Revolution #57, August 20, 2006
Katrina Survivors Testify:
"Bush is a liar! They did not help us."
The following are excerpts from interviews done in Houston, Austin, and Baton Rouge by a Revolution correspondent in Fall 2005. They were submitted to the Bush Crimes Commission hearings in New York City in October. (The names of people have been changed.)
No Room on the Helicopter
Ronald, interviewed in Austin, Texas:
“The storm, it was rough. I stayed on top of the overpass for a whole week. We had to break into stores for food and water, but the government and the mayor just let everybody down. Like we had to wait until three days later to be rescued. And then when we finally did get rescued, my wife, unfortunately she fell from the helicopter, about 60, 80 feet and landed on the bridge and it took 30 minutes for the Coast Guard to come in and pick her up, and the guy wouldn’t ask her name or wouldn’t take identification for her. They told me they didn’t have any more room on the helicopter so I could go with her. And they just took off and I haven’t seen or heard from my wife ever since September the 1st.
“I talked to the Red Cross. The Red Cross told me they didn’t have no information, but they still looking. I talk to her family just about every day and they hoping and praying that we find her. I don’t know if she’s alive or dead. Nobody’s not saying nothing if they know.”
Drowning in Prison
Lester (who was in Orleans Parish Prison when Katrina hit), interviewed in Houston:
“Some deputies cursed the inmates out, saying ‘I’m gonna save myself.’ The water was damn near taller than me. When we got out, we’d see dead bodies floating. People were shot, deputies were shooting people. I don’t know what was going on. I guess they tried to escape or something. I don’t really know. But I know I saw a couple of people shot. And I walked across a couple of dead bodies.
“I saw six bodies. Can’t nobody tell me nothing, I know what I saw, I saw six bodies floating up and I stepped on one. I didn’t know what it was. I put my hand down and was like, ‘Aw, Man’. They came and got our dorm and let everybody out. They just said don’t bring anything. Soon as we went downstairs, the water was high, high, high! We can’t see nothing. It’s dark. The water smelled like gasoline, diesel, whatever it was.
“The prisoners who couldn’t swim, I’ll be honest with you, they was drowning. I done saw the people [gesturing with his arms, like someone trying to stay afloat]. And the deputies, some of the deputies helped them but the rest of the deputies was looking at them like, ‘ehh’ [gesturing as if to say, ‘to hell with them’]. They were like, ‘I got a family, let ‘em drown, probably be his time.’
“Yeah, they left people in the cell, they left people in the holding tank. People drowned in there. And then they try to get ya at the last minute. They drowned. Didn’t make sense. If you got the water up to here [puts his hand over his head] you gotta try to and get the people. They drowned. But you know… There be a lot of lies. I know what I saw.
“And we didn’t eat in three days. When Katrina hit, we didn’t eat… All they was bringing us was, like for 40 people, all they bring us is three loaves of bread. And expect us to get 40 people fed. They filled our garbage cans with water, so we’d have something to drink. Walking through that water, now they say fungus growing out of my skin. It itches and when it itches it turns into scabs. It’s just all over my legs. Everywhere. And all on the back of my legs. That’s how they treated us. All we wanted was just to be safe. They knew Hurricane Katrina was coming. They could have evacuated us a little quicker probably. And actually I wouldn’t even have all this on my legs, going through all I’m going through right now. What I went through it could leave you physically, mentally, emotionally, scarred, you know?”
“We had to Come Together”
Roberta, 3rd ward New Orleans resident, interviewed in Houston:
“They didn’t warm us about going, no they did not. They was making us—’if you’re not getting on the bus we’re taking you to jail.’ TO JAIL, lord, here’s my hand to God, I’m not lyin’ to you. We either had to get on the bus or go to jail. Yes, that’s what they told us.
“It was just the Black people had to help the Black people. We had to come together. You know whereas we used to beef with each other, everybody just had to come together to help each other… I was sitting on the curb wondering about what I’m gonna do, how I’m gonna do things. We had to get away from there. They kept on asking us in 7th ward to get on the bus, or they was gonna take us to jail. Now in the 3rd ward the water was high as the devil and they didn’t have any Coast Guards over there. But in 7th ward they did. So this guy, Brian, I asked him, ‘do you wanna help?’ And he said, ‘I come all the way from Oklahoma.’ So we went to Kenner where people still had electricity. And we went over there to get ice to bring to Orleans Parish to the folks that hadn’t left yet, to get them ice, it was so hot. And they didn’t have food, no water, nothing. Senior citizens like me, you know, were just stuck—old people sitting on the porch wondering what they goin’ to do, where they goin’ to go.
