Video: Lee Ann Bemboom's story

By Dawn Fratangelo Correspondent
NBC News
updated 9/29/2005 3:05:43 PM ET 2005-09-29T19:05:43

Few can forget the desperate cry of Lee Ann Bemboom at the New Orleans Convention Center on Sept. 1.

"Look how hot he is," she said while holding her infant son, Jahon. "He's not waking up very easy. This is not about low-income; it's not about rich people, poor people. It's about people." 

Charlotte Hackman of Wilmington, N.C., was among those concerned. 

"It was a moment in TV that I think just captured people's heart, and it put a face on that tragedy," she says.

In her local newspaper, Bemboom's face had a familiar name.

"It was like, I couldn't catch my breath," recalls Hackman. "It was like, 'Oh, my God, that girl is, it's Lee Ann!"

Turns out Lee Ann Bemboom is Charlotte Hackman's second cousin.

So the search began. After nine days Hackman found the shelter where Bemboom was taken, in tiny Addis, La. That's where we caught up with her.

"That's my apartment," she told us during a tour of the living space. "That's what we call those. There's the bed, the TV, the pile of clothes."

And what about her baby? He looked so limp when last we saw him. 

Jahon, who celebrates his first birthday on Friday, is doing much better.

"He was very dehydrated, and I actually found out later [he] had some kind of infection also," says Bemboom.

Even before Katrina, life had its knocks. A single mother whose parents had died, Bemboom lived in a shelter for battered women. It burned three days after the hurricane hit.

"I think it's time for a little bit of a change," says Bemboom. "Little bit too much negative going on for me. I just want to start over."

Cousin Charlotte Hackman — who hasn't seen Bemboom in 25 years — wants to make that happen.

"I hope she knows, and I think she does, that we cared enough to keep looking," says Hackman as she chokes up at the memory.

She does. Late Monday night, Lee Ann Bemboom's plea was answered. She and her baby landed in Wilmington, where Hackman told her, "You can stay forever."

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