More than eleven years after she was photographed during a Hurricane Katrina rescue operation, a teenage girl has brought the US Air Force member who saved her to a school dance.
LaShay Brown, 14, is known as “Katrina Girl” for the picture of her as a three-year-old, smiling broadly, and hugging Master Sergeant Mike Maroney whose specialist team had rescued LaShay and her family from their flooded home in 2005.
Hurricane Katrina killed nearly 2,000 people, impacting almost 15 million others and causing more than of $150 billion (£121 billion) in damage.
The award-winning photograph became an iconic symbol of the rescue mission in the wake of the natural disaster and was featured on magazine covers.
Mr Maroney felt a bond with the girl in the photograph as he carried it around with him on deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, while dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from his years in the Air Force.
Hurricane Katrina - in pictures
Hurricane Katrina - in pictures
1/20 Hurricane Katrina
A woman is carried out of flood waters after being trapped in her home in Orleans parish during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, in New Orleans, Louisiana, 2005
2/20 Hurricane Katrina
A U.S. Coast Guard rescue boat carries US Army 82nd Airborne Division soldiers as it searches a flooded street in New Orleans, Louisiana, 2005
3/20 Hurricane Katrina
A SUV lies against a house and rubble in Biloxi, Mississippi as Hurricane Katrina hit USA, 2005
4/20 Hurricane Katrina
A plea for help appears on the roof of a home flooded in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Louisiana, 2005
5/20 Hurricane Katrina
People are taken ashore in a boat after being rescued from their homes in high water in the Ninth Ward after Hurricane Katrina struck in New Orleans, Louisiana, 2005
6/20 Hurricane Katrina
An aerial view of the flooding near downtown New Orleans during the Hurricane Katrina, 2005
7/20 Hurricane Katrina
Houses are seen submerged under water in New Orleans, Louisiana, 2005
8/20 Hurricane Katrina
Canal Street, in New Orleans, during Hurricane Katrina in 2005
9/20 Hurricane Katrina
Debris from Hurricane Katrina piles up along a bridge in New Orleans, Louisiana, 2005
10/20 Hurricane Katrina
Firefighters inspect damage left by Hurricane Katrina, in Biloxi, Mississippi, 2005
11/20 Hurricane Katrina
The Kids Quest (C) building sits in the middle of the route 90 next to the Grand Casino (L) 30 August 2005 in Gulfport, Mississippi, both damaged from the high wind and waves Hurricane Katrina, 2005
12/20 Hurricane Katrina
The most costly hurricane in history caused damages of $85bn. The category-3 storm formed over the Bahamas crossed Florida and the Gulf of Mexico before striking New Orleans
13/20 Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina evacuees sit on their bed, on the floor of the Astrodome stadium in Houston, Texas, 2005
14/20 Hurricane Katrina
People search for their belongings among debris washed up on the beach in Biloxi, Mississppi, after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, 2005
15/20 Hurricane Katrina
Parishioner Chloe Guice Wise (R) hugs Mark Washburn at the conclusion of services at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer (shown in background) which was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, in Biloxi, Mississippi, 2005
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Stranded victims of Hurricane Katrina are taken ashore by Air Force National Guard soldiers in New Orleans, Louisiana, 2005
17/20 Hurricane Katrina
Fishing boats lay in a pile after Hurricane Katrina passed through in Empire, Louisiana, 2005
18/20 Hurricane Katrina
U.S. Navy flight deck personnel take part in an emergency replenishment working party aboard the dock landing ship USS Tortuga (LSD 46), as they load water into an MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter in support of Hurricane Katrina disaster relief efforts in the Atlantic Ocean
19/20 Hurricane Katrina
A patriotic display can be seen in the ruins of a home in Waveland, Mississippi. Scenes like these dot the landscapes where homes once stood. Rescue and clean up efforts continued in the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina three weeks after the deadly storm hit
20/20 Hurricane Katrina
A makeshift grave is seen for a woman on a downtown street in New Orleans, Louisiana, 2005
Two years ago he launched a social media campaign with the hashtag #FindKatrinaGirl and the two were reunited on the set of TV show “The Real” in September 2015.
Mr Maroney and LaShay have spoken weekly via phone and visited each other’s families since then, People reports.
She was motivated by Mr Maroney’s military service to join the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC), a programme sponsored by the US Armed Forces, at Bay High School in Waveland, Mississippi.
LaShay is set to bring Mr Maroney to her JROTC ball. He told People: "I’m going because I would do anything to repay the hug to LaShay and her family. They mean as much to me as my own."
He plans on retiring soon from the Air Force and says he wants to continue mentoring youth and training people for battlefield jobs.
LaShay also plans on a future career in the military.Reuse content