Recounting NOLA–August 29, 2008

I’m back to recounting my time in NOLA over the 3rd Katrina anniversary, with Hurricane Gustav bearing down on the Gulf Coast.

On Friday morning, Annie, a native of New Orleans who cooked our breakfast at the Creole Garden Inn, told me that she wasn’t taking any chances. She was going to evacuate immediately after she finished with our breakfast. She told me her Katrina story. She had stayed in the housing project where she lived and ended up stranded in 19 feet of water. She clung to a boat that someone was using to help evacuate and somehow got to the SuperDome. She told me about sitting on the ledge outside the SuperDome, of seeing bodies stacked up outside. She said that a lot more people died than were reported and I don’t doubt that. There was human waste flowing out over the ledge of the SuperDome and the inside was like a huge toilet. There were babies being born among the human waste and people dying. It was complete chaos. Then someone brought guns into the SuperDome and started shooting. She couldn’t understand how the governor didn’t know that there were people at the SuperDome. I even knew in Minnesota that people were there. All you had to do was watch the news.

Somehow Annie ended up leaving the SuperDome to get out of town. She ended up at a bridge where law enforcement was shooting at prisoners who she thinks were just trying to get out of the water. I don’t know the rest of her story, but I understand why she wanted to leave early this time. She didn’t want to take any chances, and I don’t blame her. She urged me not to wait, but to leave right away. Shortly after breakfast, she was on her way.

When we first sat down, I thought we were going to have a conversation. But Annie needed to talk and she needed somebody to listen. Even three years later, some of the people who went through horrible experiences after Katrina still don’t feel heard. So I listened and told her that I understood, at least as best I could without having been there myself. I don’t care whose fault you think it was, Annie still went through a horrible experience and this time she needs to get out right away.

Before I drove over to City Hall for the Katrina Memorial Service that morning, Tim the gardener-maintenance guy pulled me aside and told me not to worry. He pointed out that the B&B is on high ground. The buildings in that neighborhood are old, they’ve been there forever and didn’t flood after Katrina. He said that people are over-reacting because of Katrina, but that I should stay calm, I’ll be safe there. I thanked him for being calm and pointing those things out to me.

My sister was urging me to leave and I explained my plan to her. She had seen news reports that spoke about current events while showing old Katrina footage. These “news” reports were very misleading and freaked some people out. They thought the events they were seeing on the screen were happening now in 2008 when they were really from Katrina. Sometimes the media sucks.

Believe me, we were all tracking the storm there in NOLA. I understood that the path can change, the predictions can change, and nothing is for certain. A lot of people got caught off guard with Katrina. I was watching the weather forecast and following the projected path of the storm online. So far, it looked like my flight going out on Sunday would be fine and people were telling me that flying out was my best option. Trying to drive out would be difficult, and I probably would not be allowed back in to catch my flight later once contra-flow (all lanes of the highway with traffic heading out) went into effect. I just needed to keep track of the storm and make sure that the airport didn’t close before I could leave. I wasn’t able to move my flight up yet. Northwest airlines didn’t have a weather waiver, but once they did, they could move my flight up without charge. I had a seat reserved on my Sunday flight out and predictions were that Gustav wouldn’t arrive until Monday or Tuesday.

I had a rental car and I had a few options if I had to drive out. I could go to Baton Rouge and stay with the family that I had stayed with in September 2005. I could also go to Alexandria and stay with the people and animals at BARK (and meet Kate2) if needed. But I was concerned about heading out on the road and getting stuck somewhere.

Next….The Katrina Memorial Service and luncheon honoring the animals who were affected and the people who came to help…

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