Alive In Truth Oral History: Allen T.
Alive In Truth Oral History: Allen T.

Allen T.

Eastern New Orleans

10/28/05

I was born in New Orleans; actually I was born in the Lower Ninth Ward. And we moved from the Lower Ninth Ward to the Desire project around 1958. I was four years old when we moved there. And I grew up there in the project. I went to high school and elementary school there.

And from there I graduated from high school and went to the military. I went into the Air Force. I did my four years and came back to the project; my mom refused to move out of the project, she just stayed there.

Before I went into the military I got married and had my first child, a son. After I did basic training they stationed me in Fairbanks, Alaska. So I sent for my wife and son, and we stayed up there for around two years. And I then came back home.

I got out of the military early. I just got tired of the military thing, right. But I knew everybody because I worked at headquarters on the Air Force base. So, I knew all of the lawyers and all that. Then they gave me orders to go to this base, Barksdale Air Force base in Southern Louisiana.

But I said, 'I'm gonna be right near home. Why don't you just separate me? I could get my separation' And they did it. So I just got out. And I started working for the telephone company as a data entry clerk. I worked there a few years. And I left there and started working for the state of Louisiana. I was working doing data entry  at the state building and I worked there a few years.

And then they had an opportunity for me to go into computers and I started doing computer work; like a computer operator. And I did that for a few years. Then they decided to give the computer services to a private firm. So they sent me over get another job for me. They sent me over to the Child Protection Agency, so I worked as a clerk there for a few years.

And from there I went to LSU and applied for a position in computer services, and I got the position. I started working there and am still there now. I'm on emergency leave right now.

As far as LSU, I'm just waiting to see what's going to happen. I'm still on emergency leave. I don't know when or if I'm going to go back to New Orleans. I have nowhere to live, right now so. So right now I'm here in Austin.

I lived in New Orleans East, which is actually a part of the Ninth Ward but further East, like close to Slidell. It's maybe ten minutes from Slidell, near Lake Pontchartrain. You go over the Twin Span.

It was a nice neighborhood. I had a single house. Three bedrooms. Two baths. A living room. Kitchen. Garage. It was great. It was middle-class living.  It was a nice neighborhood. It never flooded the entire time I lived there. And I lived there around sixteen years.

It was great. It was a great community. And a high school right down there.

The neighborhood was pretty nice. My house was in the range of maybe $86,000. And then when they built the Jazz Land, which they later changed to Six Flags the value of my property went up to maybe up to $110,000, or something like that.

It was a good area. You know, I miss it. It was great.

I had some good neighbors. We liked to barbeque a lot. So they used to come over and eat and stuff like that. Drink a few beers and hang out, because I worked, my hours were from 3 to 11:30 at night. So I'd be home--that's why I got hooked to the stories like, Young and the Restless.

I'd be getting to go to work when that was on. And I watched that show for twenty years so, I'm still watching it. It's on now.

I mean it was a nice area and a nice neighborhood. It was great.

I have two kids. My daughter is 26 and my son is 32. And I have three grandkids. They're all here in Austin. Matter of fact, they're all here in this apartment complex.

When I get to the hurricane part, I can explain how we all arrived here.

They're all here, and I'm glad to have them. And keep my family, my immediate family close. Like my daughter, she's a nurse. My son is a schoolteacher. My wife taught school and while she was in college, she just graduated last year, this year with her Master's in Sociology. She had already graduated a year before with another degree. But then she went back for her Master's.

So, we pretty much have some nice skills and stuff like that. So, it's not like we don't know how to do anything. You know, we can really get back on our feet, just once we get the connections and get settled and decide on if we're going to stay here in Austin and pursue some jobs.

Well, my daughter-in-law is working with the District Attorney. So she's got a real nice job.

I've lived in New Orleans all my life, besides the time I left to go to the military, so I'm accustomed to hurricanes.

I went through Betsy and I went through Camille which were very serious hurricanes, OK. But we never left. So this time around when Katrina was out there in the gulf, my wife and I decided, OK, we're not going to leave. You know, we made it through these other hurricanes, no sweat. On the other hand, my kids decided to leave and go to Mississippi before the hurricane hit.

