In the weeks since evacuating New Orleans with my wife and two dogs and having no place to live, I have gotten used to asking for favors, begging and saying please and thank you. Through the glass, I told the clerk my "sad story." I told him that I was from New Orleans and trying to get back into town, that I had seen a satellite photo of my roof and that it was damaged and getting worse, and then busted out the wild card that works with most men in most situations. I told him that my wife had her heart set on my getting her wedding rings and the diaries of her sister who passed away and that it would break her heart if I didn't make it home to try to find these things and bring them back. I wasn't lying and he could tell. He asked me if I had cash and when I said yes, told me that he would let me fill up. I thanked him, sincerely, not in the manner that I do in my normal life, when people do little more than is required.
Within minutes of getting back on the Interstate, we saw flares and police cars parked ahead on the highway, blocking the road. Wallace and I checked in on our story once again and slowed to a stop next to a tired-looking, middle-aged white police officer."How you doing, officer," Wallace said.
He asked us where we were going and we explained that we were going to New Orleans, that I was a lawyer and that I had legal business related to the storm, a half truth. We showed him our identification. He responded simply, "I'm too tired to care. You can do what you want. He commented that our car smelled of gas and chemicals: "What, you got drugs in there?"We explained that we had cans of gasoline in the back of the van. He responded kindly, "Gas? You know that's not really safe ... get out of here.
"We drove through the checkpoint and up onto the causeway, the elevated highway that runs through the swamps toward New Orleans. Since the balance of the ride back into the city would be on this two-lane road, there would be little opportunity for anyone to send us back now. We were almost home.
You can read the rest of Billy Sothern's story here