Sunday, November 05, 2006

After the Levees Broke

Bill spent alot of the day trying to raise things out of the water, as well as carrying dryer items upstairs. I cleaned and sorted and even packed a few things up so there would be more room in our storage room. I also sorted through our suitcases, so if we had to leave, we could take out the important papers, jewelry and such, as well as clothing to go on our trip to Europe. The one thing we didn't have were our passports. Bill was convinced they were underwater, locked in the electronic, aka ruined, safe. I was just as convinced they were in the top of the armoire in the office. Fortunately, I was right. Passports at the ready, we could go to France, when we got out of New Orleans.

The news on the radio was still saying the breach would be fixed. The 3 guys developed bad cases of cabin fever, so took one of the sailboats, minus the masts of course, and paddled out into the neighborhood. They decovered it got deeper closer to 610, and was very shallow at the north end of our street, by Gentilly Blvd. But then deepened again on the other side. They checked out the looted stores, avoiding looking like looters themselves. They found many people like ourselves who had stayed. They wore their UNO rugby team teeshirts, so they would look respectable.

It was very hot, no breeze, all humidity. Friends of our neighbors walked over, in the water, from east New Orleans, with their babies on their backs. Yelled over that the water was over the first floor in some areas.

Cell phones still don't work. We cook supper with the last of the natural gas into the kitchen stove. There was still some cold beer, so we drank all of it, since we knew it wouldn't be cool much longer.

Finally got a signal on my cell and called our daughter in Tucson, she wasn't home, so left a message on her machine. We had just heard that the breach would be fixed and the water would go down. So, that's what I told her. We were fine, had food and water. All would be ok. The truth was, the breach was not being fixed, the radio got it wrong. But how were we to know? Amy knew different, though, and was in a panic from watching TV reports, complete with pictures of the flooding.

We played a game to keep our minds occupied. Coldest you have ever been. Hottest you have ever been. Scaredest, funniest, you get the idea. Finally, it was dark, lit some candles, but too hot, so we all went to bed. I kept taking clothing off until I had on nothing but underwear. No air movement. Then about an hour later, we heard a loud motor coming our direction. Bill and I both went to the window, where we could see a boat with a search light turning onto our street. I decided I better get my clothes on, wouldn't want to scare him!

The men in the boat were taking people to the free way, where, they were told, busses would pick us up and take us to a shelter in Gonzalez. Well, since that would get us to Nick's parents house, it sounded good. We had already realized that the water was not going down, but seemed to be coming up a little more all the time. The men said they were full, but would be back to get us in about 30 minutes. We woke the guys to see if they wanted to leave. John and Mike said yes, Nick said he would go along with whatever we wanted to do. No worries. We all started getting ready to leave. Waterbottles in backpacks, I packed Sebastian's food, water and meds in my backpack. We had heard on the radio that some people were being forced to leave their animals. I couldn't leave Sebastian. Bill said I would have to decide what I would do if they didn't let me take him on the boat. I said I'd just put him in the sailboat and paddle after them.

Bill went over to Gaston and Helen's house, yelled until he woke them up to tell them we were leaving. Did they want to come? Gaston was still insisting, NO. So Ray and Helen had to agree. We told them goodbye. Would we ever see them alive again?

We finally all got down stairs. Bill had climbed up into the bed of John's ford f150. The guys carried suitcases and backpacks down to him, which he put on top of the cab to keep dry. I carried Sebastian out, holding him up out of the water and handed him to Bill, who put him on the cab. The water was chest deep, even with me walking on my tip toes. We locked the door, not know when we would be able to return. All of us were in the pickup bed waiting for the boat to come back.

The water in the bed felt and smelled like warm urine. Disgusting. The boat nudged up to the back of the truck. Mike went on first and I started to hand Sebastian to him. The City of New Orleans policeman on the boat said, "You can't bring that dog with you!" I said, "Sir, this dog is as much a member of my family as these 3 young men. I would no sooner leave him here, than I would them." The man who was driving the boat calls up, "M'am, your dog is welcomed on MY boat." I looked at the cop, who said, "Well, you won't be able to take him in the SuperDome!" I looked him straight in the eyes, and said," That's ok, cause I'm not going to the SuperDome, I don't do crowds!" Mike took Sebastian, I got on and took him back with me.

Nick, John and Bill got our stuff and themselves on the boat, and off we went. There were no lights anywhere. Trees, electric lines, broken poles, we managed to avoid all of them. We made it to Elysian Fields where we turned left to go to the freeway. The water was much deeper here. The boats owner was a fireman from Praireville, LA. He had come into town to help where needed. Total volunteer, boat, gas, time. I thanked him for letting Sebastian come. He smiled and said "You're welcomed. I have dogs too."

The boat took us to the one ramp of I610 East. We got off, the policeman was much more civil this time. We walked up the ramp to join the other rescued folks, probably 200 in all. It was odd looking off the freeway. There were fires burning, from leaking natural gas lines, we could see the flare. Convoys of police cars kept running up I10 with all their lights on. They didn't seem to be doing anything just going back and forth.

We dried off, seemed odd that we went from burning hot, to chilly. A young mother of 3 little boys was close by. She offered us some candy, since we seemed to be in a daze. We declined, but thanked her, telling her to save it for her boys. Our guys all laid down to sleep. After a while, Bill did too. A police car drove up and stopped. I went over to listen. A woman asked when buses were coming. He said "Well, if you had left when you were told this wouldn't have happened." I felt like slugging him! She very calmly explained that her elderly, ill, parents were there. He said he didn't know what to do, but he finally put them in the car with him. I don't know where they went, probably the SuperDome.

People kept walking by on the freeway. One group came up to some of their friends, looked around and said, "Look, there are even white folks here!" I didn't sleep at all. There were groups of young men who would walk by and check all of us out. As they came by parked cars, they would try to break into them, or start them. Didn't work but one of the car's alarm kept going off.

Stars! We could see stars! They were beautiful, but really brought home our dark the city was.

What a story, now I can tell people I've spent the night in the middle of an interstate highway!

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