They were afraid. So they decided to go to Mississippi. And I said, 'Cool. OK.' And they asked us to come with them, but I refused to go. I said, 'I'm not leaving.' They probably weren't even born when Camille and Betsy hit. So they didn't really know, so they left like a day or two before the hurricane hit.

Everything was fine and it started raining. Now I mean a whole lot of rain, so when Katrina hit land, that evening it was just a lot of rain and stuff like that. You know, wind, a lot of wind blowing. My wife and I were in the house and at one point the rain and the wind got so bad my wife went into the bathroom, with a mattress and stayed there the whole night.

And I'm walking around drinking beer, laughing, saying, 'When are you going to come out of the restroom? You know, this is just a hurricane. It's no problem!' So, I went and got into bed later on that night and just laid down for awhile and listened to the rain and stuff like that.

It sounded like a train or something. It really sounded like a tornado coming through there. It was real windy and I mean the rain was just pouring, pouring down. But it didn't bother me. You know, like I said, 'I went through,' I swam in Betsy.

Then that morning came. 'OK,' I said, it was still raining and stuff, and I said, 'I'm going to go outside and see how much damage we have on the house.' I went outside and only around six shingles had flew off the roof of my house.

Now some of my neighbors got some considerable damage; like half of the roof had been blown off. I was just fortunate, I guess, because I only had shingles come off the house.

And like I said it was still raining. There was a little water in the street but it never really flooded in front on my house before. It was just in the street. Street flooding.

But then, later on that evening the water started coming up. It was coming up a little bit. So, we had a little portable radio on, and that's when we heard about the breach in the levees. I told my wife, I said, 'Look baby, I think we may have to leave out of here.' Then Mayor Nagin was on the radio was telling us people living in 'New Orleans East,' he could go for shelter at Sara T. Reed High School, which was like, two blocks from my house.

So I told my wife, 'Maybe later on we'll just go over to Sara T. Reed. You know, probably they'll have some people over there and stuff.?

My wife thought it was a good idea. She saw that the water was coming up. But the water hadn't even come up on the lawn. It was on the street which was unusual in my area because I wasn't even required to have flood insurance because that area has never flooded. And I'm with State Farm.

Later on that evening, I decided to walk out first and check out what was going on at the high school. So when I got to the street the water was maybe at the tops of my calves. And I walked the two blocks to Michoud. And when I got to Michoud the water was up to my chest. I continued walking to the high school and there were some people there already. They had said that they had come there last night; the night of the hurricane because they lived in the next sub-division from me, which was called Oak-Callum. They said that they had water up to their roofs by then.

The water wasn't even in my house at that point, right

But when they had got over there that night, by the school, the school was locked up. They had to break in the school. Now, the mayor said to go over there, right. They had to break into the school and spend the night.

There was a bunch of people at the school by then; kids, babies, you know. There were no lights or nothing like that and no running water. The people that spent the night managed to find a few snack foods in the cafeteria, like milk and stuff for the kids and some juices. And they got into some snack machines. They broke into them for like cookies, and snacks like that.

But it was OK. It wasn't like in chaos or anything like that.

So, I went back to the house, I waded back to the house and told my wife, 'They do have people out over at the school.' So what we did was kind of like raise up, lift up things in the house try to get them higher, like important papers and stuff that we could pick up and put up a little higher.

Then we each packed a bag. Well, she packed two bags and I packed one bag of clothes to bring with us and we started walking over there to the school.

We got over there, and you know talked to a few people over there, and I said, 'Well, look, what we're going to do is just spend the night here.'

Because at that point after we had got over there, we started seeing people in boats passing up and down Michoud. And some of them coming back from the highway were telling us that Chef highway was dry, even though the water on Michoud was up to our chests. They said once you get to Chef the highway is dry and they had all kind of power lines down and all that kind of stuff.

So I told them, I said, 'Well, we're going to spend the night here.' We were in the gym. And we tried to sleep. I was sitting on the bleachers and tried to get a little sleep like that. My wife kind of laid down on one of the bleachers and we just spent the night down there.

We got up that morning and waited around awhile and talked to some people. And they all decided, 'Well, OK, let's just all walk up to the highway.' Because we need to leave here because when we got over to the school, you had a lot of helicopters. We tried to flag them. We started some fires to try and get their attention. What we found out later was the reason why they didn't stop was because we were on dry land and they were concentrating on people that were still on the roofs. Which was understandable, OK.

