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narrow escape from martial law
by claudia Friday, Sep. 02, 2005 at 12:27 PM
buzzclown@hotmail.com (email address validated)

A true story about last minute escape from flooded city of new orleans from a friend via email

Trapped in the city.
Sorry for the mass e-mail, it is the only way to
get word to you all. We are safe in Baton Rouge.
We got through the hurricane just fine where we
were, in the French Quarter. (The Quarter and
Marigny are dry, with mostly intact houses, just
a lot of cosmetic damage and tree limbs.)

We were going to stay, and feel terrible about
leaving, since we can help by being a community
and helping out in small ways, but they cut off
the tap water (so we can't even boil the tap
water) and we only have a 5 day supply of bottled
water, and the National Guard is not letting
anyone in to help. Getting out is not at all
easy. Here is the story of how we escaped.

I'll write you another one about the hurricane
itself (a lot of fun, for us) and the immediate
aftermath, which was characterized by our
wonderful commmunity uniting and helping
eachother out.
The truly terrible part of thisdisaster is the government response. They are
not letting people with supplies in to help.
They have cut off our water. They are
ineffectual and incompetent. You will read below
that they are stealing private buses people hire
to evacuate in, yet they do not send their own
buses. It is sinister and dangerous and
desperate. People here in Baton Rouge have
amassed supplies and can get people out, but the
National Guard is not letting them in. Please
call on the government in any way you can to
allow private people to go in an deliver
supplies.

-Claudia

Our Escape from New Orleans

Wednesday:

They have shut off the tap water. They want to
stem disease from drinking contaminated water,
but at least if they gave us contaminated water,
we could boil it. I feel panic welling up- why
didn’t I fill up more jugs when we had tap water?
Since the water has been on a few days, we have
grown complacent. We have been taking showers,
so the bathtub is empty. I feel so stupid.

Also, we sense that the situation in the streets
has deteriorated. Fewer and fewer of our
bohemian friends, and people in general, are
left. Sinister young men walk down these mostly
deserted streets. There is an ominous sense of
abandonment.

We decide we must get out, and try to contact
everyone we know who owns a car, by telephone and
walking. No one with a car is left in the city.
We decide at least to relocate to Jimmy’s
apartment, which is more secure. We then see
our new friends/neighbors, Niko, Melissa, and
Rarig. They propose bicycling out of the city to
Baton Rouge. It seems a ludicrous idea at first,
but on second thought, sounds feasible. The
distance is 80 miles, and if we bring a very
large amount of water, we could leave early in
the morning and arrive in Baton Rouge by
nightfall. We plan to meet at Molly’s at 7am the
next morning to depart, a bicycle tribe.

Back at Jimmy’s, we tell him of our intentions,
and he says he has heard of buses departing from
major hotels. Jose and Jimmy set off in search
of these chartered buses, and find that the Hotel
Monteleone has chartered a fleet of 10 buses with
state trooper escort to come in and evacuate
their guests to Houston. There are 200 extra
seats that they are selling to residents at $45 a
seat (at cost). Jose on his way to pick up his
forgotten green card and passport passes Niko,
Melissa, and Rarig. He tells them about the
buses and to get down there. Back at his
apartment, Jimmy packs up in 15 minutes, taking
mostly gold. They get in line. I’m completely
tense. Then, victory! They have gotten tickets.
Everyone is happy. I’m relieved, but still
tense. I won’t be able to relax until we are
physically on the bus. The buses are scheduled to
arrive at 6:30pm. Teddy, Jimmy’s neighbor who
decided to stay, will securely bar the front door
to their building from the inside at 8pm. At
that point, we won’t be able to get back in.

