New Orleans

Escape from New Orleans

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

>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.

updated: 11 years ago