Kimberley M., Junior High School Student, New Orleans
AIT: We're here at the Austin Convention Center with Kimberley Martin. The date is September the 20th, 2005. Hi, Kimberley.
KIMBERLEY: How you doing?
AIT: Good. How are you doing?
AIT: I'm just going to play this back now and make sure that it recorded and picked up our voices. Kimberley, how has it been for you since you got here in Austin?
KIMBERLEY: It's been all right.
AIT: How is the food in the Convention Center?
KIMBERLEY: It's all right, but I don't really like cafeteria food.
AIT: I understand. So, when were you born?
KIMBERLEY: I was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1991.
AIT: Excellent. Do you have brothers and sisters?
KIMBERLEY: Three brothers, three sisters.
AIT: Seven kids.
AIT: Where do you fall in all those?
KIMBERLEY: I fall, like, the middle. I'm the middle person.
AIT: Fabulous. Where did you live in New Orleans?
KIMBERLEY: On the West side.
AIT: In Algiers?
AIT: Okay. What did you do for fun?
KIMBERLEY: Play volleyball, talk on the phone, read. I just be talking to my Mama. Or go outside in the park. That's what I did.
AIT: Sounds good. And your Mom's here with you.
AIT: How's she doing?
KIMBERLEY: She all right.
AIT: Is her health okay?
AIT: What does your Momwhere did she work?
AIT: Outside the home, I mean.
KIMBERLEY: She was working at Avondale --
AIT: Avondale Shipyards?
KIMBERLEY: Yes, but her daughter got sick, something happened to my sister, so when she went to the hospital, they had to cut her loose. But they let her back on, she got back on the job, and she had quit because she had to take care of my sister because she was sick. So then it was hard to find work.
AIT: Do you have a daddy around?
KIMBERLEY: I have a daddy but he not around.
AIT: Your mom took care of you?
KIMBERLEY: Yeah. But my big brother, he like my daddy, he take care of me. He raised us. He's twenty-three now. He bought all our clothes and all that. He's like a daddy.
AIT: That's wonderful. What did he do?
KIMBERLEY: He worked at a shipyard, too. He'd be going off-shore, on the boats and stuff.
AIT: Have you decided what you want to do when it's your time to work?
KIMBERLEY: I'm taking this class because I go to Kealing Middle School. I was taking this class, Medical Tech, and I was taking this class as Medical Aide. They helped me, when I get to high school so I can become a pediatrician.
AIT: Fabulous. You want to be a pediatrician?
AIT: You like kids?
AIT: You have some little brothers and sisters.
KIMBERLEY: Yes. Not young-young, but I have some older than me, but they're twins. Two younger than me, they're twins.
AIT: And you're fourteen?
AIT: Are you in eighth grade?
AIT: Do you think your family might stay here in Austin? Do you know what your plans are?
KIMBERLEY: Well, I know we're going to be here for awhile, but I know my Momma plan on going back to New Orleans.
AIT: I hear that Algiers is pretty all right.
KIMBERLEY: Yeah, but if there is another storm coming...
AIT: That's true. We don't know what's going to happen.
AIT: So have you made new friends here in Austin?
KIMBERLEY: I made new friends at school, but I've just been there, trying to take it all in, remember all their names and stuff.
AIT: That must be kind of hard, to have everybody being new.
AIT: How is it different from your other school that you went to in Algiers?
KIMBERLEY: Well, we wore uniforms. We took the LEAP. They don't take the LEAP.
AIT: That's a standardized test?
AIT: I think you might have to take something called the TAKS a little later in the year.
KIMBERLEY: We marched in a parade. We had a lot of dances. We had half-a-days. They don't have no half-a-days. That's the difference.
AIT: That makes sense. Do you like your teachers at your new school?
KIMBERLEY: Yeah, they're nice.
AIT: What's your favorite subject?
KIMBERLEY: Well, language arts.
AIT: Oh, okay. You like reading?
AIT: So, do you feel like talking about how you got here to Austin?
AIT: When did you guys first hear and think that something might be happening?
KIMBERLEY: When everybody was leaving, but my Momma said, since it didn't come last year, she thought it wasn't going to come this year, so we didn't go nowhere. So it stormed, it was raining and all that. Our doors were blowing open, windows was breaking, so she said it was time to go. So the next day, everybody was like stealing school buses, just taking their families.
AIT: Stealing school buses?
KIMBERLEY: Yeah. School buses.
AIT: How did they get them, do you know?
KIMBERLEY: They were going in the yard, going in the school bus yard and just taking all the buses.
