New Orleans, but one thing has not changed _ a cool regard by business for what was once a major Southern commercial center. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, file)
New Orleans Saints players Ben Archibald (60) and Rob Petitti (79) look up at the lights as the Saints hold their first practice inside the Superdome in New Orleans on Friday, Sept. 22, 2006. The Superdome was heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina and has been repaired and renovated for the Saints first home game against the Atlanta Falcons on Monday, Sept. 25th.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
The Superdome has the lights dimmed during preparations for the upcoming Monday Night Football game in New Orleans on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2006. The Superdome was heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina and used as a shelter from the storm by tens of thousands of people. The first event in the Superdome will be the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons game on Monday, Sept. 25th.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
NEW ORLEANS - SEPTEMBER 25: Quarterback Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints huddles up his team during the first quarter of the Monday Night Football game against the Atlanta Falcons on September 25, 2006 at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. Tonight's game marks the first time since Hurricane Katrina struck last August, that the Superdome, which served as a temporary shelter to thousands of stranded victims in the wake of Katrina, has played host to an NFL game. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - SEPTEMBER 25: Wide receiver Devery Henderson #19 of the New Orleans Saints is challenged by Demorrio Williams #51 of the Atlanta Falcons during the first quarter of the Monday Night Football game on September 25, 2006 at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. Tonight's game marks the first time since Hurricane Katrina struck last August, that the Superdome, which served as a temporary shelter to thousands of stranded victims in the wake of Katrina, has played host to an NFL game. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - SEPTEMBER 25: Runningback Reggie Bush #25 waves to the fans he leaves the field after the Saints 23-3 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in the Monday Night Football game on September 25, 2006 at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. Tonight's game marks the first time since Hurricane Katrina struck last August, that the Superdome, which served as a temporary shelter to thousands of stranded victims in the wake of Katrina, has played host to an NFL game. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - SEPTEMBER 25: Quarterback Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints celebrates with teammate Jammal Brown #70 after their team's 23-3 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in the Monday Night Football game on September 25, 2006 at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. Tonight's game marks the first time since Hurricane Katrina struck last August, that the Superdome, which served as a temporary shelter to thousands of stranded victims in the wake of Katrina, has played host to an NFL game. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
A sign still hangs on the Louisiana Superdome a day after it's re-opening in New Orleans Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2006. The New Orleans Saints defeated the Atlanta Falcons 23-3 on Monday night which helped to celebrate the grand re-opening of the Hurricane Katrina-damaged facility.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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On Saturday, Aug. 27, 2005 -- two days before Katrina hit -- New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin ordered the evacuation of the city and labeled the Superdome a "shelter of last resort." By the time Katrina arrived, Carter was one of 550 National Guard soldiers already stationed at the Superdome, and one of 3,000 total National Guard troops in the New Orleans area.

At the peak of the Katrina recovery effort, 51,039 National Guard soldiers from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and three territories worked in Louisiana and Mississippi, making Katrina by far the biggest domestic deployment in the Guard's 378-year history, according to "In Katrina's Wake: The National Guard on the Gulf Coast," a book about the storm produced by the Guard.

According to Combat Studies Institute Press, six people died at the Superdome during the aftermath of Katrina, but none were crime victims. All the talk on the news about rape and murder and assaults at the Superdome -- it was all wrong. In reality, the Superdome was a disgusting, filthy mess, and it seemed to always be one lit match away from turning into an inferno. But the fire never started.

Eighty percent of the city was underwater, which meant people couldn't leave. The Superdome became Carter's entire world. One day, one of her soldiers had a medical emergency, forcing her to fly in a helicopter to a hospital in Baton Rouge. As she sat in the waiting room, she watched a TV tuned to the news, which was dominated by horrific images of flooding.

"Where in the world is that?" she asked.

"New Orleans," a woman sitting next to her answered.

"I couldn't wrap my mind around it," Carter says. "It was the most surreal thing to ever see."

Days and nights passed with little change in the circumstances at the Superdome. The heat and stress left soldiers and citizens exhausted. "Our sweet little dome," as Carter calls it, was strewn with garbage. Toilets were overflowing. The stink was overpowering. The scale of it all was overwhelming.

