Hurricane survivor attends first game
Offner on hand for Game 3 of World Series with brother
HOUSTON -- In the days immediately following Hurricane Katrina's landfall in New Orleans, the Jefferson Parish levee finally broke and the 17th Street Canal brought a surge of new floodwater into a devastated city.
It took Blair Offner's two-story home with it, six feet of water destroying all but the memories of her life there. She fled to Houston to stay with her brother, Judson, while so many others were transported from New Orleans to the Astrodome.
On Tuesday -- a night when the World Series finally came to Houston and Major League Baseball recognized the efforts of those assisting the Gulf Coast region in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita -- there was Blair in the stands at her first big-league game. Her company, the Hilton hotel chain, formally relocated her to this city -- and then gave her two tickets to attend Game 3 of the World Series. She was here with the brother who gave her respite after the storm of a lifetime.
"You could say that Katrina brought me here," said Blair, 25. "I'm here, and you have to think positively.
"It's just been an indescribable time. The place you grow up in only has memories there now. Every New Orleanean packs a bag because you think you'll be back, but there's nothing. I feel fortunate that I'm in a lot better way than others right now. Here I am at my first Major League game, and it's the first World Series game ever in the city of Houston.
"I just went home this weekend, and all of the cars have in the back in shoe polish: 'Thank you, Houston.' So I know all of New Orleans is pulling for the Astros here. People are living in tents back there, in tent cities. People are bathing in the main lakes. The news that you see on TV doesn't even do it justice."
There is a big part of Blair Offner that aches for the city she left behind, and now a part that moves on along with the masses who came in Astros colors for the first Fall Classic in these parts in the club's 44-year history. And there is a big love for her brother for doing what brothers are supposed to do for sisters: Be there.
"God's really blessed us," said Judson Offner, 27. "With the fact she was able to find a job here through her company, and the fact that I could house her. I was trying to get her to move anyway, and it took a hurricane to move her here.
"This is the first time in Texas that there's ever been a World Series game. The way I look at it, even if you lose, you're at a World Series game. Now it's my turn to thank her."
According to Blair, Judson told her before: "You owe me pretty bad." A ticket to a World Series game kind of helps.
"I'm really excited -- I tried to go to a game before they made it [to the World Series], but couldn't," Blair said. "Hilton was so nice to get me tickets. I don't know if they feel sorry for me now."
And as she looked around the field while players were taking batting practice before the game, Blair just shook her head and said, "Katrina who?"
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.