For an Air Force Master Sgt. on a rescue mission during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, a then three-year-old’s hug helped him more than she could ever know. Air Force Reserve Master Sgt. Mike Maroney rescued Morgan L’Shay Brown, now 13, and her family from the waters of New Orleans on what he describes as being one of the toughest times of his life after returning from a rough deployment in Afghanistan.
Maroney set out to find the little girl who warmed his heart and on Wednesday after a decade of searching and launching #FindKatrinaKid on social media, he was reunited with Brown on last week’s episode of The Real. Maroney held back tears as Brown stepped onto the stage and towards him to give him another embrace. A far cry from her three-year-old self, the straight A student who wants to become a lawyer towered over Maroney as they met once again.
‘Your hug, it helped me through hard days, and rough days,’ Maroney said. ‘You rescued me more than I rescued you,’ he told Brown who began to cry tears of joy. KTVU reports that Brown’s family has since had financial trouble and Maroney can no longer serve loss to an wound. The hosts of the Real then presented each of them with a check for $10,000. The day in New Orleans will forever be in their memories. On that day ten years ago Brown and her family were still waiting for help about a week after the storm hit when the specialist team swooped in to help.
The joyful image went on to appear on coinage and paper placemats at the base exchange, on phone cards and a magazine cover. For Maroney, it was a brief moment of joy during what seemed like a hopeless mission. ‘It had been such a rough week, when she wrapped me up in that hug, I was in la-la land,’ he said. ‘Nothing else existed. I was just loving that hug.’ The veteran, who has since completed tours of Iraq, Afghanistan and was deployed to the Philippines, had arrived with his team a week earlier to do what they could to help the sad city.
A man suffering from an aortic aneurysm who was unlikely to survive and a comatose woman who had not left her own bed for years, were amongst those they assisted. But the dad-of-two was particularly moved by this girl, whose name he never knew, as he had a child the same age.
He told the Airforce Times how he helped save the fearless youngster with her parents and four siblings and remembers how she excitedly pointed out her home and her school from the hoist.
She reached out to rub her mother’s back and comforted her as she cried saying ‘It’s OK,’ and ‘We’re safe. Don’t worry.’ As he dropped her off at New Orleans International Airport with the rest of her family, a colleague captured their hug on camera. ‘If I never do anything else again, that hug and that smile made it all worthwhile,’ he said. He had no idea how far the image would travel until more than a year later, when he was on a deployment to Iraq.
Another airman told him he had seen the image on military coins handed out as change at the base exchange. Maroney said: ‘It was everywhere, on Burger King placemats and AT&T phone cards. I didn’t expect that.’ A foundation for fallen rescue airmen — So That Others May Live Foundation— used it on their brochures. Now a civilian pararescue instructor at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, he left active duty in August 2006 and has spent the last eight years in the Air Force Reserve, rising to the rank of master sergeant.
Since Katrina, he has tried to trace the girl, even sending a letter to Oprah Winfrey but never heard anything back until recently. He circulated the picture online once a year in the hope someone might recognise her but to no avail. ‘I would love to get another hug and see how she’s doing. I’d love her to know that there isn’t a day I haven’t thought of her.’ Lukily for Maroney and Brown, on Wednesday both their dreams came true.
This is how people reacted to this post:
Brauna Richmond – Ohhh my gracious. So BEAUTIFUL. What a LOVELY, inspiring story
Wade Pires – I’m a prejudice guy up until I saw this video. What a angel she is then and now. So flipping bueatyful she is. what a gentleman too. so inspiring!!
mubarak d – Some one should write a book About this beautiful story. Maybe I will. If you agree like it and comment and suggestion.
Idil Ali – Such a beautiful smile thy both have.
That’s what makes world better god bless the airman.
This Article Was First Published on dailymail.co.uk