In a Mississippi community center Saturday night, dozens of teenagers donned dresses and suits for the Bay High School military ball.
It’s an annual flourish, hosted by the U.S. Air Force’s local Junior ROTC chapter, where young cadets from Bay St. Louis gather to celebrate.
Among them was 14-year-old LaShay Brown, who in 2005 was rescued alongside her family from the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
Her date, Air Force Master Sgt. Mike Maroney, was the man who saved her life.
The duo made national headlines in 2015 when Maroney, now in his early 40s, launched a social media campaign to track down the girl. He didn’t know her name or where she lived, but had spent the 10 years since Katrina carrying a photo snapped on the day she was rescued.
That photo shows a three-year-old girl, dressed in a pink shirt and wearing pigtails, earnestly wrapping her small arms around Maroney’s neck. Their faces are pressed together. Both are smiling.
The hope her hug gave Maroney that day carried him through the rescue efforts in New Orleans, whereas a member of an elite Air Force pararescue unit he saved dozens of lives. It brought him peace on dark days and during war deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, he told the Air Force Times. Years passed, but he couldn’t help wondering what came of the girl.
On the five-year anniversary of the hurricane, Maroney wrote a plea to Oprah Winfrey and on social media, sharing the photo and asking if anyone knew the little girl. Oprah never responded. His online post got 42 likes.
Five years later, in 2015, Maroney tried again. A teenager in Michigan spotted the plea and volunteered space on…
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