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Building back bigger and better is a common theme among families in and around Baton Rouge, Lousiana, where massive floods last month claimed thousands of family homes and belongings.

“I’ve lost pictures that are only in my mind, and that hurts,” said Mary Ventress, better know as Miss Mae-Mae. Her family, like many, lost everything.

Mary said she’s used to lots of rain, but not the record amount August brought.

“Just in shock,” she said. “I think the first week for sure just in shock, walking around going, what to do, what to do? I mean, I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Her neighborhood was devastated, submerged beneath more than 6 feet of water.

“It ruined pictures, it ruined appliances,” she said. “It ruined everything it came in contact with. Everything.”

But the dark, dirty water did something good, too. It brought Mary and her neighbors together.

“We’re all in the same boat,” she said. “You can look down the street and see everybody’s life is in their front yard.”

Diane Stiles’ family is a lot like Mary’s. They lost everything, too, escaping the floods with little more than their lives.

“We didn’t have an hour,” Stiles said. “We left, we left with the clothes on our backs.”

And if it wasn’t for her quick thinking, Stiles’ family might not have survived the flood. She says their safety was all thanks to God.

“God shook my arm and the hair on my way stood up, and he told me to gather my family and leave now,” she said.

The water rose quickly, as her family walked through knee deep water, not sure when or where they’d find safety.

Until a man with a large trailer drove by.

“He saved our lives, 11 of us,” she said.

Once the water was gone, they came back home to nothing.

“That’s 40 years out there on the road,” she said, pointing to a pile of rubble.

Almost a month later, the family is putting the flood behind them, with help from family around the country. They  raised $5,000 to help her family’s rebuilding efforts.

“When my family sent me the money, my husband and I thought we were gonna die of a heart attack,” she said.

But things are looking up. Repairs on their home are ahead of schedule.

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