But anyway, we made it to the highway. We walked through the water. We saw a few snakes and all that kind of stuff there. A couple of the people and the families, they had their dogs. I left my dog in the house. She was a house dog, and I kind of figured that they wouldn't let us take a dog with us to the shelter. So I left the dog. I set out a big container of food and a bucket of water for her, you know. But I don't know if she made it or not.

I put her on a website - her description, the house and the address for the rescuers so that they could get in there and get her, but I don't know if she survived.

Anyway, we get to the highway, and as we get to the highway, on Michoud and Chef, there's a gas station on each corner. Well the gas station had looters that had already been in there. And at that point I was out of cigarettes. And they had police out there, and the police didn't tell us anything. So we went in the gas station and I got a bunch of packs of cigarettes and some juices and cold drinks and put them in my bag

The police weren't saying anything because we weren't taking anything or damaging it. The gas station doors were just wide open and people were going in and getting cigarettes, stuff like that.

Anyway, we started walking up Michoud. We walked all the way to Reed and that was where the police were at with the Budget rental trucks, picking people up. So, when we saw that, we were extremely happy. As soon as we got there we jumped in the back of the truck.

That  trip along highway I-10 was devastating. Just to look at the destruction, the devastation of New Orleans. You're on the high rise and you see nothing but water and all kinds of debris. You see people walking up I-10 pushing baskets, grocery baskets with stuff in it. There were a lot of people who spent nights, I mean, days on I-10.

Anyway, they brought us up to the Convention Center.

They didn't tell us where they were taking us. There were only two police officers and then the actual driver in the truck. And they just brought us there and emptied us out of the truck and left.

There was no supervision at the Convention Center, just thousands of people. No water, no light, no anything. And that's the first day.

And we kind of like walked around and ran into a few people we knew. And that's when we ran into the group. A friend of mine and myself, we started calling ourselves the Group of Eleven. I have a picture of them. It didn't come out too well, but that's a picture of us up there in the Convention Center.

The guy that I knew was with these other two guys and their families. And we all just decided that we would stick together because we started seeing things and got to thinking that we needed to stick together and take care of each other because it was chaos.

There were drugs. Some of the people went maybe a couple of blocks from the Convention Center, got into this liquor store and brought all kinds of liquor back to the Convention Center. They were actually selling liquor outside of the Convention Center in baskets. You could get like a half a pint of Crown for like $2.00.

So at that point, I'm saying to myself, 'Oh man, this is going to get worse now with this alcohol and stuff, plus, with the drugs. And with the stuff that was going around.' And it did.

There were a lot of fights. It just was ridiculous. It was ridiculous. It was frightening. And you know, there were days when we just saw bodies being carried and put on the side of the wall. Like just stacking them up on the side of the wall, you know. It got to the point were there were like sixty people -- elderly people and new born babies -- dying from heat and dehydration and stuff like that.

There were getting to be so many bodies that they decided, 'Well, look we're going to have to do something with these bodies.' I know myself, I was there. I saw at least ten bodies in there.

Each section of the Convention Center had halls, different halls. And each hall had a cafeteria. So what they started doing was wrapping the bodies up in plastic and putting them in freezers in the Convention Center. Which was a good idea, because you didn't want those bodies just laid up against the wall and decomposing. And then you would have gotten all kind of diseases. So that was a good thing they did.

They had a lot of food in the Convention Center -- hams and stuff like that. That was good that they did that. A lot of the looters went up there and found food. They started slicing up the ham and handing out cold drinks. I ate so much of the ice cream because they had a lot of ice cream up there, and they were passing out half gallon things and pint size ice creams and popsicles, and all that which was good because a lot of people were real hungry.

We stayed there five days. I mean, it was like a living hell. And we had to constantly move around at night, because there was no light in there, there was so many things, so much was going on in there. Most of the time we stayed outside at night.

And they had this one section. Section A, and it was the only place that had lights because they had a generator or something in there. But that was the only section of that whole Convention Center that had lights. So a lot of times, we like slept outside in front of that section because they had lights in it.

