Friday, June 06, 2008

My Experience

First let me appologize for my writing skills, and not having all of the links to the qoutes here
Read on and you will understand why.
I will bring you through every detail of the experience, so this may be lenghty.
Some content was added from notes I took by candlelight, other info added on a daily basis afterward.
To prepare you, the experince has to do more with what happened after the storm, this is the real disaster.
I live in Kenner, while this area did not recive as much attention, it was innundated with water.
Kenner is part of greater New Orleans on the west side.

Let me start from the day the hurricane hit, or actually a day before.
The day before the storm hit, it was a catagory 3 hurricane. New Orleans has seen quite a few of them.
Overnight, the storm went from a catagory 3 to a catagory 5. All day Saturday, people scrambled to get out of the city.
I stayed in my home which is a solidly built brick house, and had never had flooded.
There were high winds for a few hours, it lasted longer than other storms i have been through.
There was no serious damage to my home, but after the winds stopped, the water started to rise.
The power went out during the storm, and then the water, it would take at least a day before it flood my home .
For the first few hours, the water stayed at the sidewalk area, but then started to rise.
Radio reports informed me that the people who manned the generators and pumps were evacuated.
They had to be flown back in to get to the pumps. I have never heard of this happening before.
Some emergency personell had volunteered to work the pumps, but were refused because they were not certified.
The waters continued to rise, even though the wind and rain had subdued a full day before.
It entered my home, and i slept on the couch, so that i could leave the front and back doors open. It was hot.
The first night (before the water rose) wasnt that bad, there was a crosswind,and it was about 75-80 degrees.
I had put the front wheels of my car on stands, but only the front 2 tires,
the back of my car was starting to get water, so i tried to use a jack stand to rasie it.
It was dark, and i wasnt able to get it to work. The cars computers were on the floorboard,
so I took them out and opened them up. I had to work by candle light, drying the electronics with the candle.
I couldnt get to the one under the seat, and when i was able to get in my car and start it,
the seat moved forward and crushed me against the steering wheel.
Good thing I also have a jeep which was high enough to stay out of the water.
This may all sound insignificant, but at the time, it was what was needed.
My 94 jaguar was more dependable and carried more fuel than the jeep, it had air conditioning, my jeep did not.
I sat for short periods in my car, so i could get some air conditioning, but had to keep it to a minimum to reserve fuel.
My phone service only worked sporadically at best, and I didnt know if my mother was OK. She was my first priority.
I knew where she was, but could not contact her, so I feared the worst, and wanted to get to her.
I had to wait for the water to go down before i could leave though, it took about 24 hours.
During that time, i was able to find an old police/fire scanner and passed my time that way.
I had an old 12v battery from a security system, and got the scanner to work. I just had to charge the batteries
by using battery (jumper) cables. The first thing I heard was a state trouper complaining that they were being treated like "step children".
I learned that FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security were running the show.
There were several emergency personell who sounded frustrated.
The trouper said he was there to provide security, but then he wasnt needed and told to leave.
Monday I walked around taking photos of the the damage. I walked to Loyola and West Esplenade and saw only 1 military type vehicle,
there was no one else on the street. It was a war zone. It looked like the B-52's carpet bombed the whole city.
I was up to my waist in water while on the sidewalk. In 30 years my house had naver come close to taking water.
It was time to wait. I spent some time getting a suntan on my roof, it was cooler there, the house smelled and was hot.
I knew i wouldnt be able to stand the smell another night, so i got a knive and started to cut carpet.
I took as much as I could out, at least from the living room, where I was sleeping on the couch.
I watched a military vehicle (deuce and 1/2) as well as airboats go down the main street (Loyola Dr.) near my house.
They were going to and from Wall Mart who donated food and water to victims that had stayed behind.
I had no radio, but relied on my neighbor, who is retired and somewhat disabled, for news updates.