Waiting. 6:30pm comes and goes. 7:30pm… 8:30pm…
9:30pm … waiting for the fleet of 10 buses. It’s
getting dark, and scary. We have police with
double barrel shotguns to guard us, and protect
against a rush on the buses, but there are only
four of them. The French Quarter is ominous at
night; terrifying if away from the police escort
with their double barrel shotguns. At this
point, a cheer goes up, but instead of a fleet of
ten chartered buses, a single Jefferson Parish
school bus shows up. The driver gets out & talks
with the hotel organizer. Jose hovers around
nearby, discreetly listening. The buses have
been commandeered by the police- the Monteleone
paid for them, but they have been stolen by the
state. (The state says they need them to
evacuate the sick and elderly, but why can’t the
state get ahold of its own buses??? They should
have a fleet of 100 buses taking people out, and
should have had that fleet by Monday night, but
instead they do nothing until a private party
takes action to help itself, and then they steal
the buses.) The hotel manager is livid & angrily
but quietly decides to try to “negotiate” with
the state. He is not letting on to the guests
that the buses have been confiscated- no one
knows except those like Jose that are discreetly
but actively gathering information. Allan
Toussaint and his wife coolly gather their bags
and get on the school bus.

Jose speaks to the bus driver. For $50 cash
each, he will take us to Baton Rouge. I have
$61, Jose has $14, Kip (Jimmy’s neighbor, a
transplant patient who needs regular dialysis and
is already overdue) has $20, and Jimmy has $50.
I ask desperately and ridiculously if they take
credit cards or checks. Of course they don’t,
and in fact they say that no one in the state is
taking credit cards, because of all the
possibility of theft. Jose turns to me and says
“baby, if you want to take this bus… good luck to
you” and I turn back “I won’t leave without you.”
It’s as simple as that. Then, I beg. I plead
with the bus driver to take us- that our friend
needs dialysis and that this is all the cash we
have. I explain that we’ve already given $45 for
the Monteleone ticket. He agrees to take what
we have and we scramble on board. I love the
feel of sitting on the hard metal floor of the
stripped out bus. But I’m not relaxed yet. This
bus, too, could be confiscated. (The police have
tried twice to confiscate his bus, but he managed
to escape.) I hold my knees close, and pray
that we make it to Baton Rouge. The bus creeps
along, silently taking back-streets out of New
Orleans, over the Crescent City Connection
(slight release of tension- we’re officially out
of the city) and out, through back roads, looping
towards Donaldsville then over the Sunshine
Bridge and then finally onto the I-10 just before
Baton Rouge. At the city, I can hardly believe
the familiar yet strange sight of lighted signs
and streetlights. It has been pitch black in New
Orleans since Sunday night. You can see the
stars in the sky.

We are dropped off at the airport. I ask the bus
driver for his address, so I can send him the
difference. He declines (of course; this is
obviously a pirated bus), and I thank him
profusely. He will return to New Orleans
throughout the night to rescue people wanting to
escape.

Finally believing that we have really escaped, I
can sigh in exhausted relief. The airport, full
of refugees sleeping on the floor, is a wonderful
place. We plug in our cell phones, and call
Andre & Laura. They are there in minutes with
their car to pick us up. Their house is
luxurious, and Andre even cooks up some eggs and
toast, with sliced tomatoes, for us. It is like
heaven to be here, truly heavenly.

As the stories come spilling out of us, my
happiness is marred only by a terrible sense of
sadness for the others left behind, in the terror
of a city steadily evacuated by bohemians and
working class people and taken over by criminals
and soldiers. The worst are the people still on
their roofs, sitting there without food or water
for days on end, or drowning. Also, the animals.
Our neighbors, in a move of supremely cruel
irresponsibility, left their dog in their
apartment, locked in there. They told us nothing
when they evacuated, did not give us a key, and
we had no way of getting in. We heard the dog
desperately scratching against the wall on
Tuesday night, but were afraid to go outside to
do anything about it. Wednesday, we heard no
more sound from him. I feel incredibly guilty
for not breaking a barred window to at least give
him a chance to get out, in case he was still
alive. I only hope that perhaps they left a long
term supply of food and water, and that he is
alive and only quiet, and will survive until they
get back. I wish that I could go back, in an
official vehicle loaded with water and supplies,
to just drop off supplies and pick up people,
taking them back and forth to Baton Rouge. But
they are letting no one in to help. People
outside the city want desperately to come in and
rescue their friends and family members, and I’m
sure many are willing to drive in supplies. If
the government were competent to take care of the
situation, then they could indeed take over. But
they are NOT. (It is just one example that they
can’t get their shit together to get their own
buses, just confiscating the buses of those who
are more competent than they.) They NEED to LET
PEOPLE BACK IN so they can help the residents
trapped in the city.

Dr. Claudia Copeland, Ph.D.


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