Jonetta Bennett and Natalie Bennett Thomas were excited when they found out "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" wanted to do a short interview with them to post online and more excited still at the prospect of being in the audience for a live taping of the nationally syndicated show.
Just being in the studio would have been enough for the sisters, who lost homes in both Hurricane Katrina and last month's flooding. But that's not all Ellen DeGeneres had in store for the sisters on Wednesday.
The pair, laughing and joking, were brought onto the stage to talk about their experience and their ability to remain positive through disaster.
Then, to cap it off, they were presented with a $100,000 check to help them rebuild as they laughed and screamed with joy.
"I know your spirit, and I had to share it with everybody because your spirit is unbelievable," DeGeneres said as she introduced the two women.
On the one hand, the historic flood that has wreaked havoc on south Louisiana this month has…
The pair of sisters first caught producers' attention when their bubbly personalities shone through even after losing everything for the second time. Each lost a home in New Orleans to Katrina, and then they lost their Baton Rouge house last month.
The sisters were still giddy from their experience on the talk show as they prepared to board a plane out of Los Angeles on Thursday evening, but their mirth was as much about just being on the show as it was about the money they got. In fact, the money was barely a footnote as Bennett described the experience.
"You can't even imagine how fun it is. Being in the audience and watching the taping was so much fun," she said.
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Producers from the show learned about Bennett and Thomas from an Advocate article profiling people who had moved to the Baton Rouge area after flooding during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, only to be inundated again by last month's floods. In the article, the sisters joked about the latest flooding, in which their house took on 2 feet of water while they were still inside, and their rescue.
The show featured interviews with Bennett and Thomas as well as cellphone video they shot as the water rose in their house. And, in an interview with DeGeneres, they cracked up as they recalled their skepticism about the kayaks a relative brought to help ferry them out.
"Natalie and I looked at the kayaks, and we were like, 'For real?' " Bennett said.
"I love that you think it's hilarious. You've lost your second home in 10 years, and you think it's hilarious," DeGeneres said.
On Thursday, Bennett said the sisters' faith was what helped them make it through the tragedies that have befallen them. And they said they're doing their part to help others work through the rebuilding process.
"You can tell people who were flooded because they're so downhearted," Bennett said. "We just tell them, 'Look, we've been through this twice, and it's going to be OK.' "
The sisters are fixing up their Baton Rouge house, with Bennett laughing as she said, "I've got a feeling we'll be able to speed up the process a little bit."
The extra money will come in handy for some plans they had to redesign the house a bit and will give them "everything we need," Bennett said.
Bennett said she knows the process will be difficult for all those hit by the flooding. But, she said, taking what happens with a good attitude helps.
"We don't take it lightly. This is going to be hard. Rebuilding is a difficult process," Jonnetta said. "You get down. You get upset. But there were two things we could choose to do: We could choose to laugh or we could choose to cry.
"We're just laughing, and it makes the process so much easier."