Louis P., New Orleans
I been here in Austin almost two weeks now. I got here by car. The family drove. They was able to get their cars out of the water, let them dry out. Change the oil and all of that. They didn't like driving, but we drove to Baton Rouge. Stayed there about two days, then we drove up here about four days after the storm. Yeah, about four days after the flood. I actually was watching the storm. I was moving cars and walking through the water, watching, watching the trees. I even watch the Dome peel, so you know what I's got to say. You know, to me that was just another day, another little rainstorm. I mean, we had to hustle for food and water and all that, but that was better than being in the Convention Center down there in New Orleans. Yeah, it was way better than that.
We were given the option to go to the Dome or the Convention Center, but instead we just stood in the house and projects up high while the water was rising. The army men were coming down, picking up people in helicopters. About that time we had decided to leave and that were like about three, four days after the storm.
Really, nobody in New Orleans was actually prepared for this. Because we been threatened by so many storms and they always miss us, and so they didn't think any different was coming. I mean we ain't had a real storm since Betsy and I think Betsy was '64, '65. So we went like two decades. And everybody was looking at this storm like, well, it ain't gonna hit us...so nobody left. And so because of that fact a lot of lives was lost. So we feel like we lucky. If it wasn't for God, we wouldn't have made it neither, so we just stuck it out and uh, He told us it was time for us to go. And when He told us it was time for us to go, that was when we left.
AIT: What was it that made you decide to leave New Orleans after the 4th day?
Well, besides we feel like the Man Up Above told us to leave --'cause we had food. We had water. And you know the gas was still on, but we ain't had no electricity and so the food was starting to go bad, but we thought like the last storm that just came through that blew: wind knocked down a few trees, knocked the electricity off. It didn't flood but two three days later: the life of the city was back running like it was. So we looked at it like that.
When the storm was happening they had a lot of looting going on. The people was trapped. A lot of people couldn't...didn't want to like, really, walk through the water. A lot of elderly people didn't want to leave their homes at all. A lot of them life stuck it out, like on my mama's floor: ain't none of them left. The whole floor was just still there doing for each other: that's how we was getting food and water. Then they had them kind of ignorant dumb people that want to break in jewelry stores and all, that but we wasn't gonna be a part of that. Our neighbors just thought they was getting food, everybody was getting food. There was a lot of sharing of food and water on the neighbors. They had to do what they had to do to survive because Katrina just came through there knocking everything out, destroyed the whole city.
A lot of people say they're going back because we got to think about one thing. A lot of people live in New Orleans can't leave New Orleans: not because they can't afford to, but because they don't want to. You know like, staying down here in Austin I got my good friends in New Orleans. You can walk anywhere. Out here in Austin everything like miles away and a lot of people from the city can't adjust to that. You don't really need a car in New Orleans but other places you really need a car, you know and a lot of people been walking around so long. So you know -- it's not that they couldn't leave, but that they didn't want to leave. Then the ones that did leave in the past they came right back a year or two later. I don't knowit's just something about New Orleans that keep people there.
New Orleans is one big party. That's all New Orleans is. I mean there's always. Always something to do. You can get out your bed at 3 o'clock in the morning and go anywhere in New Orleans and get something to eat. Anytime of the year, all year round. They've got parts that stay open 24 hours and then there's like McDonalds and Burger King and all them was staying open 24 hours. New Orleans have a lot of tourists. They have Mardi Gras, they have Jazz Fest, they have parades. It's just all out -- there's always something to do in New Orleans besides work. You know a lot of people work in New Orleans but they can always always find a place to go and relax, even though they have violence in New Orleans. But a lot of New Orleans looks over that, you know. People in New Orleans just take living they life like day by day. So you know when they go somewhere new, it's hard for them to adjust. Here in the [Austin] Convention Center that's all I hear. They can't wait till New Orleans will get back together, so they can go back home. And I'm one of them, but...