And as far as like sanitary stuff...The first day we got there the bathrooms and all that were fine. We were able to go to the bathroom and stuff like that. But after the second or third day it just got unbearable. You couldn't use any of the bathrooms in any of the sections because there was so much filth. There was no running water so you couldn't flush anything. So people were using -- I mean you start seeing stuff on the floor.

 It just got so ridiculous that my system just shut down.

I was only able to urinate the rest of the days while I was there and this was after the second day. My system just shut down. I was so glad of that.

Even the women that were with us, they stopped going to the rest room, it was so filthy. They just started going behind this wall, in this parking lot outside across the street from the Convention Center. All the women, if they needed to go to the restroom, they all went together and came back. And if the men had to go, we'd go, a couple of us would go at a time.

I mean it was filthy. When you walked into the Convention Center the stink was so loud you couldn't stand it more than five or ten minutes.

Anyway, every three or four hours you might see a NOPD car or two or a convoy passing in front of the place. They just cruised by.

We flagged them down at one point and told them, 'Look we've got bodies in this place.' And you know what they told us'  They said, 'There's nothing we can do about it.  There was nothing we could do about it.' So we said, 'OK.'

We very seldom saw the police.

After a few days the National Guard came. They had had a couple Guardsmen in the Convention Center early on; about two or three of them, like upstairs in this office. We just happened to stumble upon them. But we tried talking to them and they told us the same thing, 'There was nothing we can do.' And then they left. We didn't see them anymore.

The National Guard eventually showed up but they stayed on the other side of the street. And they never came into the Convention Center. There was only one period when the police actually came into the Convention Center; it was like a SWAT team.

They had some guys who were in the kitchen. And the place was catching on fire. So some of the guys put the fire out; but someone must of called the police or something, because after the fire was out they came in. They went to the particular place in the kitchen and made sure the fire was out and then left. They just left. And that was the last time we saw them again.

Maybe about the day or two before we left it was raining. I remember this day vividly. They had some guys by this parking garage by the Riverwalk. What they were doing was with all of the cars that were parked by the river, in the Riverwalk parking lot, they were starting these cars up, breaking into them and starting them up and selling them for $45 so people could drive across the Mississippi River Bridge which was right there by the Convention Center.

We thought about doing that but I said, 'No.' I couldn't do that, take somebody's car just to get across this bridge. So at that point, we decided to walk across the Mississippi Bridge, the eleven of us.

So we started the journey. What happened was they had these tourists that were in the highway which was close to this area. They decided to try walking over the bridge. So when they passed us, we asked them where they were going and they didn't want to tell us. So what we did is we just followed them. And that's where they were going. They were going to try and walk across the bridge.

We got like half way up there. They had Jefferson Parish sharpshooters on top of the bridge. We got half way up there and they had M16s aimed at us and told us to turn around. We turned around. These tourists, white folks, got up there, and they must of talked with them and tried to explain to the police that they were tourists. But they turned them around too. After we got down about the next half an hour, hour, they came down.

Because we waited right at the foot of the bridge to see just what was going to happen. But they turned them around also.

We were waiting at the foot of the Crescent City Connection, like half way to the top of it and police from Jefferson Parrish pulled out M16s and pointed them at us. One of them even shot a round in the air. And told us to go back down the bridge. So we had no choice but to go back down. So we wound up back at the Convention Center.

It was dry around there. It was raining that's all. There was no water around the Convention Center. They had a little water on Canal Street a few blocks away from there but the Convention Center was dry.

And so, we just headed back to the Convention Center. Spent another night outside and that next day, that's when the National Guard started evacuating. Because even Geraldo, that TV host, he was out there one day talking. He got dramatic and all that.

I was reading about that article yesterday, how the media was making it seem so dramatic and then like a lot of that stuff that was being reported didn't happen. But it did, trust me. A lot of stuff.

There was even an incident where a little girl was raped. I know that this happened, I mean I was there. And these guys they literally beat this guy to death.

They caught the rapist. They beat him to death and threw his body in the river.

I was there. I witnessed that.

That little girl was raped. It was actually two little girls. One was supposed to have been seven, and one was fifteen. They were raped and their throats were slashed.

I heard about this but I didn't see it. The other incident, the beating of the other guy, the rapist, I actually saw that.