AIT: So were they like popping out the window and hot-wiring the bus?
KIMBERLEY: They was leaving the keys, the keys was already on the bus. The drivers leave the keys on the bus when they finish with their shift, so everybody was going in the yards and just taking buses. They were taking their families and leaving. But it was not just a family thing because they had so many people leaving where we stayed. They were taking like families at a time.
AIT: Were you staying in an apartment building or a house?
KIMBERLEY: Apartment building.
AIT: Okay. So a whole lot of people were going.
KIMBERLEY: Yeah, they were stealing cars, like school buses. People were stealing ships, everything...
KIMBERLEY: Because the water was so high. Because my sister, she was at the Lafitte--
AIT: Lafitte Parish?
KIMBERLEY: Yes, and the water was high, and she had to take her children and put them in a bucket.
AIT: Her children, she had to put them in a bucket?
KIMBERLEY: Yeah, she had to put them in a big, you know the kind of bucket you move in? She put them in there and they swim to the bridge, and the 18-wheeler gave them a ride on the bridge. From there, it took them thirteen more hours.
AIT: So this is your sister and her kids, your nieces and nephews.
KIMBERLEY: They're in Mississippi now.
AIT: Okay. Is your family all in different directions or most of you in the same town?
KIMBERLEY: The only person that's not with us is her. All of us are here.
AIT: So how did you and your people find the school bus to get on? And do you know how long you had spent waiting in Algiers before you decided to hop on a school bus?
KIMBERLEY: We waited awhile, we waited until they came. Like the day the storm really, really came, that's the day we left. We left like that evening. Everybody had, a lot of people wanted to take a lot of school buses, but everybody went on the school buses, everybody, because they had no gas stations open, so they had to try to make it to where they was going in order for them to get gas. All the buses were going to stick together...
KIMBERLEY: But instead, some people were just taking their families and leaving. So my brother and his friends, they went and got the bus. One of the buses, they got into a police chase.
AIT: Oh, no. The police were trying to stop them from taking the bus?
KIMBERLEY: Yeah, so they tried to stop them, so he jumped out and got away. I don't know whether the police are just saying, 'We're okay, it don't matter.' Everybody was like it don't matter, just take the bus and just leave, just get out. So everybody just take their bus, everybody left. All the buses were sticking together. All the buses had already left first, because we were waiting on so many people, we didn't want to leave nobody. They had people from off the bridge, walking to where was walking, walking to the project, because they was walking off the bridge. They'd been walking for like three days.
KIMBERLEY: All them on the bus...
AIT: It was Crescent City Connection?
KIMBERLEY: Yes. We were letting all them on the bus with us. So all them got on the bus we were riding. We were running out of gas, but we were still riding. There were two of us, because all the rest of the buses had left first, so there was only two buses that stuck together. So we were riding, and the bus, it was running out of gas.
AIT: Were you riding on the highway?
KIMBERLEY: Yeah, but we had made it to like Baton Rouge before running out of gas. We was running out of gas, but my brother didn't want to stop.
AIT: Was he driving?
KIMBERLEY: No, his friend was driving.
AIT: How did you feel for his friend?
KIMBERLEY: Waitbefore we made it to Baton Rouge and all that, the bus was running out of gas, so everybody had to pile up on one bus. There was a lot a people on the bus. So this one man, he from Crescent City Connection, he walked, he didn't want to leave. He didn't want to leave off the bus, and the bus was still in New Orleans. He didn't want to leave, he stayed on the bus. He said, 'No, I want to stay.' So we left him on the bus, and everybody leave--
AIT: And left the bus in New Orleans?
KIMBERLEY: Yeah, and with the man still on there. We was in the middle of nowhere. He said he didn't want to go, so we left him on the bus.
AIT: How did you feel?
KIMBERLEY: I felt sorry for him. I wanted him to come. So everybody got on the other bus and everybody was riding on the two buses, we made it to Baton Rouge. The bus was like rocking, but we still didn't see no gas stations.
AIT: It was rocking, how?
AIT: Because of having no gas?
KIMBERLEY: No, it was rocking because the tire was weak.
AIT: Oh, no!
KIMBERLEY: The tire had already gone out when we were putting it on, but it was already gone, we were just riding on a flat tire. So the tire had came off while we was on the highway.
KIMBERLEY: But my brother was determined not to stop until we make it to where we was. And we had fifty-two people on the bus and they were shaking. So, we were still riding. He was like, 'Well, why don't you all just pray?' We were still riding on the bus and he refused to stop. So another tire came off.
