Sobering

We went down to Jackson Square this evening to enjoy Rebirth Brass Band and have a few drinks around the reopened Cabildo. A delightful crowd and lots of fun and we decided to top it off by walking over to the river and watching the boat traffic near the Sqaure. We met up with a family of locals (dad, mom and son about 10ish) and sat on the steps watching the lights of the passing ships and just enjoying a cool evening.

But this is when this otherwise delightful evening started getting, um, serious.

Seems this man and his family were in the Superdome for the first four days after Katrina struck. His account is chilling and, at least for us, it marked the first time we had heard a first-hand account of what went on, unfiltered by the mainstream media (who, far as I can tell, didn’t have anyone living in the ‘Dome either). I cannot vouch for the truth of his account and I have no independent verification. But this is what he told us…..

His first fear was that he would be killed, his wife raped until she was dead and their son left to the non-existant mercy of the crowd. He says personal, violent assault (sexual and otherwise) was common and the crowd was literally held inside the dome’s perimeter at gunpoint. He says the National Guard had only an outer perimeter, disregarding what was happening inside because they knew the dome occupants were thousands of people they wouldn’t have to try to keep up with on the streets.

This man says young men ripped tampon machines from the walls of the womens rooms, took the money, then sold the individual tampons for $4 to $8 each. He says lines were formed for such sales of what few personal hygiene items there were — lines long enough so that once a person procured something, they would have to get back in line in hopes of getting another if supplies lasted.

This family finally made their way out of the dome after four days, first walking uptown in hopes of finding food and then being taken by a passing driver back to their own neighborhood off Esplanade. They tried to stay at their own place (which was in reasonable shape), but soon the heat and the possibility of violence forced them back out and eventually to catch a ride out of town. They are now temporarily housed in a downtown hotel under a FEMA program while they await a move to Covington.

Again — I cannot vouch for this man’s story. But I can say he appeared to be Joe Normal who clearly had been terrorized. Neither he nor his wife had been drinking, but kept stepping on each other’s stories to add more detail. I cannot remember all they told us, but I intend on talking more to them tomorrow.

I’m not relating this to stir up controversy or distribute false information. I’m only relating what we were told by someone who takes responsibility for not knowing enough about hurricanes to get his family out of town while they had the chance (they’re from NV and have lived in New Orleans only about four months). We literally didn’t know what to say, other than to invite them to our house so they can experience Normal for a while.

We’ve heard so much false information over the past two months that it’s hard to know what to believe. But I believe this man. And, in the wake of what he says, I’m just speechless.

1 Comment so far

  1. winewench (unregistered) on November 2nd, 2005 @ 8:15 am

    Since I was also present during the aftermath of Katrina, I find this man’s story completely believable. As homesick as I sometimes get I’m not returning to New Orleans. I’ve never seen this type of behavior in my life even though I was part of the sixties movement and have lived in third world countries. One man put it like this, “the studs are bored.”
    I think in rebuilding New Orleans some of these stories should be told in order to avoid another situation like this. And I just don’t have enough faith in the politicians. Rather than an emphasis on education, hiring people who live there to rebuild, temporary housing…..is anybody really being helped out by FEMA?…….it seems to be high dollar contracts for out of state workers and money making schemes. The aftermath part of Katrina is already being swept under the rug. Being out of state I have heard nothing about New Orleans in weeks. I have only this blog and the Picayune for any kind of connection to the to the city. I’m sorry I sound so pessimistic. I do wish you all the best and really do hope the City returns without outpricing the people who make it so vibrant.



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