I think the rapist knew the person that he was trying to rape. And I think one of the girl's told her people who he was. So they found him in there. And I think they said that this guy was actually going back and forth from the Convention Center to the Superdome doing (or during, unclear) the same thing.

So yeah, they beat the living hell out of him. I mean they beat him to death and threw him in the river. I saw that.

At this point it was the day after, this was like the fifth day we were there. At that point, the NOPD showed up in force and they just lined up like in front of the Convention Center. And they were just there talking. And my wife worked for the NOPD.

She worked in Property and Evidence. So basically she knew all the police officers. And when she saw the police officers we tried talking to them, the ones that she knew, to see what they could do just to get our little eleven out. Maybe to a little more safety, or drive us across the river to Algiers, or something.

They told us flat out that there was nothing that they could do. So at that point, my wife doesn't want to have anything to do with the NOPD anymore. She's quitting, but she's probably going to lose her job anyway. Because the TV today said they were going to lay off like 3,000 people. But, if she was able to go back to work for them she wouldn't have anything to with NOPD anymore because of the way that they treated us.

So anyway, the NOPD were there and the National Guard was there at that point. So we got a tip from one of the National Guard, it was a female, that told us, 'OK, right now they're trying to get all of the elderly people and all of the handicapped people out first by helicopter.'

Because what they did was use that parking lot, the same parking lot that we were going to do our little thing at, they used that as a landing field for the helicopters. It was fenced around for security.

When we first got talking to the National Guard, that lady, we got the impression that they were going to start taking the general population at the other end of the field. So what we did is we got all of our belongings.

We had these big carts we were pushing that had all of our luggage. We went down there. And with me being in the military, once we got down there, I said, 'I don't think they're going to start loading up people from this end. It's not secure.' Normally the military would have it secured, like where that fence was at.

So I talked to them, and I persuaded them. I said, 'Look we need to go back down here where they actually have the military had the perimeter blocked off and secured and stuff?'

And good thing we did because a few hours later they opened up a hole in the fence -- maybe about three feet wide. But you've got to remember that there are like thousands of people trying to get to these helicopters. So it was chaos.

Once you got on the other side of the fence there was someone organizing things. The military was in charge.

So, the eleven of us, we all stayed together. What we all had to do  was grab on to each other to get through this crowd of people that was trying to get through this three-foot wide opening. And it's like thousands of people pushing, shoving. It was extremely hot. A lot of the women were fainting. Even one of the ladies that was with us, she fainted and we had to start pouring water on her to revive her because it was extremely hot.

We got to a point where we were like fifteen feet away from the opening and it took us about an hour and a half to get through that opening. Shoving and pushing and getting through. And I was the front, everybody else was holding on to each other behind me.

They directed us to a helicopter to get on, and all that. It was only like half of us that got on there. Three of the eleven didn't get on that particular helicopter. They got on another helicopter. There was no more room on that one.

At that point, when I got on that helicopter I just started crying after what I had went through. It was so much.

It was unbelievable. It was a sigh of relief. It was a relief to get to some kind of authority and I didn't have to worry about anything else. It was getting to safety and all that.

It was my first time on a helicopter, even though I was in the military. I really couldn't enjoy it the way I wanted to because all of the stress I had been going through.

But it was good to be on that helicopter. And we didn't know where they were taking us. They wound up taking us to New Orleans International Airport. And from there, FEMA had reserved Delta airline planes, we didn't know where we were going. We got to the end. We had to process through the airport.

The airport looked fine. It was fine. They offered us snacks, drinks, water stuff like that. And we processed through. Then we got on the plane. And once we got on the plane that's when they told us we were going to Austin, Texas. Because we didn't know until that point where we were headed.

And it took about an hour, forty-five minutes flight from New Orleans to here. And I mean I felt extremely happy. Like I said, once we got off the flight in Austin they put us on Metro buses and brought us to the Convention Center.

And like I said, we were just on the bus, it was like hundreds of people just lined up on the road, just waving and stuff.  And that just made me feel so good, to see people that people really cared and stuff like that.

Once we got to the [Austin] Convention Center it got even better because the first person we met was a Red Cross worker, a volunteer by the name of Dottie. And she's been great We just talked with her yesterday. She's been real great. Real great. She's helped us with everything. And the people of Austin are great.