But there were hints of grace amid the depravity. One night Carter looked up, and through holes in the roof she saw a faint light -- stars looking down on the city. Then she heard singing. Soft at first, it grew louder. Soon the whole stadium joined together in "This Little Light of Mine."

"I was like, 'This is probably one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen,'" she says. "You've got all these people who have lost everything, but they've found a silver lining, a little piece of hope."

She wanted to spread the hope. She tried to help a man who was looking for his wife; he carried everything he still owned in the world in a black Hefty trash bag. There was a boy who couldn't find his mom, so he followed Carter around. And then just as suddenly as those two had appeared by her side, they melted away. So, while she doesn't know how those Superdome stories ended, she was surprised to find that her own led to a happy ending.

Katrina 10 - Spotlighting the New Orleans Saints' 2005 season:

37 PHOTOS
Katrina 10 year: New Orleans Saints 2005 season, Superdome
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From despair to hope: How one National Guardswoman reconciles memories of Katrina
IN FLIGHT- AUGUST 30: The damaged roof from Hurricane Katrina of the Louisiana Superdome is seen August 30, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Approximately 100 people are feared dead and estimates put the property loss at nearly $30 billion as Hurricane Katrina could become the costliest storm in US history. It is estimated that 80 percent of New Orleans is under flood waters as levees begin to break and leak around Lake Ponchartrain. (Photo by Dave Einsel/Getty Images)
New Orleans Saints linebacker T.J. Slaughter sits during practice at San Jose State football practice facility in San Jose, Calif., Monday, Aug. 29, 2005. The Saints decided to leave for northern California to practice several days early as Hurricane Katrina bore down on New Orleans under mandatory evacuation. The Saints have a Thursday night preseason game against the the Oakland Raiders. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
UNITED STATES - CIRCA 2005: Light streaming down through the ceiling of the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana illuminates a ragged crowd of refugees taking shelter at the arena in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which hit the Gulf Coast states on August 29th, 2005. (Photo by Michael Appleton/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 30: The Super Dome is seen in flooded downtown New Orleans, Louisiana on August 30, 2005, a day after Hurricane Katrina devastated the region. Hurricane Katrina slammed Louisiana as a category 4 storm, forcing levies to brake and flooding much of New Orleans. (Photo by Marko Georgiev/Getty Images)
Red Cross worker Ginny Angerer, left, looks for a vein on the arm of Heidi Thomas of Aromas, Calif., as Thomas prepares to donate blood prior to the Oakland Raiders-New Orleans Saints preseason game Thursday, Sept. 1, 2005, in Oakland, Calif. The Oakland Raiders and the American Red Cross joined forces to conduct a blood drive to help the Red Cross ensure a steady supply of blood for victims of Hurricane Katrina, which ravaged the Gulf Coast. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Members of the New Orleans Saints bow their heads during a moment of silence for victims of Hurricane Katrina, prior to a preseason game with the Oakland Raiders, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2005, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
UNITED STATES - CIRCA 2005: Lawrence and Vanessa Arnollie take shelter in the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, which hit the Gulf Coast states on August 29th, 2005. After three days with no running water and intense heat and humidity the shelter has become unsanitary and unsafe. Officials prepare evacuation despite the flood water surrounding the building. (Photo by Michael Appleton/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
New Orleans Saints receiver' Joe Horn slaps hands with an unidentified child at the Astrodome in Houston Saturday, Sept. 3, 2005 in Houston. Horn visited the dome to give the displaced residents from New Orleans hope and for thousands of Hurricane Katrina refugees inside the Astrodome, meeting him was a much-needed morale boost. (AP Photo/Donna Carson)
New Orleans Saints linebacker T.J. Slaughter, left, and Tiffany Cardenas, 18, of San Antonio, serve lunch to Hurricane Katrina evacuees , Sunday, Sept. 4, 2005, at a shelter at KellyUSA, a former Air Force base, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
New Orleans Saints' Deuce McAllister (26) tries to run past Carolina Panthers' Will Witherspoon (54) during the Saints' 23-20 win in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday Sept. 11, 2005. McAllister had 64 yards and two touchdowns.(AP Photo/Rick Havner)
New Orleans Saints' Donte Stallworth (83) acknowledges Saints' fans as he walks off the field after the Saints' 23-20 win over the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday Sept. 11, 2005. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Hurricane Katrina refugee Abe McQueen, of New Orleans, watches the New Orleans Saints football game on television, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2005, at Camp Edwards in Bourne, Mass. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
** FILE ** The Louisiana Superdome sits in the foreground as floodwaters from Hurricane Katrina continue to recede Sept. 11, 2005, in New Orleans. The New Orleans Saints, left searching for a host site after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Superdome roof, announced plans Monday, Sept. 12 to split seven home games this season between Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La., and the Alamodome in San Antonio. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, Pool)
New Orleans Saints players stretch prior to their practice at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Friday, Sept. 16, 2005. The displaced Saints have made San Antonio their temporary home after they were driven from the Superdome by Hurricane Katrina. Somewhat overlooked in the drama surrounding the New Orleans Saints' opening victory is this nugget: They've now won five straight games. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
A giant American flag in the shape of the United States is carried onto the field at Giants Stadium as the national anthem is played before the start of a game between the New Orleans Saints and the New York Giants. The Saints are playing their home opener at Giants Stadium because their Superdome was damaged by Hurricane Katrina. (Photo by Ron Antonelli/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
