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 stayed in the shelter two days. At the school. It was terrible. Terrible. The floor had urine on it, you walked in urine. You didn't have no food, you didn't have no water. We was treated like dogs. They called us refugees. I really didn't know who was running it. The camouflage, I guess, the National Guard. They treated us like dogs. They treated me like a dog. Because any time you're running all over people with shotguns, them big popguns, and you're cursing them out and telling them to get down on their knees, and up on their feet, and you're making them turn their heads, and making them stand outside so you can taunt them. You tell them to get up with the sun, and you tell people that the trucks are coming and you're moving them out to safety. It didn't happen.

And they point guns at you. I was very frightened and very upset. And if you leave out the door, they said if you get to the dogs, they was gonna shoot you at the dogs. These was words that came from their mouth. And these was the guards that was over you. I've never had a gun pointed at me. No I haven't. And it was terrible.

There was an old lady that was sick. She didn't have anybody with her, so evidently they must have rescued her. When they'd come through to take a count, they'd say, "Everybody down, everybody down! Get off your ass, get on your feet!" She said, "I can't stand up." They'd say, "We need you over here, Jefferson Parish, you got to get over here. You can't get over here, you ain't gonna eat. The trucks is coming to count you." She couldn't get there, and they acted like they was gonna leave her. I guess what made the Guard so angry over there where we was, a police had got killed over there, and they was angry with the world, so they had to blame us for what had happened.

You was lucky to get a cold slice of turkey. One day, she had a roast. They said they had barbecue ribs. I don't know who it was for, because I never saw it. It wasn't for us. They'd show it, and they said they had that food, but we never got any of it. After a while, you had water to drink, but that's all they had was water. And then the gourmet would dig in the fridge, and they'd give you some milk, and they'd give you a carton of milk, but it wasn't really milk. It was like little cartons of milk, but it wasn't milk. I don't know what that was.

We had to leave out of there, because my little grandson had caught a fever. The doctor came to check on the baby, and they gave some sterilized water for the baby. They let you know: Don't use it. You don't use it. Only for the baby.

They let us leave. They said, everybody that can leave, you better leave. They said, the truck's not coming. After two days, they finally say the truck's not coming to move you, you best make the best of it. So we hit the bridge again, and this little white nurse come and gave us a ride. And they had a man and a wife and his daughter looking for his family in Baton Rouge, and we got a ride to Baton Rouge.

We got to Baton Rouge, and we stayed in a McDonald's for a day until my grandson came to pick us up. My grandson flew in from here [Coon Rapids] to Texas, to Houston. He rented a van and came down to Baton Rouge, got us at McDonald's, and drove us back to here.

It was the worst thing I've ever witnessed in my life. I've witnessed this with my naked eye. Nobody ever told me anything. Everything I'm telling you, I went through. This is America, but they didn't think enough of [people here] to get them out.

Interview by G.R. Anderson Jr.




Jackie Mang, 32, nightclub manager and University of New Orleans, Bywater neighborhood resident, four months pregnant at the time Katrina struck

We pushed all of our stuff through the floodwaters. Some of it was waist-deep. By this time [Wednesday], the looting was everywhere. People just looked like zombies. Nobody had emotions. I was afraid to cry. I wanted to look strong or something. I just wanted to get home. We were pushing our bikes, using them to elevate our stuff so it wouldn't get wet. There were downed signs and pieces of metal in the water, so you really had to be careful. Police were starting to come out. They were actually sitting on the back of their police cars holding shotguns. The whole city just sort of went under martial law at that point. There were police sitting in their cars crying. They didn't want to get out because they were freaked out. There were police cars flooded, stranded on the street. We stayed in a group and got to the house.

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