NEW ALBANY, Miss. (WTVA) — Jan Pannell and Theresa Denley are not sisters but you wouldn't know it.
"I'm an only child and I needed a sister, so God sent me one," Pannell said.
Her future sister would arrive as so many others would-with as much as they could take with them during the evacuation from New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina.
Their journey would lead them to Tupelo. Eventually their paths would cross.
"They wanted to give us everything. We were like Oh No! We don't need help and we really did. They brought us into their home and accepted us as their family," Denley said.
That acceptance came with a blessing all would feel.
"When you seek to be a blessing to somebody, you end up getting the blessing and that's what happened to us," Pannell added.
It would be that mutual bond that Theresa would rely on when it was time to return to New Orleans.
"I thought we were going to have to demolish our house. I thought that the whole community was gone and you go home and there's not a bird or anything. There's no sound in the air. Everything is gone. I thought our life was over."
It would be anything but. Pannell's church family would travel to New Orleans to help them.
Denley will cherish those memories and the decisions that would lie ahead. They would buy the home once offered as a safe haven to their family.
"We have a whole new family now that's an extension of family we already had and it's great," Pannell said.