An Air Force pararescue jumper and a girl he rescued after Hurricane Katrina 10 years ago will be reunited in New Orleans for the first time later this month.
The photo of Former Staff Sgt. Mike Maroney hugging a "mystery girl" with pigtails and a big smile became one of the most iconic images of the Katrina rescue efforts. Maroney has been searching for the girl ever since, he told People magazine.
The girl was recently identified as LeShay Brown, a 13-year-old living in Waveland, Miss.
"I can't wait to meet her to tell her how important she is," Maroney said. "In my line of work, it doesn’t usually turn out happily. This hug, this moment, was like – everybody I've ever saved, that was the thank you."
LeShay's mother, Shawntrell Brown, told People that her daughter, just 3 years old at the time, doesn't remember the moment.
A high schooler helped Maroney search for the girl on social media. Their efforts finally led to LeShay, who said she's excited to meet Maroney.
"I was excited that he was looking for me for such a long time," she said. "I've barely seen any of the pictures!"