Right now I haven't decided if we're actually going to stay here. But I probably will. I probably will end up staying in Austin.  It's a good city and I like the music scene too, as you can see.

I'm a musician and I love playing reggae music.

I've been playing over at the benefits for the New Orleans musicians, like at Lola's. And I went to this other club down on Sixth Street, I can't remember the name of it. But it was a benefit for New Orleans musicians there. And like I said, they donated two guitars to me. And we had an amplifier over there. I bought these two and it's just been great, you know.

Not everyone from the eleven made it to Austin,  just myself and my wife and another couple, a guy named Byron. He's been working here now at the Hyatt hotel in maintenance. He and his wife are here. The rest of the group, they all went to New York. I think they had relatives up there, because they were like from Nigeria. We still keep in touch with them also, by phone and email.

And I just wanted to add too about how my kids they got here. Anyway, once we got here to Austin we knew our kids were concerned and worried about us because they hadn't heard from us the whole time we were in New Orleans.

Once we got here we made contact with them and we asked them how they were doing. where they were at, whether they were getting any kind of assistance or anything like that. And they said, no, because they were at their friend's houses.

So I talked to them and I told them I said, 'If you have your vehicles why don't you all just drive here to Austin and come to the Convention Center. You know, sign in to the Convention Center and you all can get some help, and stuff.?

And then they did. They arrived here like a couple of days later. I made sure that I got them cots and stuff in the Convention Center. I just kind of like piled some junk on top of them to keep anyone else from laying in them and stuff.

So they made it here with the kids, the grandkids. And, they're here now.

It was like a relief. And they were relieved too to see that we were OK too because they were very concerned about us. Because they probably were hearing a whole lot of rumors and stuff about what was going on. Because they didn't actually know where we were. They didn't know we were in the Convention Center. When we told them the story, they just couldn't believe it; all that we went through.

And they're here now. My son's wife is working for the District Attorney. You know my daughter's about to become employed. She's a nurse. My wife is still on vacation and I'm not in any rush to work.

I just want to take a break and relax before I get back into the workforce. Eventually it's going to happen, but I'm taking my time about it. Because right now I can't work anyway, because I'm still on emergency leave with LSU. So vacation.

My blood pressure went up after that experience. When I got here that's the first thing I did. I just went to have myself checked out. So I went to the infirmary within the Convention Center just to have them check my pressure.

Come to find out that it was high. They prescribed some Novak, medicine. So I've been taking those, like once a day. I take one tablet a day.

I don't have any other medical needs. Actually I went back to see about getting a tetanus shot because I had walked through that water. But what they told me was that as long as I didn't have an open wound I didn't have to worry about it.

That's the reason I went to the infirmary to get a tetanus shot. In the process of that they took my pressure and saw that it was high. It probably has a lot do with what I went through the past five days.

After I took those tablets, a few days it did come down. I'm still on them.

I feel fine when I wake up in the mornings.  I always think about New Orleans when I wake up because I do miss it.

I just miss everything. It was my home. It was where I was born and raised, you know. But I know it will never be the same again. That's why I'm unsure about whether or not I'm going to go back.

I know I won't be able to go back to my house. It's been destroyed. And I don't want to rebuild.

But if I do rebuild it won't be in New Orleans. Right now it's just a day at a time. I don't want to stress myself out worrying about this because right now that's what I'm dealing with'the house.  I don't know what kind of shape my house is in. There is still water back there as of last weekend.

My cars are destroyed. I had brand new cars, two cars, my car and my wife's car. Right now that's all I'm dealing with, the cars, insurance with the cars, and my house and my personal belongings that were inside of the house.

I lost a lot.

But I have my health and my wife, so that's important. And I have my family.

I don't know how I kept my spirits up. I really don't know. I guess I'm a strong-minded individual because it was a lot.  All that we went through in that Convention Center. I know I'll never forget it the rest of my life.

It was so much, a lot of violence. And, just seeing people helpless, especially the elderly people, It was just devastating. I don't know any other way to describe it. You just had to be there to see it.

