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 Coast Guard told us we had to leave. I'm thinking I'm gonna die if nobody's gonna come help us. They didn't help us. They just told us to leave, they was evacuating the whole city. They told us to go to the Convention Center. It took us two days to get there. We walked the water through the darkness, flashing flashlights on each other to make sure nobody drowned. Oh, that water. Gas, oil, brake fluid, chains, bodies, snakes--everything. All kinds of snakes.

When we got to the convention center, the first thing I see is six dead bodies. We slept outside. It was like hell. It was like slavery days again. I ain't never been through it, but that's what it felt like. Four of us, two females, two men. Five days we're out there. Everything. Fires to get helicopters attention. When they came and brought us water and food, it was peaceful for a second. But then agitation stirred up again. We were staying in the River Walk parking lot, that's where we slept for five days. Thousands of people. We [slept on] the grass. We made pallets on the parking lot, on the concrete. We took baths on them, with whatever bottled water we could find. We had candy, but we didn't have food-food, you know.

We tried to walk out once, across the Mississippi River bridge. The military turned us back. They pointed their guns at us and told us to get back down [off] the fucking bridge. Made us feel like shit. Like shit. They told us the only way we could cross was if we had a car. They probably thought if we were gonna walk we was gonna steal. But we just wanted out. Eventually we came across a car that had the keys still in it, and we drove it across the bridge. They let us cross. We got to a pay phone, and we called our cousin Tony, and he drove from Baton Rouge to come get us.

When Bush got off the helicopter, we were standing on the bridge waiting for them to come with a vehicle for us. He got out, and he had the nerve to have the military pointing guns at people who was trying to greet him to let him know we needed help. And I think that was sick of him. Then and when we tried to walk across was the first time in my life I ever had a gun pointed at me.

We stayed in Baton Rouge for four days. Then I had to go to the LSU medical center that they had opened up because I got sick. I have auto-immune hepatitis. I had got sick, and a pastor volunteered to drive us from Baton Rouge to Chicago. From Chicago we drove to Minnesota, and now we're living, nine of us, in a three-bedroom house with my husband's aunt and uncle.

My liver was shutting down on me. I couldn't tolerate food or water. I stayed until they got me stable enough to go for a 16-hour drive. Just to clear up, Jesse Jackson, LSU was not being racist. At all. You cannot say it's a race thing because if the NAACP was worried about us, they could have chartered planes and dropped us food. So if they gonna blame anybody, they might as well blame white and black politics too.

I'm gonna get a house in St. Paul. I ain't got nothing to go back to at all. I was a certified nurse's aide. In New Orleans we made 6 or 7 dollars. Here they pay you 15 and above, plus you get good benefits. I do want to say thank you to everyone in St. Paul, Minnesota, who helped everyone from New Orleans, Louisiana. You all been very, very kind.

Twenty-four years of my life, my whole family's from there. My mama, my daddy, my sister, my whole family's from there. Now my mama's in Texas, my father's in Texas, my little brother's in Alexandria, Louisiana, and my sister's in New York. I don't really get to talk to my sister and my brother. I know that they're all right. Only one I don't know about is my niece DeJhai Campbell. She's two years old and we don't know where she is.

Interview by G.R. Anderson Jr.



Edith Moore, 70, resident of Johnson Street in Uptown, near the Superdome

I was there through the hurricane, but the next day we had to get out because the water begin to rise. And so we went in the water, but we didn't go to the Superdome. It was overcrowded and it was announced they wasn't taking any more people there. So we walked across the New Orleans bridge, and we hitchhiked rides there. So the next morning, the truck passed and took us to a shelter at Marrero over on the West Bank, the Harry S Truman school.

The storm come in and hit that Saturday night, and all day that Sunday morning, that's when Katrina came in, until late Sunday night. It was never gonna end. I said it's never gonna end. And it hasn't.

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