“So Brian and I went to Kenner and we must have made at least about maybe 30 trips, backwards and forwards, bringing people ice, and water, and food. But why should we have to go to Kenner? To get ice and water—and that was the only thing they was letting us in Kenner to get, ice and water. If the Coast Guard felt you was going over there to stay in anybody’s house they was turning you around. And how I come to get over there with Brian was cuz Brian was a white man and I’m Black. He did ask me to get in front of the truck but I felt like I could do the work cuz he had the gas in the truck, so I stayed in the back. That’s the reason I was able to go so many times back and forth to Jefferson Parish. But if you just wanted to take your vehicle and just go to Jefferson Parish, no, you couldn’t…
“The police, nobody, nobody came. New Orleans police cars: you see them every now and then. And when you see them you know how you see them? Harassing you: ‘Where do you live? Where you supposed to be?’ As I was walking back to the 7th ward from 3rd ward, I was seeing all these dead bodies—people that was trying to make it from the water, trying to get away from the water… They had so many dead bodies on Claiborne, you know, folks was laying down and it looked like these people was just resting. And one lady, I was running to help her and a friend of mine was like, ‘she’s dead,’ and I couldn’t believe the lady was dead. I had never seen this many dead people laying in the street. They was just laying there.”
Homeless in the Blink of an Eye
Marlene, who lives in Houston and took 48 people into her home:
“Many family members, friends, even some that I personally do not know ended up at my doorstep. To see the hurt, stress, and depression on their faces is heartbreaking. It became impossible for me to turn them away. My partially paralyzed sister, scared, crying, and children, mother, father, unable to make things right for their families. In the blink of an eye they all had become homeless. Knowing this could easily have been me and my family, I did for them what I would have wanted done for me. It is hard to understand what losing everything does to a person. Not to mention losing a loved one…
“I called FEMA and I was telling them that I was housing (48 people), and they told me to put them out. Just told me to kick em out. I said, ‘ma’am can I get your name and speak to your supervisor?’ and she hung up on me. She told me to put them out… The mosque across the street has been assisting me, and some of my neighbors and friends been bringing food by helping me to feed some of them. Because when they first came here they had nothing, no money, no anything, not nothing. They just came with the clothes on their back.”
Bush the Liar
Annette, from New Orleans East, interviewed in Houston. (Annette testified in the first hearing of the Bush Crimes Commission):
“Me and my sister had met an old lady, she looked to be about 80 something years old. Sitting in a wheelchair under an abandoned gas station. Her aunt sitting on the side of her on one of them fold out chairs and her son… She didn’t want them to be separated from each other. The people said they had slept out there all night. Fire department right across the street!! You think they would have helped them. New Orleans police riding up and down the street. Think they would have helped them. No they did not.
“But when me and my sister passed by they asked if we had anything to eat. Okay, we had some canned goods in the back of the car… We opened the canned goods and gave them to the people, they were so thankful, so grateful. The lady started crying. They were white. And the lady started crying. They was trying to get help, and the people that was supposed to help wouldn’t help. She said god bless us, for just coming by and giving them something to eat.
“The police, well they don’t want to help us. But the ones that was going in the stores to get something to eat to survive, they’d hold them down with a gun and beat them or whatever, saying they will take them to jail!! Okay, but I believe that some of these people never took nothing in all their lives. But they was there trying to survive…
“I was there, I saw it, I went through all of that. And I saw a lot of things. The babies dying, young people dying. You know what they do when they die. All they do is take a little sheet or a jacket some people had and just put it over their face. So many died. People just floating in water, just dead. Bush claims he sent army trucks and other people to help us but I was there! Through everything. And I saw everything, the majority of everything and Bush is a liar!! They did not help us. I believe they came down to destroy us. Because the Army peoples drove straight on past us. Just drove on past us…
“Bush didn’t send no one down there to help us. Bush is a liar. Bush is a liar. See, Bush was somewhere safe so he really wasn’t worried about us. See, him and his family was safe. They was alright. See, we was the ones down there hurting, floating in all that polluted water, and getting sick with all these diseases and everything. He didn’t send nobody down there to help us. Bush wanted us to hurt and suffer. That’s what I believe he did.”
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