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.

The department had no provisions for any of this. It'd be easy for us to say, well, we're out of gas. Oops, we got a flat tire, we're done. Some of the task force guys got a blowout, and instead of driving the car to a safe spot on the rim, they left it there and the car got vandalized. These are not the smartest people we're dealing with.

Just know this. Before the hurricane hit, there was a bulletin sent out to all districts from headquarters, saying please come to headquarters to pick up your hurricane provisions: 72 cases of water per district. Big whoop.

The people randomly shooting at us, and the things that we had to do to people that we caught--that's something I have to deal with, and I will deal with. That's not the story here. The importance needs to be shined on the fact the city was unprepared for a tropical storm, let alone a category 5 hurricane. And the people at the Convention Center were left high and fucking dry. They survived, they pulled together, they sang songs all night. I mean, they would come and ask us: You're looking tired, are you feeling okay? Those were the people I swore to protect. Five times we were told to leave: Leave 'em. Leave 'em. Leave 'em. When the oil storage facility in the Ninth Ward blew up, [people outside the Convention Center] thought they were blowing the levee and they were going to flood everybody, and they thought that's why there were no police around there. I said, well, look, if they're doing that, they're doing it to us too. We're here with y'all, regardless.

They were afraid given what the city did to the community in the '60s when the hurricane hit and they blew the levee and flooded them and killed them. And [given] no information and no security presence and no food and water. They'd been lied to by everybody except us. I want somebody to find out who said "Go to the Convention Center, there'll be food and water there," and I want that person held accountable for the fact there was no food and water or security presence there. I want them to be held liable for every death and injury there. I want someone to find out why the city didn't get their hands on 10 tankers full of gasoline and park them somewhere outside the city and drive them in. I want to know why a city that floods if it rains for more than five minutes doesn't have high-water vehicles. I want to know why they didn't use the RTA buses to get some of these evacuees out. Those are the people I swore to protect.

Interview by Frank Carter

 

Tysuan Harris, 24, nurse's aide, resident of the lower Ninth Ward

People need to understand what happened, once and for all. My name's Tysuan Harris, and I'm from New Orleans, Louisiana, the lower ninth ward. My husband and I, I'm just gonna say his name is Moe, been married five months. When the water went through, our house was completely underwater, and my husband had to kick in the door above us. And me, my husband and four of our dogs--we had a pit bull and three puppy pit bulls--stayed up there for two days, in the apartment above us.

We slept up there for two days with two bottles of water and a block of cheese left to eat. We didn't have no power. We was laying in our feces, and also the dog feces. We was burning t-shirts and plastic to get the helicopters to notice us. And when a helicopter did notice us, he flashed his lights on us and kept goin'. Finally I told my husband I had given up on faith.

His cousin and his girlfriend walked in the water to come save us. They threw a door into the water, and we floated on top of the door to higher ground. The only thing we had was the pajamas on my back. My husband went back in the house to get me some shoes and dry clothes, but he couldn't salvage nothing. We had to leave our four dogs behind. We floated on that until we was able to get into water that was walkable, four blocks from our house. It was about 12 feet high up until then.

We got a boat and we canoed to France and Robertson Street, where we stayed in a two-level house with 20 other people. We had food, we had water, but we didn't have electricity. No running water for toilets. We took a bath with bottled water, we washed our clothes with bottled water, and we slept in our underwear and wet t-shirts. This was on French Street in the lower Ninth Ward.

My husband and his cousin went out to get us food and water. It was like day four. They got [food and water] from stores that was broken down and stuff. They got anything that wasn't contaminated by the water. When they came back, the Coast Guard came and told us we had to leave because they was gonna open the floodgates to level the water off so the water could go down.

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