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.

So we ride back looking at the destruction. The looters weren't as bent as downtown. The cops had caught somebody at a Walgreen's and they were throwing all his stuff on the ground, kicking in his face. Just totally giving this guy the hardest time.

The one cop I talked to was sitting at the gun rack section of Wal-Mart. I asked him if he knew where there were any BBs. He said, you know you're looting, right? And right below him is a box of bullets and shit that I doubt he paid for, because there's no registers. I kind of gave him this cockeyed look and walked away.

When I got down to Canal Street later on and we met back up with Coy, he said he ran into Kim Siegel of CNN and she needed someone to drive her around for the day. So I was like, uhh, I don't know. But then I was like, yeah. I'll go down there. So we go down and pick up CNN and we go around with them. I went to the Superdome with them. I saw a little of the Convention Center. We didn't go close. You could see the people around there. You didn't want to be around there. It was dangerous. You didn't want to be around there with a vehicle. You had to be worried about people car-jacking you at all times. We were driving around and seeing tourists stuck in the middle of--not to be rude, but people like from the ghetto and stuff. Thugs and stuff. And you've got these straight-looking white tourists stuck, like, and scared.

We ended up putting CNN up for the day. They stayed at my apartment that night, because the hotels told everyone with reservations that they could not stay. They had to evacuate. So they were staying with us. We had food and booze and a generator, and me and Steve spent about three hours cleaning the limbs out of the pool next door. Then we were able to go swimming.

On Wednesday when we woke up, CNN had gone out to do their thing, and we were just roaming around again checking things out. You go out and you constantly have to watch your back. We started going out with a 12-gauge shotgun, because we were worried about people stealing the trucks out from under us. We lost that sense of happiness of the city after Wednesday morning. It got pretty serious. Then we were scrambling to get things that people said they needed or wanted, like family Bibles and whatnot.

On the last day, we were riding around and finishing up getting a little more gas, trying to get the trucks full before we leave, and we turn the corner of Terpsichore and St. Charles. That's where Emeril's Delmonico is. We turned the corner and there's this guy painting "Looters Die" [on a building]. I stopped and I filmed this guy for like 10 seconds. Then he turns around kind of slowly and stares at me. He pulls a gun and points it at us and says, "Leave." We were just like, woah. Wow. This is not a black guy. This is an older white guy that looks totally legitimate, just straight-up losing his mind and scared for his life. He pulls that gun out and points it at anyone with no hesitation. We knew it was time to go. We packed up our stuff and left.

Interview by Frank Carter




Dumas Carter, 30, eight-year veteran NOPD officer, one of six local cops who stayed on duty at the Convention Center complex in the days after Katrina

The day before, we all go in for roll call and we're basically told that we're reporting for work and we pretty much won't be able to leave until this is over. Some of [the officers] were whining, but all week long we had been told, you're a police officer, and once you go active we're going to be on active duty for the remainder. Make sure that your families are out and your houses are taken care of, because we can't have you worrying about your family, your house, your dog, and be a police officer. That made sense to me. But a lot of people were like, fuck this, I've got to go with my family. So they left. My district wasn't like any other district. Ninety-eight percent of the people stayed. The Sixth District. The real district. Fort Apache. You've seen that on the news.

We do our shift, and we find out that our captain has arranged for us to stay at the Pontchartrain Hotel through this, on St. Charles. They've given us two floors to house all of our people. The hurricane starts trickling in, we find out that the Pontchartrain Hotel has locked the doors and evacuated the city. They've locked us out and we have no place to stay. My lieutenant works a detail at the Hampton Inn on Convention Center Boulevard and has access to that. He said if push came to shove, we could house people at the hotel.

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