By CHRISTINE HENDERSON
Dr. Roberta (Langenkamp) Chilimigras, formerly of Celina, and her two children escaped from Hurricane Katrina with little but emergency supplies.
"I am emotionally traumatized," Chilimigras said this morning from her brother's home in Louisville, Ky. "I can't imagine how many deaths."
Chilimigras, the daughter of Margaret Langenkamp and the late Norbert Langenkamp, expects to arrive later today at her mother's rural Celina home. Traveling with her are her daughter Mary, 15, a high school sophomore, and her son Anthony, 18, who has Down Syndrome. Her husband James is in Greece on business and expected to return next week. Another daughter, Elizabeth, of Steubenville, is married and another son, John, left last week for college in Michigan.
The family has resided about 15 years in Bay St. Louis, Miss., which surrounds the town of Waveland, where Chilimigras works as a family physician. The Associated Press this morning reported the hurricane virtually destroyed Waveland. Mississippi officials said the town took a harder hit from the wind and water than any other town along the coast.
"We were wiped off the map," Chilimigras said about her town. The bridges to the town are out and the city to the north also is destroyed. There is no way to get into Bay St. Louis and Waveland, she said.
"I know so many people, so many patients," she said. "We don't even know if any survived."
Her daughter Mary also is devastated. Of her six best friends in Bay St. Louis, said her mother, "four stayed in their homes and probably are not around. Her two best friends are probably gone."
Before the hurricane, Chilimigras said she readied her patients, trying to talk them into leaving. One 80-year-old man begged to stay in the hospital room with his wife, who has cancer. Hospital rules would not allow it. The elderly man decided to stay in town because he would not leave his wife, the doctor said.
Many older patients told her, "I've lived a long life, if God wants to take me, he can."
Other people stayed because they feared being stuck in traffic gridlock trying to get out of town as had happened in past storms. Motorists had to ride out hurricanes in their car with some dying, she said. There had been warnings at five previous hurricanes and major damage had not occurred, she added.
While Chilimigras tried to get her patients ready for the hurricane, her daughter Mary tried to prepare their home to weather the storm. She sterilized and filled water bottles and cleared the floors. Chilimigras had hoped to return after the hurricane to about a foot of water in the house. She now fears that her home is gone.
The family left Sunday about 3 p.m. and took back roads heading north, bringing only the family dog and food, water, blankets and comfortable clothes.
"I was afraid we were going to be stuck in the boonies with no gas in the middle of the hurricane," she recalled.
They got to a small town about 100 miles northeast of Mobile, Ala., still not finding a motel, when a generous convenience store manager offered them a spare room in his trailer. The next two nights were spent in a shelter, and then they headed north to family.
In this area, Chilimigras has brothers Greg, Joe and David Langenkamp in the Celina area, Walter Langenkamp in Portland, Ind., and sisters, Jane Obringer in Mendon, Pat Wente in Minster and Beth Dammeyer in Versailles. Chilimigras plans to enroll her daughter at Celina High School, where she herself graduated in 1967.
"I don't want her to lose a whole year of school," she said.
That is about all the planning Chilimigras can do at this time. She does not know what is left at home or what the future will bring.