Katrina story: “those young when with guns were protecting us”

[From my friend’s father]

This is a chilling survivor story from Katrina that
was forwarded to me by a friend of mine. I thought
you might find it informative. It speaks volumes about
how badly the people in New Orleans were treated.


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

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