The New Orleans Saints run onto the field before the start of their game against the New York Giants. The Saints are playing their home opener at Giants Stadium because their Superdome was damaged by Hurricane Katrina. (Photo by Ron Antonelli/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 19: Quarterback Aaron Brooks #2 of the New Orleans Saints walks under a sign referencing the Hurricane Relief fund after losing 27-10 to the New York Giants on September 19, 2005 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Saints are playing their home opener, with proceeds going to the Hurricane Katrina relief fund, in New Jersey after being forced from the Superdome which was damaged by Hurricane Katrina. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Dark clouds cover the sky above the Superdome in New Orleans, Monday, Oct. 3, 2005. Hurricane Katrina forced the Saints from their home and into a cross-country journey with three home games scheduled for the Alamodome and four others closer to home in Baton Rouge, La. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
San Antonio residents Jesse Garcia, right, and his son, Collin, show their support for the New Orleans Saints before the start of their first home game in the Alamodome against the Buffalo Bills in this Oct. 2, 2005 photo in San Antonio. The Saints, who were unable to play in the Superdome in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, play some of their home games in San Antonio's Alamodome. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Green Bay Packers receiver Robert Ferguson (89) catches a 25-yard touchdown pass in front of New Orleans Saints safety Josh Bullocks (29) during the second quarter Sunday, Oct. 9, 2005, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
New Orleans Saints' LeCharles Bentley sits on the field after Green Bay Packers' Nick Barnett retuned an intercepted pass 95 yards for a touchdown during the fourth quarter Sunday, Oct. 9, 2005, in Green Bay, Wis. The Packers won 52-3. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)
A pair of football fans hold a sign regarding the playing of an NFL game in San Antonio, during the game between the Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2005, in San Antonio, Texas. The Falcons defeated the Saints 34-31. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
St. Louis Rams' Steven Jackson hauls several New Orleans Saints into the end zone as he scores from the 6-yard line in the second quarter Sunday, Oct. 23, 2005 in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam)
New Orleans Saints fans hold "Katrina Can't Stop The Saints" signs in the stands during the first half against the St. Louis Rams in St. Louis, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2005. (AP Photo/James A. Finley)
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Joe Horn and other Saints enter the field at LSU's Tiger Stadium Sunday, Oct. 30, 2005, in Baton Rouge, La. This is their first game in Louisiana, since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf coast in August. (AP Photo/Travis Spradling)
New Orleans Saints players take the field for pre-game warmups in the LSU painted end zone on Sunday, Oct. 30, 2005, in Louisiana State University's Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La. This is the Saints first game back in Louisiana since Hurricane Katrina hit. (AP Photo/Travis Spradling)
New Orleans Saints fans show their spirit and opinions concerning owner Tom Benson during the first half against the Chicago Bears at LSU's Tiger Stadium Sunday, Nov. 6, 2005, in Baton Rouge, La.. The woman on the right dressed up like a chicken and sported a Benson mask. (AP Photo/Bill Feig)
** FILE ** New Orleans Saints wide receiver Donte Stallworth (83) celebrates after scoring on a 14-yard touchdown as Chicago Bears' Nathan Vasher (31) and Charles Tillman (33) look on during the first half in this Nov. 6, 2005 file photo, in Baton Rouge, La.. Still looking to replace Terrell Owens, the Philadelphia Eagles acquired wide receiver Donte' Stallworth from the Saints on Monday, Aug. 28, 2006. (AP Photo/Bill Feig)
New Orleans Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks, left, looks to pass as he is pressured by New England Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel during the first half in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday Nov. 20, 2005. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
New Orleans Saints receiver Az-Zahir Hakim hauls in a 9-yard touchdown pass as Atlanta's Ronnie Heard (38) defends at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Monday, Dec. 12, 2005. (AP Photo/Ric Feld)
Many seats remain empty at the start of the Carolina Panthers-New Orleans Saints NFL football game at LSU's Tiger Stadium on Sunday Dec. 18, 2005, in Baton Rouge, La. (AP Photo/Bill Feig)
New Orleans Saints players run onto the field at the Alamodome for an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in San Antonio, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2005. The Lions won, 13-12. The Saints were displaced to San Antonio following Hurricane Katrina. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
New Orleans Saints fan Martin Scales holds a sign as Saints players leave the field after their NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in San Antonio, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2005. The Lions won 13-12. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis answers reporters questions after a news conference announcing that the team would return to New Orleans during a news conference at the training facility in Metairie, La., Friday Dec. 30, 2005. Team owner Tom Benson says his team might be able to play in the hurricane-ravaged Superdome by September. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees throws a football to some of the workers that took a break while working on a Habitat for Humanity home in the Musicians Village in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, Thursday, May 10, 2007. Brees, along with his teammates and fraternity brothers of Sigma Chi are helping in rebuilding homes in the effort to aid the city's recovery from Hurricane Katrina. Brees calls this latest community outreach effort, "Rebuilding thru Brotherhood," as 83 of his fraternity brothers who are currently enrolled at various colleges around the country, as well as Canada, will rebuild four houses destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)
ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 2005: New Orleans Saints helmet on field in 2005 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images)
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Buses started to arrive to evacuate the Superdome on Thursday, Sept. 1, three days after the storm. They kept coming -- 822 of them, most headed to Houston -- until the last person climbed aboard on Saturday. Carter stayed and helped with cleanup for a few more days, and after that, she "lived" at the Morial Convention Center and worked on relief efforts elsewhere in the city. She didn't return home to Baton Rouge until December.