It was at least 90 degrees the second night, the water stopped moving started to smell. Insects became a problem as well.
It was time to eat the food left in the fridge and freezer, it was going to spoil soon.
My neighbor had a pool, and though the water was contaminated for any other purpose, I was able to use it to flush the toilet.
The water started to receed a few days after the disaster, and i thought it was best to leave to find my mother.
Then I heard from my mother, she was OK, but i decided to leave anyway, i heard it would be months before electricity and water would be restored.
I went to my girlfreinds house, and was able to stay there. for another week, i would still have no phone that worked.
I bought a cell phone, but had to drive 20 miles to get signal. Gas prices were at $5.00 a gallon and money was tight.
I had taken only what I needed, and locked my home. I left my dog, unsure of where I would stay at the time.
My fence wasnt just damaged, most of it was gone. My dog is used to my neighborhood, and would help to protect it and my home.
I left her food and water inside, she could go through the doggy door as she needed. I would have to come back for her soon though.
Leaving the city, i saw no one at all untill i came to the interstate Highway. I stopped to talk to a local officer,
and a discussion ensued about me being able to re-enter. He said no-one was allowed back in.
We spoke a few minutes, and he had mentioned that he saw people breaking into the store across the street stealing beer.
It appeared, at least to me, that he did not stop them. His attitude gave me the impression that looting was secondary to his being there.
There was an old lady next to him who had lost everything, I dont think she understood that she might not see home for months.
It seemed as though the cop was waiting for someone to pick her up. She had water, and the situation was not immediate, so the officer didnt seem concerned.
The look in the officers face seemed to be one of being overwheled, and not sure why he was there, except for the sense of duty.
I had to wonder duty to what at that point. Nothing was left, and the cops and robbers game just wasnt important at that point.
I asked if there was a place that was giving out food and water (in kenner), he said no.
I didnt understand where the stuff from Wall Mart had gone, but didnt want to ask. I figured it must have been for emergency personell.
After getting a good meal at my girlfreinds mothers, i unloaded the jeep, had a shower (first in several days) and brushed my teeth.
In the past, i had travelled to the Costa Rican, and Peruvian rainforests, to enjoy the solace and nature.
I had lived in the jungle weeks at a time. I knew I didnt need electricity, but it sure felt good have it now.
In the next few days I would buy a cell phone, spend my time trying to get a landline phone, and try to get news from the one radio station broadcasting.
In a day or two, I would realize I had to go back to get my dog, secure my home, and get valuables.
The radio stated they were not letting people into the parish, but I was able to get in.
I passed checkpoints asking me my reason for re-entry, and where I was going.
The officer seemed to tired to ask for my ID. My dog was OK, i grabbed what I needed and left.
I had bought food and water to hand out at the airport where people were supposed to be held, but no-one was there.
I tried to give my neigbor what I had, he hadnt left, but he only wanted the water. He had stocked up.
I went to metairie to check on my mothers house, she was very lucky, only roof damage and the shed was destroyed.
I met 3 people on Veterand blvd. (the main drag) one girl was pregnant, they wanted a ride, but my jeep was full.
I offered them 2 litter drinks, but they refused, they were not cold. It seemed as though, foor and drinks were free and the local stores.
No one was stopping people from getting what they wanted. Many stores had their food and water "commandeered" already by emergency personell.
There seemed not to be much of a difference between people taking what they wanted, and officials handing it out. It came from the same place.
People were just saving time by getting it themselves, rather than having to have it be distributed to them.
I had to wonder if the pregnant girl really understood that there wouldnt be an open store in the area for a month.
When i got back to my girlfeinds, I was finally able to watch a few minutes of TV, I couldnt understand why FEMA hadnt been to hardly any of the parishes
The reports made me sick.
I saw pictures of 35,000 people at the Superdome and 20,000 people at the Convention Center, no one had food or water.
I thought there had to be some way to airdrop it, or bring it by boat. The media was there taking pictures, but no one was helping.
Many people will not return to New Orleans. That is getting pretty clear now. People are already finding jobs elsewhere.
Local and federal officials seem to keep telling people to get their kids in school where they were, and to find jobs.
Others who depend on government assistance, will find it elsewhere. The places they stayed at, are not homes anymore,
much of what is left, is just debris on the side of the road.
It was as if no one cared. President Bush was on vacation, just like before 9/11
All i kept hearing were cries for help from the mayor, I heard them in my sleep, wishing I was in a better position to help.
I was finally able to get in touch with FEMA, they took my information, and said they would call me.
I told them about the 2 properties I just bought, they said since it wasnt my primary residence, they couldnt help me with those.
I spent 100,000 to buy them, my life savings, and a lean on my house in Kenner where i live.
I finally realized that i had lost everything. I would have to sell my home, if I could get anything for it.
The 2 properties I had bought were 8ft underwater, and since I just bought them, i didnt have insurance. I was waiting for the quote to come in.
That was my buisiness, to buy and sell homes, its now gone, thats it.

As I sit waiting for food stamps, i see a John Deer road vehicle assigned to the food stamp office in a little town, on it, brightly painted is
"Department of Homeland Security". Looking at this, I wonder how many of those are across the country,
and how much money that has gone into that department.
I wondered how that money could have been used to strengthen the levees so I wouldnt have to be waiting for Government funded food.
As I sit here typing, I realize that a "National day of prayer" will not help me, nor will the President, nor will FEMA.
I dont need a place to stay, I dont need food or water. I need to go home to start rebuilding, but I cant.
They wont let anyone in for at least 3 weeks.
As I type, power is getting back on in my neighborhood, water is already there,
but they wont let me in.

Updates to come....(Sept 9th)