Ten years ago this month, Encinitas screenwriter Jennifer Gremillion was living in New Orleans, not realizing that a storm brewing deep into the Atlantic Ocean would change her and her family’s lives forever.
“It was a very difficult time,” Gremillion recalled from her North County home. “Everyone was rattled.”
Her experience through the ferocious storm is the focus of her book “Life Storms: Hurricane Katrina / Surviving Life Storms Through Thriving Life Scripts,” a harrowing, emotional, and inspirational look at the upheaval Katrina brought to Gremillion’s family and many others.
“Everyone had to make the decision to either stay or go,” she noted of the evacuation process. “That night we drove to Baton Rouge, and what should have been a one-hour drive took nine. The trip started off with my grandmother reversing her car and wrecking it, so it was very stressful.”
When the storm hit, the house Gremillion and her family lived in was destroyed and they lost all of their possessions. In addition, her mother in-law lost not only her business but her own house.
Throughout such turmoil, Gremillion kept a positive attitude. “Losing everything was freeing because it allows you to realize the material stuff doesn’t own you,” she explained.
After the storm, the Gremillions moved 13 times over the course of the next couple of months, finally winding up and starting over in Encinitas, a place they now consider home.
“A family here in San Diego wanted to help victims of the storm without writing a check,” Gremillion said of her impetus to move to North County. “We got here when there was a lot going on, so we weren’t sure if we should stay. But we did.”
A writer by trade, she first became enamored with the craft after watching the 1997 film, “Good Will Hunting.” Inspired by the movie’s script, she became a screenwriter, writing comedies and dramas and even a sitcom.
“Life Storms” marks not only her first book, but her first time writing about a personal experience. “For me, the hard part was figuring out what I’m going to share and what I’m going to hold back,” she said. “In this book, there is no holding back. It’s very transparent.”
Part of her mission to share as much as possible in the book includes talking about one of her sons, who has the rare disease giant pigmented nevus — a life-threatening skin condition — and happened to have a major surgery scheduled for just days after the hurricane.
“The scariest part of that time was my son’s disease,” said Gremillion. “Right now my son is doing great, but we were told he wasn’t going to live past his first year. He’s 13 now.” (She has a second son, whom her and her husband Pierre adopted while in San Diego.)
Today, the Gremillions are living a much more quiet life in North County — a place they say are proud to call home. “A lot of growth took place for my family by just being here,” she explained. “It’s peaceful and expansive. Now that we’re here and in one place, we can breathe.”
For more on Gremillion and to buy her book, visit www.jennifergremillion.com. According to a release, “A percentage of each Amazon.com purchase will be donated to Nevus Outreach, Inc., an organization dedicated to improving awareness, supporting others affected with Giant Pigmented Nevus, and finding a cure.”