In the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Staff Sgt. Michael Maroney had been repelling down from a MH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter, helping anyone that he could, according to the Air Force Times. After he dropped one rescued family off at the New Orleans International Airport, a little girl showed her thanks by giving Maroney a big bear hug, resulting in the touching photo above, taken by Air Force photographer Veronica Pierce.
"It had been such a rough week, when she wrapped me up in that hug, I was in la-la land," Maroney told the Washington Post. "Nothing else existed. I was just loving that hug."
Maroney never learned the family's name. The airman tried to locate the girl on social media throughout the years to no avail. But after the Air Force Times published an article about the photo of Maroney hugging the Katrina survivor, the search for the girl went viral, with many sharing the image on Twitter with the #FindKatrinaKid hashtag.
It's believed the girl would be now around 15 or 16 years old, potentially in high school. Maroney is now nearing retirement from the Air Force, but still thinks about the girl in the photo often.
"I would love to get another hug and see how she's doing," he told the Washington Post. "I'd love her to know that there isn't a day I haven't thought of her."