Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Minneapolis/St. Paul City Pages - "New Orleans: Survivor Stories"

Editor Steve Perry explains:
The survivors all had stories to tell, whether they could bear to tell them or not. A few first-hand accounts by New Orleans survivors did circulate via email lists and get posted at websites; these were more revealing, and more gripping, than the reports news media offered up regarding conditions in the city during the days between the storm and the eventual evacuation. (One exception: Scott Gold's wrenching coverage in the LA Times.)

We wanted to hear more. So last week, CP reporters and stringers contacted about 30 of them and asked them to tell their stories. We interviewed some of the 1,000 or so Katrina survivors who have made it to Minnesota, and spoke to many more who remain in the area by phone. Here are a few of the stories we collected. The real measure of all that was done wrong by city, state, and federal governments, and of all that people trapped in New Orleans had to do and endure as a result, is in these tales and thousands of others like them.
The portal page is titled "New Orleans: Survivor Stories" and subtitled "Beyond soundbites : detailed first-hand accounts from people trapped in the city after Katrina -- what they did, what they saw, how they stayed alive." Some of the City Pages stories already been blogged here, and others (Slonsky, Denise Moore) have also told their stories elsewhere.

At random: Edith Moore, 70:
We stayed in the shelter two days. At the school. It was terrible. Terrible. The floor had urine on it, you walked in urine. You didn't have no food, you didn't have no water. We was treated like dogs. They called us refugees. I really didn't know who was running it. The camouflage, I guess, the National Guard. They treated us like dogs. They treated me like a dog. Because any time you're running all over people with shotguns, them big popguns, and you're cursing them out and telling them to get down on their knees, and up on their feet, and you're making them turn their heads, and making them stand outside so you can taunt them. You tell them to get up with the sun, and you tell people that the trucks are coming and you're moving them out to safety. It didn't happen.

And they point guns at you. I was very frightened and very upset. And if you leave out the door, they said if you get to the dogs, they was gonna shoot you at the dogs. These was words that came from their mouth. And these was the guards that was over you. I've never had a gun pointed at me. No I haven't. And it was terrible.
And another: Calvin Dawson, 36:
I saw a shotgun fired off. I saw shotgun pumped and stuck under a lady's throat. Cops standing at gung ho, ready to fire. A guy ran over a pop bottle and dude was like on the crowd with a fully automatic weapon in the west bank. He was ready to kill us, man! And he like blasted the crowd with a shotgun over our heads. Boom! Because people were trying to get on the bus! They were only bringing in two [buses] at a time and there were 600 people under the West Bank bridge! People were trying to get on the bus with little tiny babies. They had been standing on their feet all night long. They were sick and tired. They were stressed out. They had lost everything they owned. They were literally at their wit's end. They couldn't take any more stress.

And these cops were not trying to be sympathetic to the fact at all. They just wanted to pop, pump shotguns and aim them at people. You know, you are going to give an officer, who already has the license to kill, you are going to give him martial law and a gun, a loaded weapon, and say, "Here, aim that at unarmed citizens." It don't make no sense. I'll give credit where credit is due. People were getting a little out of hand. They were already out of their minds, so they were getting a little out of hand. But the cops took the force a little further than they should have by aiming guns at people. They could have used verbal restraint first. But they were at gun force right off the jump. You know, standing around with fully automatic weapons. C'mon man. You don't need to get that dramatic with the situation. It was out of hand, man. Out of hand.
The full list:

Adele Bertucci, 53, hospitality worker, native of Cuba and 35-year resident of New Orleans.
J. Michael Brown, 52, resident of Chalmette in St. Bernard Parish, president of an electronic funds transfer company
Dumas Carter, 30, eight-year veteran NOPD officer, one of six local cops who stayed on duty at the Convention Center complex in the days after Katrina [*]
Sandra Carter, 59, retired schoolteacher, Algiers resident
Calvin Dawson, 36, brick mason, former resident of Jackson Avenue in Orleans Parish [above]
Briana Chatters, Red Cross volunteer in Baton Rouge shelter
Cory Delany, 24, resident of Waggerman, Louisiana, was in New Orleans with his family during and after Katrina
Jason Fraude, 22, carpenter, resident of New Orleans' Lower Garden District
Tysuan Harris, 24, nurse's aide, resident of the lower Ninth Ward
Jeffrey Hills, 29, tuba player, resident of the Lafitte housing project
Harold, 56, last name withheld by request, politician/professional decorator and New Orleans native
Machelle Lee, 31, Tulane Law student, one-time Minnesota resident, stayed in the Garden District during the storm and the days after
Jackie Mang, 32, nightclub manager and University of New Orleans, Bywater neighborhood resident, four months pregnant at the time Katrina struck
Edith Moore, 70, resident of Johnson Street in Uptown, near the Superdome [above]
Denise Moore, one of the 20,000 who went to the New Orleans Convention Center [*,*,*]
Katy Reckdahl, 40, Gambit Weekly staff writer, former City Pages staff writer, went into labor at New Orleans' Touro Infirmary on the Saturday night before the hurricane hit [*,*]
Sidney Smith, 51, Uptown resident and owner of Haunted History Tours
Lorrie Beth Slonsky and Larry Bradshaw, emergency medical technicians from San Francisco who were in New Orleans for a convention when Katrina struck [*,*; the infamous "bridge to Gretna" story]
Derrick Tabb, 31, snare drummer for ReBirth Brass Band, lifelong New Orleans resident [*]
Jennie Lynn Waters, 62, legal secretary in the New Orleans city attorney's office
Quvandra Ballard, 37 years old, lifelong resident of New Orleans, housing archivist for the state of Louisiana [*]

Click names for the full narrative at City Pages, or click the bracketed asterisks -- [*] -- for excerpts of the City Pages or other accounts by the person on this blog.


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