Survivor stories: "Fortunately, I had a gun"
A New Orleans resident since 1952, Sandra Carter never let a hurricane force her from her home. When Katrina hit, Carter, a widow and retired substitute teacher, figured she would be okay because her home in the city's Algiers neighborhood sits on a high spot. But three days after the storm rolled through, Carter--isolated, suffering from asthma attacks and increasingly alarmed by the sound of gunfire in the nearby streets--finally loaded up her cats and dogs and fled town. Reached by phone at her sister's home in Lafayette, Carter said she was fine, but anxious to return to her home which, she reports, appears to be relatively undamaged.
Saturday and Sunday I wasn't the least bit concerned. My area of town hasn't flooded for years. I didn't leave when most of my kids did. But by Sunday night it looked like the storm was getting bigger and bigger and bigger. So one of my daughters, her husband and kids and I went to the Algiers Methodist Church, which has several floors where we could stay dry if the water did come up.
I spent Sunday night, all day Monday and Monday night at the church. We all brought food in, so it was more like a campout than anything. We lost electricity since the middle of the night after a tree fell on the wires leading to the transformer and started a fire in the connection box. That was a bit of excitement--4 o'clock in the morning, having people running around the church, trying to put a fire out.
By Tuesday morning it looked like Algiers had made it through the storm. There were a lot of trees down, but there was no major flooding. The majority of the homes have minor to no damage.
I spent Tuesday night and Wednesday night at my house. By Wednesday morning, my asthma was acting up like crazy because there was no electricity and I'd been without air conditioning for three days. So I decided I better go ahead and leave until they got the power back on. I cooked up what I had in the refrigerator and took it to the local police station for the guys to eat. Then I packed up. I planned on leaving Thursday morning.
The phones went dead about 9 o'clock Wednesday night. I was in the house by myself, nobody else on the block. The dogs woke me up at about 3 o'clock in the morning and I saw that somebody was staring in my window at me. Fortunately, I had a gun. I put the gun in front of the flashlight and he ran away. After that, there was no question of me staying.
Thursday morning I loaded up the dogs and the cats and started driving to my sister's house in Lafayette. There were crowds of people on the 310 overpass, all trying to get cars to stop to give them rides. I was leery because there were so many people, so I just kept driving. Since I had my own automobile and a little bit of cash and a credit card, I was luckier than most of the people you saw on television. They didn't have the resources to get out.
I've lived in New Orleans since I was six. We've had hurricanes my entire life. And I never left before. Will I leave next time? Yes. Not because of the hurricane, but because of the aftermath. I only live three blocks from a grocery store that the looters went in and demolished. I heard a lot of gunfire, too.
I left because I didn't want to have a shoot out and I was tired of having an asthma attacks. Most of the older people that I know left before the storm. I've been reading Polimom.com--Polimom is a blogger and she has a forum for Algiers--and I've had contact with quite a few people who did stay and don't regret it. We never lost water in Algiers, so we had water and sewer the whole time. But there are a lot of people who won't leave no matter what. This is there home, this is their property and they don't trust the government to protect it. And after some of the things that went on, you can't blame them.