You kind of had to, form a group to keep everyone safe. Like I said before, because there was so much stuff going on. You had to have a group. You always had to have someone there that was looking over you because I didn't sleep the whole five days that I was there. I couldn't sleep.

So the women  and the two kids that were with us, they were able to take naps and go to sleep at night. But for the most part, the men, we basically just stayed up all night.

The times I did doze off, maybe for fifteen or ten minutes or so, I woke up and I thought I had been actually dreaming about what I had been going through, But once my eyes opened up, I said, 'Oh, shit, this shit is real.' You know.

(laughs)

That's just how it was. When you did go to sleep you just thought that you had been dreaming.

The first day I got here I got my first good night's sleep. Matter of fact that was the first time my system started getting back on track when I got to the Convention Center here in Austin. I was able to sleep.

There were people helping other people in the Convention Center, even some of the looters. I thank them for the food that they were able to find in the place. Because it wasn't like they were keeping the food for themselves. Well, not at one point.

Because at one point they started going out, venturing out to stores like ribs and this and that, and they started food. They rolled out grills and started cooking on grills and some of them were selling the food. Some of the people were giving food away.

But for the most part the looters that were at the Convention Center they just found the food in the kitchens and were passing it out to people. They also passed out water, and stuff like that, until all of the water ran out. Then they had people to run out getting bottles of water and pass in front of the Convention Center throwing bottles of water to people.

As far as the looters I think that they did good. Not the ones that was going into these stores and taking bag loads of tennis shoes and jerseys and all that. That was uncalled for, but the ones getting food and water, I really appreciated that.

It was survival. It was survial.

Like what I was saying, when we left the house and got to the highway there were a couple of police out there and they saw people going in the gas station getting cigarettes, cold drinks, water and they felt it was OK as long as you didn't try to come out with the cash register, or something like that.

I got all of the financial help that I needed at the [Austin] Convention Center. The housing, I mean I'm here. This is a nice apartment, you know.

Because they're talking about these trailers'. There's no way I'm going to live in a trailer. I will not live in a trailer. Not when there is going to be hundreds of trailers all stacked up, piled up on each other.

I mean, I even saw a report about the conditions from Florida when hurricane Andrew hit, about two years. Those people have like two months to move out now. And some of them were saying that the conditions were bad. It wasn't like two days could go by before some violence or stabbing or fights and this and that in there. So I don't want to be bothered with that. So this is fine.

When I go over to Lola's [Nubian Queen Lola's Soul Food and Barbeque Restaurant] on Sundays, that's when I reunite with New Orleans people. That's what I told my wife, 'Sunday's my day. That's my day to go where there are people from New Orleans.'  I know they'll be there and we can talk and just hang out and drink a few beers or whatever.

Like this weekend I think Lola's going to be out on Lake Charles helping some relatives so they cancelled it this weekend. And I think that following Sunday they're going to have a big thing where she is going to do the cooking and have some of the bands. And I think she said the Hot Eight Brass Band is in town too, so they're probably going to be out there too.

Just to be with the New Orleans musicians. And I don't consider the Indians New Orleans musicians but they consider themselves musicians. But just to be around New Orleans people and have fun, and talk and stuff like that. It is great.

You can't recreate New Orleans. Not here in Austin. But like I said, I don't even think that New Orleans is going to be the same. Even when things get back to normalcy, as they say, it will never be the same.

I'd just like to thank everybody for all of their support and everything. They've been helping us. People have just been great. It is unbelievable. And we really thank them for everything we have.

Like I said, this house most everything in here is donated, except for a few little knick-knacks, that we were just able to go buy. The furniture, basically everything.

I just wanted to let everyone know my story and how grateful I am to the city of Austin and Texas for what they have done and helped us with. It's been great.

And I do feel like I am getting back to normal, some normalcy back in my life. So it's been good.

And then the music thing, that's been helping me out to. I've always used music as a crutch or something to do when I was upset about something. When something wasn't right I'd always go and pick up a guitar or something. It kind of  helped me to be like, everything's going to be OK.

Music has always been important to me.

Basically what's on my mind now is the condition of my house because we've been hearing that they're going to be tearing all of New Orleans East down. So, there's going to be no more New Orleans East.

I have uncles and aunties. They all survived. But they all scattered out. But that's the main thing, they all survived and got through it.