Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Waitin' Around To Die

New Orleans is under a mandatory evacuation (again). So what am I doing? Going in baby.

The following is an email I received which gives a very colorful description of the events at the convention center during the height of the chaos...

The story contained below has been typed up and forwarded to me by someone other than the individual who lived it... hearsay and all that, but well worth a read.


Sent: Friday, September 09, 2005 3:12 PM
Subject: New Orleans

This was sent to me by a friend with lots of New Orleans relatives.

Subject: a survivor's story: Katrina in New Orleans

i heard from my aunt last night that my cousin Denise made it out of New Orleans; she's at her brother's in Baton Rouge. from what she told me:

her mother, a licensed practical nurse, was called in to work on Sunday night at Memorial Hospital (historically known as Baptist Hospital to those of us from N.O.). Denise decided to stay with her mother, her niece and grandniece (who is 2 years old); she figured they'd be safe at the hospital. they went to Baptist, and had to wait hours to be assigned a room to sleep in; after they were finally assigned a room, two white nurses suddenly arrived after the cut-off time (time to be assigned a room), and Denise and her family were booted out; their room was given up to the new nurses. Denise was furious, and rather than stay at Baptist, decided to walk home (several blocks away) to ride out the storm at her mother's apartment. her mother stayed at the hospital.

she described it as the scariest time in her life. 3 of the rooms in the apartment (there are only 4) caved in. ceilings caved in, walls caved in. she huddled under a mattress in the hall. she thought she would die from either the storm or a heart attack. after the storm passed, she went back to Baptist to seek shelter (this was Monday). it was also scary at Baptist; the electricity was out, they were running on generators, there was no air conditioning. Tuesday the levees broke, and water began rising. they moved patients upstairs, saw boats pass by on what used to be streets. they were told that they would be evacuated, that buses were coming. then they were told they would have to walk to the nearest intersection, Napoleon and S. Claiborne, to await the buses. they waded out in hip-deep water, only to stand at the intersection, on the neutral ground (what y'all call the median) for 3 1/2 hours. the buses came and took them to the Ernest Morial Convention Center. (yes, the convention center you've all seen on TV.)

Denise said she thought she was in hell. they were there for 2 days, with no water, no food. no shelter. Denise, her mother (63 years old), her niece (21 years old), and 2-year-old grandniece. when they arrived, there were already thousands of people there. they were told that buses were coming. police drove by, windows rolled up, thumbs up signs. national guard trucks rolled by, completely empty, soldiers with guns cocked and aimed at them. nobody stopped to drop off water. a helicopter dropped a load of water, but all the bottles exploded on impact due to the height of the helicopter.

the first day (Wednesday) 4 people died next to her. the second day (Thursday) 6 people died next to her. Denise told me the people around her all thought they had been sent there to die. again, nobody stopped. the only buses that came were full; they dropped off more and more people, but nobody was being picked up and taken away. they found out that those being dropped off had been rescued from rooftops and attics; they got off the buses delirious from lack of water and food. completely dehydrated. the crowd tried to keep them all in one area; Denise said the new arrivals had mostly lost their minds. they had gone crazy.

inside the convention center, the place was one huge bathroom. in order to shit, you had to stand in other people's shit. the floors were black and slick with shit. most people stayed outside because the smell was so bad. but outside wasn't much better: between the heat, the humidity, the lack of water, the old and very young dying from dehydration... and there was no place to lay down, not even room on the sidewalk. they slept outside Wednesday night, under an overpass.

Denise said yes, there were young men with guns there. but they organized the crowd. they went to Canal Street and "looted," and brought back food and water for the old people and the babies, because nobody had eaten in days. when the police rolled down windows and yelled out "the buses are coming," the young men with guns organized the crowd in order: old people in front, women and children next, men in the back. just so that when the buses came, there would be priorities of who got out first.

Denise said the fights she saw between the young men with guns were fist fights. she saw them put their guns down and fight rather than shoot up the crowd. but she said that there were a handful of people shot in the convention center; their bodies were left inside, along with other dead babies and old people.

Denise said the people thought there were being sent there to die. lots of people being dropped off, nobody being picked up. cops passing by, speeding off. national guard rolling by with guns aimed at them. and yes, a few men shot at the police, because at a certain point all the people thought the cops were coming to hurt them, to kill them all. she saw a young man who had stolen a car speed past, cops in pursuit; he crashed the car, got out and ran, and the cops shot him in the back. in front of the whole crowd. she saw many groups of people decide that they were going to walk across the bridge to the west bank, and those same groups would return, saying that they were met at the top of the bridge by armed police ordering them to turn around, that they weren't allowed to leave.

so they all believed they were sent there to die.

Denise's niece found a pay phone, and kept trying to call her mother's boyfriend in Baton Rouge, and finally got through and told him where they were. the boyfriend, and Denise's brother, drove down from Baton Rouge and came and got them. they had to bribe a few cops, and talk a few into letting them into the city ("come on, man, my 2-year-old niece is at the Convention Center!"), then they took back roads to get to them.

after arriving at my other cousin's apartment in Baton Rouge, they saw the images on TV, and couldn't believe how the media was portraying the people of New Orleans. she kept repeating to me on the phone last night: make sure you tell everybody that they left us there to die. nobody came. those young men with guns were protecting us. if it wasn't for them, we wouldn't have had the little water and food they had found.

that's Denise Moore's story.

