It’s stories of heroism that sends a warm feeling through the hearts of EarHustle411 and the writing staff that makes us so grateful that there are still good people out there. 10 years ago we witnessed the worst hurricanes to ever demolish an area on American soil. Hurricane Katrina in her infamous destruction struck New Orleans and left her handprints behind for all to remember. Out of the destruction of Katrina many heroes emerged and they were from various backgrounds, races & ethnicities. One little girl and her family were rescued by an Air Force man who was just doing his job but found that it was more than the job that he had memories of.
10 years later that military man would be reunited with the little girl & her family Read more as reported by People:
Master Sergeant Mike Maroney has kept a certain picture on his wall over the past 10 years – that of himself and a little girl he delivered to safety during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
As the poignant photo of the twosome hugging swept the nation, so did Mike’s search for the happy girl and her family.
After PEOPLE broke the news earlier this month that Maroney had ultimately found his “Katrina Girl” (her name is LeShay Brown), the pair finally reunited during an emotional taping of The Real on Tuesday.
Maroney first explained to the show’s hosts why LeShay’s hug had inspired him so much, saying, “If she’s strong enough to handle this, I can handle this.” Then, the 19-year pararescue jumper was finally “re-introduced” to the girl who changed his life all those years ago.
After taking a moment to finally embrace again, Maroney told a choked up LeShay, “I wish I could explain to you how important your hug was. Your small gesture helped me through a dark phase. You rescued me more than I rescued you.”
Unfortunately, both families have hit hard times since Katrina (Maroney is injured and therefore cannot currently serve), so the pair was shocked and overjoyed when the hosts presented each family with a $10,000 check.
Speaking to PEOPLE exclusively after their meeting, LeShay (who doesn’t remember much from the actual rescue), said that what Mike told her “really means a lot.” Her mother, Shawntrell Brown, said, “I remember Mike was a nice man then, and he’s such a nice man now.”
Maroney, clearly moved by the experience, told the Browns he has “dreamt of this day for a long time” and that “finding you guys, and knowing you’re okay, has been a weight off my back.”
He further explained of his job, “I’ve rescued a lot of people, but there have also been a lot of people I couldn’t rescue. Life sometimes gets dark, knowing there are good people who love life and are happy, the resiliency that she had has been a strength for me.”
As to how the publicity has changed their lives, Shawntrell joked, “LeShay is famous! Everyone has been coming up to us every day, asking us about it.” LeShay, for her part, offered a pretty typical 13-year-old viewpoint on the reunion, saying, “Yeah, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to run bleachers when I go back to school because I missed practices.”
The families will see each other again later this month in the Brown’s adopted town of Waveland, Mississippi, and plan to keep in touch. “We’ve already been texting, checking in on each other, and talking quite a bit,” Maroney explains.
And what of the $10,000? Shawntrell hopes to buy a much-needed car and may have to give in to LeShay’s desire for an iPhone, while Mike plans to catch up on some debts.
Maroney’s first purchase, though, occurred later that evening when he delivered a surprise chocolate milkshake to LeShay’s hotel door.
“She told me she loves ice cream!” he says.