New Orleans: Survivor Stories

Beyond soundbites: detailed first-hand accounts from people trapped in the city after Katrina--what they did, what they saw, how they stayed alive.

We were on generator power all through the hurricane. Initially, the phones were still working. The girl across from me was talking to her mom, who lives in the lower ninth ward--one of the places that was hit really badly. Her mom was saying she was in the attic, trying to get onto the roof. Then the line went dead. All through the morning, there was this horrible pall on our floor because we realized that her mom could be dead.

The generator for our part of the hospital failed around 7 o'clock that night and we left were in total darkness. It was bizarre to live that way, no electricity for two days, then no water. We were using the light of the cell phone to get around the room at night, and to light up my nipples. It was so crazy. Merv would be standing there with an open cell phone, pointed at my nipple, and we'd try to get the baby to latch on.

We started to get reports on an A.M. radio call-in show, which was the only outside communication we had. They said that the Ninth Ward had been hit pretty bad and that a lot of people had probably died. But then we were also hearing that the rest of the city had survived. It seemed like it was just a matter of getting the power back on, cleaning up and helping people in the Ninth Ward. So we felt really lucky, like everything could be back to normal in a few days.

Then on Tuesday, we started hearing a lot of really dismal news. We were hearing about houses completely under water in other parts of the city. We were hearing about the water flowing toward Uptown. A nurse came in and said her house was under water. It sounded like some of the places really near our house were completely under water, too. We heard that the neighborhood right next to us, the St. Bernard/Seventh Ward area, had been pretty badly hit and that this store called Circle Foods had water up to its arches. So Merv and I started to realize, "Oh, shit, our place might be under water too."

That was also the day they started rationing food. There were a lot of people in the hospital--staff people, staff people's family, patients, and patients' family members. There wasn't enough food, especially when you're trying to feed a baby or when you're trying to split it into three

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