Thursday marks the 8th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's landfall. The hurricane is considered to the most expensive natural disaster in the history of the United States and killed over 1,800 people.
Born and raised in Louisiana, Robert Brunet lost everything to the hurricane. He and his family sought refuge in Ft. Worth, Texas before being taken in by a family in Colorado Springs shortly after the storm.
"Driving through that area that I had grown up in and seeing not a single sign standing up, homes flattened everywhere you look," recalled Brunet.
He said he began to rebuild in Colorado Springs, but the poor economy resulted in Brunet getting laid off from his position as a computer programmer. At this point, Brunet decided it was time to pursue his real passion: cooking.
"It was at that time when I turned 50 that I realized it was getting a little late to do what I wanted to do when I grew up," he said.
Brunet opened up a personal chef business, which proved to be successful.
Now, he is taking it one step further by opening Momma Pearl's, a Cajun restaurant in Colorado Springs.
Named after his mother, the establishment adorned with Mardi-Gras beads and bayou décor, the restaurant will host its grand opening this weekend.
"We have to show our kids that we can come back from these things and I guess, the most important lesson we learned from Katrina is that we can come back," he said.
Brunet said he now calls Colorado Springs home, and said his heart goes out to those who have found themselves victim to the recent fires around Colorado Springs as he knows how it feels.
"We always try to remember that at one point we were on the receiving end and it's good to know that there's going to be people there to help," he said.
Brunet said his family is still in Louisiana, and he is able to visit often. He said the area has rebuilt and moved forward in the past eight years. He said while devastating, if not for Hurricane Katrina he would not be where he is now.
"The hurricane was quite an experience. I don't recommend it to anyone, but certainly it was a phenomenal experience for us to grow as a family and for us to find a new place to live."
For more on the restaurant, including menu and specials, click here.