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.

After that we turned around and decided to ride back into the city. We rode down Carondelet. There were people all over on the street, riding bikes, coming out of their houses. A lot of people stayed there, dude. A lot of people stayed. I saw three or four cars just absolutely crushed by debris. We went all the way down to check on the Royal Street job site. It was all right. There was going to be damage, because the roof kind of blew off a little bit.

We got down off Elysian Fields by Robert's Market. Down by Carrollton and Canal Street. This was before the levees busted. The water got really deep down there later. Robert's was the first place we saw looters. There were people running in and out, dude. We rode our bikes over and were just looking inside. Man. There were people trying to bust the ATM open. I don't know how they got that metal gate up as far as they did. I don't know if they drove a car into it or what. I looked in the door, and this was only like two hours after the storm. It was practically empty already. There was liquor on the shelves still. We got a few bottles. We figured we were going to be there for a while.

After we left Robert's, we rode around some more. Esplanade Avenue was like a jungle. You cannot drive more than a hundred feet without dodging trees. The whole area down there is like trees everywhere, some houses are collapsed. We got to the Quarter and Bourbon Street was dry. We were watching people walk up Bourbon Street for beers, and it was just like another day in New Orleans. This is before everyone had the freakout on the levee. We go up to Canal Street. There's cops and there's people looting. Canal Street was already starting to kind of fill up with news crews and media.

We headed back riding on St. Charles, and then some guy sees me filming and says, "If you want to get some film, they're looting the Walgreen's up here." And that's like a block away from my house, so I'm like, oh man. So I get up there and that place is like an in-and-out, dude. People are putting their bikes in the bike rack and locking them up. They're not in a rush. People were running in and out, packing their trucks. The pharmaceutical section was being demolished. There were people going crazy back there. People were trying to bust the ATM open there. Dudes were walking out of the store with cash registers. Little do they know that they're empty. It was unbelievable to see what people were grabbing.

I went in there and got another bag of medical supplies. We still didn't think we were going to leave. After we got there, cops rolled up. People started yelling at the cops. They were coming down Felicity from Wal-Mart. They turn the corner, and their trunk is wide-open and full of stuff. Yeah, dude, the cops were looting at Wal-Mart. I'd have to look at the film again, but it looked like large boxes. It did not look like food.

We went back to my apartment to get rid of the stuff we got from Walgreen's, the medical supplies and food and water. Then we hear that Wal-Mart's open, so we decided to get in the truck and drive to Wal-Mart. And it's like a shopping center. People are parked there, and there's a bum-rush of people trying to get in the front door. They had the security guard guiding people. It wasn't like just looting. They had cops looting in there, it was complete mayhem, dude. That store was destroyed. The three of us went in there with shopping carts. I went in looking for clothes and food, because we were going to need clothes. You couldn't wash yours in that water. The food was pretty much gone. There was a lot wasted on the ground that people had just grabbed and dropped.

You couldn't run in the store, because it had like an inch of water in it. Just enough to slide around. And full of trash. We were in there a good hour. We went to sporting good supplies and got hatchets in case the flood got higher and we had to cut our way out. I already had a chainsaw at the house.

We pretty much got supplies that we needed. But I watched people walk out of there with--have you ever seen those pump-jack palette loaders, like you pump them and it lifts the palette up and you just roll them around? I saw people pulling them things out with the palettes full of TVs, computers. Like what the hell are you going to do with these things? They probably wanted to sell them on the street as soon as they got two blocks away, for money or drugs or something. It's just insane.

So we fill the truck up pretty much, dude, the back of the truck. Then we go back to the apartment and get the generator up and the power going. Tuesday morning, we all get up. Coy decides to go for a bike ride. Me and Steve go to get more gas. We have to go find gas cans throughout the city and get more gas. Uptown had got looted bad, right down to the toy stores.

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