12 Years After Saving The Life Of A Little Girl During Hurricane Katrina, Master Sergeant Mike Maroney Finally Meets The Girl Who Changed His Life

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Do you remember Hurricane Katrina? How could you not? It was traumatic to watch the devastation that happened on over fifty beaches in New Orleans. Katrina attained Category 5 status on the morning of August 28, 2005.

Hurricane Katrina was an extremely destructive storm that hit the Gulf Coast of the United States in August 2005. It was the costliest natural disaster and one of the five deadliest hurricanes in the history of the United States. The storm is currently ranked as the third most intense United States landfalling tropical cyclone, behind only the 1935 Labor Day hurricane and Hurricane Camille in 1969.

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Overall, at least 1,245 people died in the hurricane and subsequent floods, making it the deadliest United States hurricane since the 1928 Okeechobee hurricane. Total property damage was estimated at $108 billion (2005 USD), roughly four times the damage brought by Hurricane Andrew in 1992 in the United States.

For Master Sergeant Mike Maroney of the U.S. Air Force, there was one rescue he can't stop thinking about. LaShay Brown, the little girl he saved during Hurricane Katrina gave her rescuers the biggest hug after being saved and the award-winning photo went viral. Maroney, who was battling PTSD at the time of the rescue carried the photograph with him on his deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan to remind him of that special moment. 

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Once back in the states, Maroney started a search to find LaShay, even launching #FindKatrinaGirl campaign on social media. 10 years after he started his search for the little girl that changed his life, the two have finally met on the set of The Real in September 2015. During that reunion Maroney told LaShay, “You rescued me more than I rescued you.”

The two have continued communication since that day, encouraging each other in life. Since their reunion, the former rescuer has visited the Brown family in Mississippi, he's even taught LaShay how to swim and the two have spoken on the phone weekly. Maroney said he is dedicated to this family because he would do anything to repay the hug the LaShay gave him, it saved his life. 

Thanks to Maroney, LaShay said she plans on joining the military one day, but hasn't decided what branch. “I am proud of her no matter what she does and will support her in everything she does,” he said. “I think she understands service and I believe that she will do great things no matter what she chooses.”

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