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September 12, 2005 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2005-09-12

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The Michigan Daily - Monday, September 12, 2005 - 5A

I can just hope for the best'

ABOVE: A view of the Houston
Astrodome which has now become
a makeshift shelter for evacuees.
More than a hundred cots stretch
across the stadium floor. About
20,000 evacuees have left shelters
since Houston began taking them in.
LEFT: Evacuees line the floor of
the Houston Astrodome as they
await the return to their homes.
Evacuees have access to unlim-
ited food, mail service, clothing
entertainment and health care.
Last week, an estimated 642
children signed up to attend
Houston's public schools.

Continued from page 1A
turned to God for comfort.
"Ministers of all faiths have
reached out to help our people,"
Blanco said. "Without the faith com-
munity, I don't know if any of us
would have made it."
Robinson has put finding his wife
into God's hands. The two were sepa-
rated when the hurricane hit, and he
has not seen her since.
"I can just hope for the best."
As Robinson was heading toward
buses in a boat to flee the city, he saw
a number of individuals looting. When
asked to describe them, he just shook
his head.
"If they want to act like animals,
they're going to get shot like ani-
mals," he said, defending the police's
use of force. "The people there are
still catching hell, but they're there
by choice."
Like most hurricane victims, Rob-
inson lost his house and almost every-
thing. "People had it all, but now
people ain't got nothing," he said.
James Knight: Even after the
breakout of chaos in New Orleans,
Knight did not want to leave the city. "I
was forced to," he said. When he finally
left, the water was already waist-high
in the streets.
At about 2 p.m. yesterday, a 'second
line march' erupted in Reliant City. The
march is a traditional part of Super Sun-
day during Mardi Gras in New Orleans
that honors the dead. But it was clear they
were not mourning the dead. Instead they
were celebrating a city that is physically
leveled but still very much alive in the
form of its residents scattered throughout
the country.
"I love it," evacuee Twanda Jones said.
"We still alive. Tell Katrina: Take that."
Brass instruments like trombones,
tubas and French horns, as well as other
instruments led the way. The crowd sang,
danced and chanted "New Orleans, New
Orleans, New Orleans."
As the parade traveled, it picked up
followers, surging to about 700 by the
end, including Gov. Blanco who danced
among her people.
"This is all we needed," evacuee Brian
Russa said. "The atmosphere changed all
of a sudden. It took away a lot of hostility,
a lot of grief."
Others stressed that for a moment,
they felt like they had been transported
back home.
"Bring out the barbecue grills, the
gumbo, Mardi Gras. This is New Orleans
now," someone shouted from the middle
of the mass of people.

"Everything in my house was wet,
and it smelled horrible," he said.
He escaped by walking to buses
that transported him to Houston. On
the way there, he saw people jumping
off of bridges to commit suicide.
"They thought it was the end of the
world," he said.
The television stories and imag-
es cannot begin to do justice to the
post-hurricane scene in New Orleans,
Knight said.
"It's something that you can't imag-
ine," he said.
He is still missing his girlfriend, but
says he has no doubt he will find her.
Walter Davis: After the storm,
Davis emerged from the basement of
his mother's house to find the kitch-
en sink sitting in the middle of the
Later, he walked into a friend's two-
story home, looked up and saw nothing
but sky.
On his way out of the city, riding in
the back of a stranger's truck, he said
he saw dogs eating human corpses
and law enforcement officers shooting
rabid dogs before they had a chance to
bite someone.
Wilford Jones: While waiting on
a New Orleans bridge to be rescued
for three days, Jones said he watched
bodies floating by on the river of
murky water below.
He also witnessed looting but said

he could not understand what the
looters were planning to do with the
equipment after they had stolen it. He
said they would be forced to leave
and would have to leave the merchan-
dise behind. Jones was careful to
make a distinction between stealing
water and food for your family and
carrying stacks of DVD players out
of Wal-Mart.
Tired of waiting on the bridge, Jones
found a boat and floated to the Super-
dome, which housed thousands of
stranded residents.
"We didn't get no rescue," he said,
"We were promised it, but we sure as
hell didn't get it.
After about a day at the Superdome,
he boarded a bus for Houston.
"There was a lot of fighting and
scuffling to get on the buses," he
said. "Some people were knocking
old people down. It was terrible."
A lot of the evacuees' thoughts about
the hurricane remained jumbled. Some
said they haven't had a chance to sort
them out yet, to get them into some
kind of logical order.
"I'm still confused," Robinson said.
Most are willing to talk, but some
protest politely.
"My head's still spinning," said a
man in a wheelchair outside of Hous-
ton's George R. Brown Convention

Continued from page 1A
"We're all in this together," she said.
"This is our point in history, and it can
either be looked back on in the history
books as a negative or a positive."
Despite reports of rapes in the Astro-
dome and the Reliant Center, city offi-
cials insist crime is not a major problem.
Michel said the number of phones
calls city emergency services have
received are 3 percent less than they
were during the same time period last
year. Some weapons have been con-
fiscated, but the vast majority of the
48 arrests in Reliant City have been
for public intoxication. Alcoholics
and Narcotics Anonymous groups are
beginning to meet.
Evacuee Walter Davis said he had one
of the debit cards the Federal Emergency
Management Association and Red Cross
handed out to evacuees stolen from him
by a volunteer.
After receiving the card, which had
about $2,000 on it, he asked a volunteer
for help because he didn't know how to
useit. The volunteer took the card and
told Davis he would' have to go back to
his bunk in the convention center to get
hi 1D. When he came o6tt, thei lady was

gone. She has not come back to work
since. Davis contacted authorities to
have the account frozen. No money was
taken out. He is still working on getting
another card.
Many of the new residents of Reliant
City say they are grateful for the care they
have received from the local authorities.
"Since I got to Houston, it's all been
peaches and cream," said evacuee Wil-
ford Jones.
When he arrived in Houston, Jones
was still sick from a disease he caught
from the infected water surging through
New Orleans. He could not remember
the disease's name.
"I was throwing up all colors: green,
red, yellow," he said. "They put an IV in
me and now I'm all better."
Many Houstonians serve as volun-
teers through organizations such as the
Red Cross. Volunteer Andrea Morse, a
sophomore at the University of Houston,
said that when she arrived to volunteer
yesterday she had to wait in line for an
hour because there were so many people
willing to give their time.
Texas A&M junior Erin Peterson said
she volunteered because she had so much
to give and could riot stand not giving it.
"I'm a poor college student, so I don't
have a lot fidney, but I felt a little guilty

not helping, so I gave what I could - my
time," she said.
Inside the shelters, people lie on
cots stretched across giant rooms. The
shelters provide a number of services,
including unlimited food, mail servic-
es, clothing, entertainment, health care
and access to Houston's public school
system. An estimated 642 children
signed up to attend school last week,
Michel said.
Hand-made signs posted throughout
Reliant City display messages such as:
"Nathan J. Gurley your wife is here kiss
kiss" and "If you lose hope you've lost
Others have names and phones num-
bers for people to get in touch with sepa-
rated family and friends. Many poster
boards advertise religious services.
Evacuees have access to guarded
showers. All the major insurance compa-
nies have set up shop in the shelters. A
healthy spread of food is available most
of the day. The most popular foods, one
volunteer said, are Batman fruit snacks,
milk and ice cream - in that order.
Although there are pockets of despair,
the atmosphere in Houston shows some
signs of optimism - much different
than that in New Orleans, where chaos
still reigns.

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