As the years passed, Carter's resolve to never go back to the Superdome softened. She started to wonder if returning would help her find closure. In 2010, she was home on leave from a deployment to Iraq, and as a birthday present for her future husband, she bought two tickets to a game between the Saints and Falcons.

She became nervous, teary even, as they walked in together. She couldn't believe how beautiful it was. She tried to describe to him the devastation she had seen the last time she had been there, but words failed her. All she could do was point. Over there in the parking lot, that's where we slept at night. That's where people with their pets were. In that corner, there was a chalkboard on which people wrote the names of missing loved ones. Over there is where we handed out water and MREs. And all of it was covered in trash.

Since then, Carter has moved to New Orleans to work at Jackson Barracks, the headquarters for the Louisiana National Guard, which flooded and was evacuated during Katrina. She drives by the Superdome often. "Every single time, I don't care how many times, I think, I cannot believe that happened there," she says. "It looked like a war-torn country. But now it's gorgeous."

She wonders what happened to the girl having the seizure, to the man with the trash bag, to the boy who couldn't find his mother -- she happened to see him interviewed on the news from a shelter months later but never found out his name. She thinks of the soldiers who followed her commands even when she thought they wouldn't, and of how many people said, in the immediate aftermath of Katrina, that the Superdome should be torn down, that New Orleans would never recover.

"That Dome being the way it is now says so much about the city of New Orleans. It says so much about the service members who protected that Dome and the people who were there. It says so much about all those caregivers who took care of children they didn't know, of elderly people they didn't know," she says.

"Our sweet little dome," which first made Carter feel mighty and then made her feel helpless, now makes her feel proud. "It's redemption for us all," she says.

Related - "I was there," the story of a Hurricane Katrina Superdome survivor:

'': I Was There: Hurricane Katrina: Superdome Survivor


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