Thursday, September 01, 2005

Why so many stayed, and what they saw T-P Orleans Parish Breaking News Weblog

Detail that can't be obtained elsewhere:
..."The rescuers in the boats that picked us up had to push the bodies back with sticks," Phillips said sobbing. "And there was this little baby. She looked so perfect and so beautiful. I just wanted to scoop her up and breathe life back into her little lungs. She wasn’t bloated or anything, just perfect."

... Phillips’ downstairs neighbor, Terrilyn Foy, 41, and her 5-year-old son, Trevor, were unable to escape, Phillips said. By late Monday the surging waters of Lake Pontchartrain had swallowed the neighborhood. The water crept, then rushed, under the front door, Phillips said, then knocked it from its hinges. In less than 30 minutes, Phillips said, the water had topped her neighbors’ 12-foot ceiling and was gulping at hers.

"I can still hear them banging on the ceiling for help," Phillips said, shaking. "I heard them banging and banging, but the water kept rising." Then the pleas for help were silenced by the sway of the current, she said.

... For Phillips, evacuation seemed too costly. She and her family evacuated for Hurricane Dennis earlier in the summer. The few days in Houston cost her $1,200...

.. "I know this storm killed so many people," Phillips said. "There is no 9th Ward no more. No 8th or 7th ward or east New Orleans. All those people, all them black people, drowned."

.. Like so many other survivors, Phillips and family were picked from the flood and dropped off downtown, which was slogged with thigh-high waters, but had the Superdome and some hotels giving solace to refugees.

By early Tuesday evening, officials estimated that about 20,000 people were packed inside the Superdome. Most were hopeless, hungry and increasingly desperate, witnesses and officials agreed. Rumors of murder, rape and deplorable conditions were circulating.

"After all we had been through, those damn guards at the Dome treated us like criminals," Phillips said. "We went to that zoo and they gave us no respect."

The family slogged down Poydras Street to the Hyatt. The hotel didn’t have electricity or water, and nearly every glass window on the Poydras side had been blown out by the hurricane, but it was secure. Ranking officials from City Hall across the street had been evacuated there, including Mayor Ray Nagin and Police Chief Eddie Compass.Evacuation is impossibly costly for people with few resources. It is understandable why so many poor residents, virtually all black, decided to risk staying.

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