AIT: Oh, my goodness.
KIMBERLEY: He's still riding. So there was this lady, she was like flagging our bus down, saying, 'Stop, stop stop!', but my brother, he was like, 'Man, go ahead, get from the bus, we aren't going nowhere.' So she's still riding on the side of the bus, saying like 'Stop.' So we went to turn, and she curved in front of us so we had to stop. So we stopped, and she was like, 'Do you all need any help?' Both our tires were gone, we had no food, no water. We had newborn babies on the bus, and we had like no clothes with us and like that. The lady had called, she got us a lot of help. The people there brought clothes. They brought food, water, stuff for us to drink, stuff for the babies.
KIMBERLEY: And the lady was crying and she had got a lot of people out there to help us. She took us to our first shelter. She was about to take us out to eat, but my brother said, 'We don't have no time to eat because we have to get to where we was going.' So he had let us go out to eat. She said, 'At least let me take you out to a shelter for tonight, just for tonight.'
AIT: Where were you about, do you know?
KIMBERLEY: In New Iberia. So they was quiet because they didn't want us leave. They had given us food and water and all that.
AIT: How did that feel to find those people?
KIMBERLEY: It was a lifesaver, because I don't know what would have happened to us, we would have been riding without those tires. They fixed our tires, gave us fifty dollars worth of gas, took us to our first shelter. So then we stayed in that shelter for that night. And then we left.
AIT: In the morning?
KIMBERLEY: That evening.
AIT: So you stayed in the shelter for the night?
KIMBERLEY: New Iberia, yes.
AIT: And then in the morning, you woke up and what happened?
KIMBERLEY: We ate. Everybody was just gathering all their stuff. We ate. In the morning, we had doughnuts...they was really nice in New Iberia, but it was cold. They had gas. They had the park outside for the children, you could play cards, you could play pool, ping pong, anything you wanted. They had it nice up in there for us. There was a lot of people in there, so they had to move some of the people out, because some of the people was going to another shelter. So like that evening, my brother said, 'Pack up all your stuff. It's time for us to go.' So we packed up all our stuff, loaded it on the bus, and people had took us to another shelter in New Iberia -- I don't know the name of it -- and we slept there. It was real nasty up in there. They had no food, we had to buy all the food, because the people had gave us money. We brought our own food or whatever, and we kept our blankets and all that. We left there in the morning and we made it to Texas. We stopped at a gas station and this lady had helped us. First, the bus they won't start, and the man came helped us, he started the bus up and this lady helped us. She was like, 'I have a shelter.' I don't know the name of it, though, it was like, 'I have a shelter.' My brother was like, 'You could take us there.'
AIT: This was in Texas, right over the border?
KIMBERLEY: So she took us there, we ate. But we didn't sleep there because it wasn't like a sleeping shelter, it was just to help you. We ate, gave us clothes, shoes, and all that.
AIT: Are these the clothes you're wearing?
KIMBERLEY: No, these are clothes I'm bringing. So they took us to eat at the shelter...they had Popeye's, Sara Lee, Chan's, all kinds of stuff. They were giving us a lot of stuff. We left that shelter, and we was riding and riding and riding. So we had made it to the Reliance Center, but we didn't know exactly where it was. We were just looking for the Reliance Center, so we had to stop and we had to ask somebody where the Reliance Center was. They told us, so our bus driver, my brother's friend, he was leaving. He had to leave because some people were going to pick him up. So he left.
AIT: Did somebody take over driving the bus?
KIMBERLEY: Yes. This lady named Cookie.
AIT: Had she ever driven a bus before?
KIMBERLEY: Unh-uh. But nobody else wanted to get behind the wheel. Nobody else there liked it. She didn't either. She was the oldest so they let her drive. So the police saw this New Orleans Parish school bus and they was like, they saw it, and they had ____(unintelligible) stopped. And they was talking to everybody else. They followed us, they took us to a place by the Reliance Center. It wasn't the Reliance Center. They took us in a big parking lot and the people searched the bus.
AIT: The police did?
KIMBERLEY: Yeah. It was like the Army. They searched the bus, went through everybody's bags, everybody's clothes. Then they give us cool water, medical help and all that.
AIT: Did you feel like they were kind and respectful to you?
KIMBERLEY: Giving us medical help and all that. They gave us food and they was shipping us to another shelter. So this was going to be like our fourth shelter in one week. They took our bus.
AIT: Oh, no.
KIMBERLEY: Yeah, they took the bus.
