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Leaving High Ground

A story of life in New Orleans
during hurricane Katrina

(click on image for large pic)

A night of choppers

Our house is located about 10 blocks from a hospital that had just been flooded. Throughout the night choppers came in one after another. Every thirty seconds one would pass about 200 yards over our roof. It went on all night. The water had crept up to about a foot on our street by this time. All the people in the bad part of town about a mile away that had been on dry ground were starting to wander into our neighborhood. There was occasional gunfire. A small crowd would pass by about once an hour. We stood on the porch with guns in hand. At this time the gas started to run low. We had been banking on the fact that we could get to our cars located in downtown at some point for that gas. We knew we had to go out to siphon some from a few of the older cars in the street. Under the cover of darkness we went out into the rising water. As we filled our tanks other gangs with trucks and spotlights were roaming the neutral ground doing the same thing we were. Eventually a large army vehicle came by and all the people scattered back to their hideouts in the night. Tonight was the last night sleep would arrive for many days to come. I sat in the heat with the shotgun lying next to me listing to chopper after chopper fly over our house. My hearing became sharper and sharper with every moan, scream, and gunshot.

A day of Airboats

We all woke up the next day not knowing what to think. Most of the outside world wanted us to turn ourselves over to the authorities. Nobody would know until the next day how horrible things had become at the Superdome. We knew. We would try just about anything to get to Baton Rouge. All day we were hoping the water would just drop a foot or two and we could simply drive the van out. Some of the National Guard just down the street told us that river road was now clear and we could drive out. The water was supposed to be going down, but there was a constant stream of airboats pushing water off the major road down our little street. Near dusk the decision was made. We covered the engine with a tarp, stuffed the tailpipe with cloth, and pushed the van 100 yards through knee-deep water to the dry ground. We covered the van with branches and left it to dry for the night.

A night of silence

Would the van be there? Would it start? Would the looting and violence become critically dangerous during the night? The choppers were all gone and the sound of desperate people became ever louder. We decided to turn off the generators, cover up the windows and make our run at dawn. Some would sleep. I would not sleep a wink for the second night in a row. As soon as the sun went down things got nasty outside. I would not put the shotgun down for many hours. At about 5:00 when the darkness began to break, it was time to make our Freedom Run.

The Freedom Run

The first task was to see if the van would start. It fired right up. We headed back to the house to let everyone else know it was time to pack up. We all got one backpack. My brother and I took one plastic bin with hard drives, a laptop, the camera equipment, and the most important business documents. We loaded the two dogs into our tiny inflatable boat. We used a king-size inflatable bed for a raft for the rest of the stuff and headed to the van. People along the streets started to creep a little closer to see what we were up to. The shotgun was held high at all times. We loaded up the van and rolled out of town. We had to dodge trees and power lines all along the river road until we hit 1-10 and causeway (located about 7 miles from downtown). There were hundreds, maybe thousands of people standing on the side of the side of 1-10 at the roadblock. I assume they had walked there. The authorities would not let them through. We would learn a few days later they would burn the mall down right next to the intersection. Once we made it past Lake Pontchartrain we knew we could at least walk to Baton Rouge if we had to. All along the road to Baton Rouge we passed 100-vehicle caravans headed to New Orleans. We saw Tour buses, Texas State troopers, Wildlife trucks with boats, Military Vehicles, one convoy after another. At last, freedom from anarchy, violence, and human misery. We would stop at a friend’s house in Baton Rouge and two of our buddies decided to stay there. The four remaining souls, and the two dogs, would drive through the night to Oklahoma City. Our escape vehicle, however, had other plans. The van would only make it to Tyler Texas. Maybe it could have limped to OKC, but our cousin was willing to come pick us up in my mom’s car. It seemed like an eternity before it was time for everyone to pile into mom’s SUV. It would be a day or two before the adrenaline would wear off. The pain in my bones arrived but at least I could now sleep. The reality of a life destroyed started to hit me. Time to re-build. My computer network and business would go live only 2 weeks after the disaster.

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