Alive In Truth Oral History: Joyce W.
Alive In Truth Oral History: Joyce W.

PHOTOS

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Joyce W., Milan Street

September 9, 2005

My name is Joyce W and I lived at __ Milan Street. Right now I'm in Austin Conventional Center. We were shipped here by airplane. My story in the beginning was when the hurricane hit and they was askin' everybody to get out. What they don't realize is that you had a lot of below-poverty people living in the city, and they didn't have the means to really get out.

So we decided to stay. I got home from church that Sunday evening, and I met my brother going down, walking down the street, and I told him, when the hurricane, when the winds start picking up you better come on down by me. He managed to go to another friend's house during that hurricane. But my experience with that hurricane is something I'll never, ever forget. I lived through Betsey, and Betsey was nothing compared to this storm that just passed. I had slates that was used as weapons from the neighbors house, they were flying through the window like boomerangs. They were going at such a high rate of speed with that high wind till it not only took my window out, it took the whole casing out. And we lived through that.

Then, when we thought that everything was calmed down, it looked like those winds just would not ... they looked like they'd last forever. And when we thought that everything was fine, we came on downstairs again, after I had taken a bath and looked around. Then all of a sudden during the day the water started rising to the first step. I live upstairs. The water kept rising, and my brother and I, so silly thinking that they gonna pump the water out. And we waited and waited, and I mean that water just was rising from one step to another. And we finally - it started really getting on our nerves, when that water was really getting high, then we decide we really gonna get out.

Then when we started making our way out the fence where we live, that water was so high, we saw we could make it to Napolean Avenue to St. Charles where it was dry. I nearly drowned. And, uh, my brother was walkin' behind me and they had some kids up on their porch on the opposite side of the street, and they say, "Oh, y'all, you not gonna make it! That water's high, and you better watch them wires, them live wires." So we just kept on walking easy. And the current of that water just cut my legs from up under me, and my brother grabbed my t-shirt, and I told him, I said, "I'm not gonna make it!" And he says, "Sis, you got to make it," and he held me by my t-shirt, and I point my toes to the water, and we eased on back upstairs. After we eased back upstairs, we were livin' like on one-fourth -- we had make the water that we had in the house stretch, so we were livin' like on a fourth of a glass of water, because we had to try to stretch it.

Man, we had people was passing by that street with such high water ... this boat was so big it looked like a yacht. And we begged and pleaded with these people, say "Can you just take us to something dry?" And they say, "Well, everything is wet," and they kept going. The next person came by, he had two little dogs on the boat and he had a motor on his boat. And I said, "Sir, if you just take us to St. Charles Avenue, I'll pay you, I'll do anything, I'll pay you." And he told me, "Sorry, ma'am." So, finally they had this little young guy, he had borrowed a boat, because we had some goodwill ambassadors they was going from Napoleon-St. Charles through each neighborhood trying to rescue people.

What made it hard for my brother and I, the apartment that we stayed in, it was in the back, and nobody could hardly see us. They could see us on the back street, but they couldn't see us on the front street and we were just hollerin' and hollerin'. And the young man told my brother, he said, "Bro, I'm going to pick up my family but I'll come back for y'all." Then they picked up this old lady, after the young guy took his family away, they pick up this old lady in a wheelchair, she was real heavy. And I told my brother, I said, "This is it, I said, nobody's not gonna come."

He said, "Sis, he promised us he was gonna come back." So finally when I seen him go down past us, I just put my hands up in the air, I said Lord, help, I said, because he's not coming back. And my brother kept telling me, "Sis, he's gonna come back," and I just started hollerin' help. And the little guy turned that boat back around and they say you and your brother can get in with me and this lady. So those young guys was real tall, and the water was up to they chests, and they was pulling that boat, one was on there paddling, and they got us to safety.

Then we went out to this little overpass they had, and the Army was coming in giving us Army rations. And it took four days out in that hot sun for them. Every bus that passed by, you see as they was rescuing people, the people that was just comin' in to this little camp-style thing they had put us in, they were jumpin' on the bus, and you out there for four days and they just comin' in- -- you know people, I guess, you know, they get excited and they just wanna get out, you now, like anything else.

And finally, we got to the Convention Center. No, we got to the airport. And from the airport they brought us here to the Convention Center in Austin. And the hospitality here has been beautiful. They have treated us with kindness, open arms, and I'm truly grateful.

If it hadn't have been for the Lord on our side, I know we wouldn't have made it out of there. It brings tears to my eyes, but I know the God that I serve is able. You know I served the Lord with such vigor and vim for thirty years, I knew it was nothing but him. You see, he'll never fail you! When all hope is gone, God is there. It's kind of like a little nerve-wracking trying to find some place to go, and I'm a couple of years from retiring, and you get kinda anxious about how you gonna get back and get that done and over with. Like I told my brother, I wouldn't mind staying here, but I mean, it's a future here. And you got to think about these things when you talk about living in a different city and you don't have nothin'. So, that's my story.

I was born and raised in the city of New Orleans. I come from a family of 14 of us. And I met two of my sisters on our flight, and when we got to the airport, my brother and I were expecting to go on to Atlanta, with one of my sister's sons that lives in Atlanta, But you know just like anything else, you know a lot of people think that just because you have a big family, that they stick together and pull together. That's not always so. They acted so ugly with my brother and I that we had to part company. We had to part company. And my brother have a lot of medical issues and things and I promised I won't leave him, I'll stick with him and stay in here with him.. And I was separated from my sons and things, and I don't know where they are or anything like that, because it's just hard. It's just really, really hard, but -- that was our main goal. But do you know one thing I do know? That when you learn to trust and lean on Jesus, he'll point the directions for you. And I know I got to be patient and I have to wait, and that's what I intend on doing. You know, just like I act hastily by trying to get out in that water, I know I have to be patient, and he's gonna guide the way for me. I believe that. So that's it.