Air Force Vet Reunites With Teen He Rescued During Hurricane Katrina

It's been a decade since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, but one air force pilot has never forgotten a moment that touched his life. After rescuing a little girl from the damage, he got the hug and smile of his life. Thanks to the power of social media, he's finally been able to reconnect with the toddler he rescued, who is now a happy and healthy teenager.

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Master Sgt. Michael Maroney started a campaign to find the girl last March, using the hashtag #FindKatrinaGirl. This photo was snapped after he rescued her in New Orleans, but he never knew her name. It's an image that's given hope to many after the devastation in 2005.

"When she wrapped me up with that hug, I just melted, and the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders," Maroney, 40, said. "Everything in the world just stopped, and I wasn't in New Orleans or in the devastation, I was just being hugged by a beautiful little girl." 

Just last week, he got a lead. "A friend of hers contacted my son on his Instagram and said, 'Hey, the girl your dad's looking for is a friend of mine," Maroney revealed to ABC News. "He sent us a photo of the girl a month after Katrina, showing her and her family in a shelter in Tennessee. I compared that photo with my photo, and I knew that it was her."

The now-13-year-old is LeShay Brown, and she lives with her family in Waveland, Mississippi.

Though he's stationed in San Antonio, Texas, Maroney was able to reconnect with the family over the phone.

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"Words cannot describe how I felt hearing their voices again at that moment," he said. "I was like, 'Is this real? Is this really her?' I've been waiting for 10 years for this, and finally I found her. I had a stupid smile across my whole face the whole time."

LeShay couldn't remember much about their helicopter ride 10 years ago, but her mom did.

"I was just happy to know they're alive and doing all right," he said. "Hopefully, in the next couple of weeks I'll get to meet them in person, and I plan on bringing my two boys. They're right around her age, so I think that's why when I first met her 10 years ago, I was drawn to her."

What a fantastic reunion! And a sweet reminder that the Internet can do a lot of good, too.

 

Image via The Daily Share/Twitter

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