AIT: How did that feel?
KIMBERLEY: Well, we knew they were going to take it anyway. I don't know. It really wasn't up to me. They took our bus. I was with my brother because my Momma wasn't with us. She said she didn't want to come. If she was going to die, she was going to die in New Orleans. But they had took our bus, gave us food, water and all that. Everybody was loading all their stuff up. There was fifty-two people on the bus. Everybody had to load their stuff on another bus. We went to loading our stuff. They were saying that they weren't going to split us up.
AIT: Fifty-two people. You were close?
KIMBERLEY: Yeah, we were family. Everybody was family, but they split us up anyway. The buses went different directions, like mothers were on one bus and the children was on another bus. They split them up. I don't know what was wrong with the bus. So they had some people at the Center and some people at the Reliance Center, and we didn't want to go anywhere without our families, so everybody was outside.
AIT: What town was this at?
KIMBERLEY: This was in Texas, at the Reliance Center, but they're right along side each other. So we won't go in, so my brother made me go in. He was like, 'Come on, you all. They have beds and all.' At the Center, I didn't like it. They had too many people and then they said that they had people getting raped in there, you know.
AIT: Oh, no. Was this in Houston?
KIMBERLEY: Yes. They said they had people getting raped in there and everything. My brother was like don't go nowhere without him. So we slept there but my brother said we wasn't staying there no more. So we left. Everybody met up, we left.
AIT: All you people met up?
KIMBERLEY: No. Some people left and we met up with the closest, closest family. And everybody left. Hey, Jeremy Johnson. So everybody left and that's how they got together when we met up with my Momma because the police had came, took my Momma out the project and brought them here, because they said it was mandatory that they leave. So they brought them here. They said it was mandatory because they couldn't stay well. They could have stayed, they could have stayed, but if they wanted to stay, they had to, they were going to take them against their will. But everybody came, and we met. The Red Cross had helped us find my Momma and that's how we met up with them here.
AIT: What time did you finally got your Momma?
KIMBERLEY: Like a week, probably four days, a week.
AIT: You were with your brother?
KIMBERLEY: Yeah, I was with my big brother.
AIT: Is your brother here?
KIMBERLEY: Yeah, he here. But he at the hotel right now.
AIT: Okay, so you guys got a hotel.
KIMBERLEY: Yeah, we got a hotel.
AIT: Do you know where you're going to be living in Austin?
KIMBERLEY: I know we're moving into an apartment but I just don't know what's the name or--
AIT: Can you describe it for me?
KIMBERLEY: It's got cliffs, it's got water. It's around a lot of houses, a lot of houses. A big cliff you go up. They got a pool for swimming. The people was like giving them furniture and everything to help furnish the house.
AIT: So how do you feel now? How is your heart and your spirit?
KIMBERLEY: I feel good as long as I found my Momma.
KIMBERLEY: I'm all right.
AIT: Were you really worried when you didn't have your Momma for the week?
KIMBERLEY: Yeah, everybody was crying. But we're going to be all right.
AIT: How did you keep yourself positive?
KIMBERLEY: My brother. As long as I had him, I knew he was going to find my Momma. Long as me and my brother wasn't split up, because he wasn't going nowhere without us and we wasn't going nowhere without him. He was like the leader of the bus. He was the leader.
AIT: That must have made you feel--
KIMBERLEY: He kept the whole group together.
AIT: How does that make you feel about him?
KIMBERLEY: It made me look up to him.
AIT: Sounds like a good brother.
KIMBERLEY: Yeah, he is.
AIT: What's his name?
KIMBERLEY: Dan Martin.
AIT: Dan Martin. Is there anything else you'd like to tell to other kids your age, maybe, to help them understand what kind of experiences you went through?
KIMBERLEY: Oh, no. I never think nothing like this would happen to me. This is something like happen in a movie, but not to me. I never thought of we would have to move, end up in Texas. I wanted to travel, but not like this.
AIT: How can we make you feel welcome here in Texas?
KIMBERLEY: I already feel welcome.
KIMBERLEY: You've done enough.
AIT: Okay. Is there anything else you need?
KIMBERLEY: No. We've got everything we need and everybody...
AIT: That's wonderful. I want to thank you, Kimberley, for giving me your story. It's a pretty amazing story. I'm really glad you got on that school bus and I'm glad that you had such a strong brother to take you all the way here and keep it together. I think you guys are a miracle. I'm happy you're here. Anything else you want to say, or are you finished?
KIMBERLEY: I think I'm just about finished.