AIT: What is it about New Orleans?
For me, personally, before Katrina I had already started myself, started a new life. I was workin' two jobs. I had my own house. I was taking care of my daughter. I was wantin to be married by April but Katrina came in and tore that but that's a dream I'm not giving up even though I won't be married by April. Well, I think I won't be married by April, but the way it seems it look like I won't. But when I go back, when I go back...because I'm not going to let Katrina stop what I had started and what I pray for. All I'm going to do is pray that when I go back, or before I go back everything comes back to me like it started. That's all I can ask for.
I don't think it going to be the same. A lot of people not looking to go back home to the same thing. Like they going to be...when they go back they're gonna be a lot of jobs opening. There gonna be better housing, you know. New Orleans will never be the same, and everybody know that but and most people who are going home are not looking for it to be the same: they're looking for something to be way different. Now we know when they do go back they gonna be a lot stricter there. But when we do go back, not having nothing against Austin, Texas or nowhere else...it's just that New Orleans is just New Orleans and I don't think Louisiana can do without another New Orleans. So the quicker they everybody puts so much money in it to rebuild it. And I don't think it gonna be long. Like, next month we'll be able to go home, go to New Orleans and get our belongings that didn't get destroyed. You know, my house really, my house was like really destroyed. Things in my house got messed up. But my house wasn't destroyed. But I'm not gonna go back...I don't want to go back to that house. I want to go because I was already planning on moving out that house. So you know they just, they made a reason to really leave, leave the house. I wasn't planning on moving out of New Orleans but I wasn't planning on going back to that same house neither.
AIT: Do you still have family members back in New Orleans?
No. All of them here. So most of them here and then all the rest of them in Houston and then they got some in San Antonio.
AIT: Have you been able to contact or talk to them?
Oh yeah I've been able to contact. I talk to them a lot. Well me, I call them on my cell phone, but they got phones at the [Austin] Convention Center. I mean, the Convention Center really been helping us. They ain't like turned their backs on us. And most of the people out here in Austin really been helping us. Like, the first day I was here I was walking the street and the lady must of thought I had no money on me, so she offered. She didn't offer me, she just put it in my hand, and when I was trying to give it back she didn't want to take it back.
So you know, they were like, she realized she saw what happened to us, you know. But everybody didn't take it like that, you know. If you take ten people out New Orleans two of them won't have escaped. And that's what I can say about Katrina that New Orleans had survived so many hurricanes nobody was prepared for it. And I guess that's life. The city was corrupt anyway, so God just cleaned it out. So. When we go back it can't be worse. It can only be better, and a lot of Texans I was talking to today traveled to New Orleans during these events, and they was wishing that New Orleans hurry up and be rebuilt too. But then they got a lot of them that don't want us here but we ain't doing nothing. Whatever goes on with the government, that's the government. The people didn't do nothing.
AIT: You've been here for what, two weeks now?
Almost two weeks.
AIT: How's the atmosphere inside?
Crowded. Disgusting. But I'm about to move into my own apartment. Me and my daughter, in Austin. I figure I stay here a year or try to stay here a year.
AIT: Why did you choose Austin?
Because Baton Rouge really wasn't doing nothing for the people. They was helping them with FEMA and all that, but they wasn't giving' them houses. Out here they like, felt what the people need. They know they can't be in this Convention Center for a year, so the city of Texas and the Convention Center they got so many programs in here helping us to start out, you know. They're not pushing us out, they're not telling us we have to leave, but with the help they giving us you can't help but to start a new life. I aim to start a new life, but I just can't wait to get back home. (That's my cousin Teo right here. Hold up, I'm coming!)
We were just guided here. We could have went to Houston or any one of them but for some reason we wound up in Austin and it been good. It been nice. So I hope I been able to help you and by the way my name is Louis. I'm not going to tell you my last name because I don't want to be published. I got to say is, Thank you Austin, may God bless you.