Lisa C. Moore


Blogger siouxiekyue said...

Amazing Story. Well told.

11:35 AM, September 20, 2005  
Blogger Ilaine Upton said...

Thanks for posting this story. Gives a very different insight on the events.

I wish the writer hadn't brought race into the story ("white nurses") -- it seems to me that the hospital would take nurses over non-nurses for a good reason. And she wasn't thrown out of the hospital, she left because she was angry over a perceived insult.

But I wasn't there, so maybe I am wrong.

The rest of the story is just outrageous. Outside of New Orleans there are many, many people who are simply furious at the lack of response for these people. It's completely unacceptable. And yes, I do think race was involved.

I am white, grew up in New Orleans so know that there is a terrible race problem, but thought maybe things were getting better. When we left (1988) there were neighborhoods where the police would not go even in the daytime, and we all know those are black neighborhoods. But to abandon an entire neighborhood because some people in it are criminals, rather than clean up the crime, that's just racism, is my opinion.

It's like saying "you people are not human so who cares what happens to you?"

We cannot abandon anybody. We cannot abandon any neighborhood. Because what happens to one of us, happens to all of us. That is the lesson I hope we have learned from Katrina. But how many white people - and I am not just white, I am a card-carrying Republican - will say this?

11:39 AM, September 20, 2005  
Blogger WillowLu said...

Best luck today, Eric!

Call if I can help in any way ~ Jennifer

To all reading from far away who wish to help, please CROSS POST liberally the following:


12:46 PM, September 20, 2005  
Blogger WillowLu said...

Sorry posting and writing in haste. Meant for message to be posted at http://ericsdogblog.com

Cross posting request still holds. Thanks all for your help with this ongoing emergency.

Best to Kelsey and all ~ Jennifer

12:49 PM, September 20, 2005  
Blogger Lori said...

I recognized Denise's story from Chicago public radio's "This American Life" at http://www.thislife.org/pages/descriptions/05/296.html

Some of the details don't quite match but perhaps this version has been embellished or else this is a different, written account. But you can hear Denise tell her story and it and the other ones on This American Life need to be heard.

I hope and pray that Hurricane Rita downgrades to just a rain storm.

3:49 PM, September 20, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but I'm not sure about the validity of this post. I've been reading dozens of first hand accounts since this began and this just doesn't seem right...

You mentioned that it was hearsay... well... shit dude, maybe this is downright bullshit. Do you know the person who relay'd this?

No disrespect. I've been reading since almost day one... and... blah blah... you're the man.

-Ben N.

5:06 AM, September 21, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this puts a whole new perspective. all you see in the media are the negatives. which media tends to do. i am glad that these people made it out okay. it is, however, unfortunate that there were alot of people that didnt make it. i can only pray for these victims and realize that everything you work for in life can be swept away in a matter of seconds. my prayers go out to all those that have been affected by this terrible storm.

7:10 PM, September 21, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't believe the hype.

"The young men with guns organized the crowd..." Yeah, right.

Other accounts -- numerous accounts -- from White people stuck in there with those savages say that they were threatened repeatedly with death (or worse). Of course, the mainstream media remains conspicuously silent about it, yet they don't hesitate to give voice to the Cognac Wests and Jesse Jackoffs and Al Sharktooths of the world who want to complain that it's all the White man's fault for not giving the Black man enough free stuff.

7:42 AM, September 25, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank YOU! After reading and researching since day one, there was not one single homicide commited at the Convention Center. Not one single peice of evidence to even suggest it. Being black myself, I can tell you.. I have never been more embarrased by my fellow citizens as I was watching and listening to the media reports. I am embarrased watching Jesse, Al.. whoever for making this a race issue. WTF??? I say thank you, and thank you again. To all the white people, black people, yellow people.. all of them for putting themselves in harms way to help. I say THANK YOU, I will not embarrass myself further by complaining. I thank God for my life, and I thank all who stepped up to help. Don't know how I ended up on this blog spot, but I can't stop reading this crap. It's like reading the tabloids in line at the market I guess. Entertaining, if nothing else. Certainly not many facts to back up the blogs. I lived it, I know. Mayor Nagin did a great job? Did I read that somewhere here? I would hope we've learned a valuable lesson through him... dump him! We need a leader. Someone who knows what they're talking about before they open their mouth. A little experience goes a long way.

10:46 PM, October 02, 2005  
Blogger Jordi Rius Bonjorn said...

Five years later I read this story. As tourists in N.O. those days, me and my family also spent three "incredible" days at Convention Center. Only the people who was there can understand what was all that like.
I'm just writting because after reading all these, all the images and feelings have come to me and I had to say "hello" again because what we lived those days it's impossible to forget. But we were fortunate: We are still alive.

1:41 PM, March 22, 2010  

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