We are not refugees ... but, AMERICAN CITIZENS - by Robert Moore
When we went outside the police were there and they said we were in a state of martial law. They told us get on the buses and get out because nobody was coming here to save us. Robert Moore with his Mother, Ava Lee
On Sunday night as my mom slept I sat and watched the devastation that the hurricane caused we slept on the floor in the dining room under the table. I stayed up the whole night answering phone calls letting people know we were ok and communicating with my mother's friend Sharon and her daughter who were in Harvey in Jefferson Parish. As of Monday morning at around six thirty my mom woke up and the phones went out. We watched out the back door as the storm ripped the trees out of the ground knocked down some of the neighbor's shed's bricks into our back yard. We still figured that we were ok at that point so we were just watching out the windows as the wind did its damage. Then, as I went to my bedroom on the first floor I heard a light fixture collapse in the kitchen and we realized that was leaking. We put buckets to collect the water thinking that we were seeing the worst. Then I went up stairs and saw that the roof was leaking up there as well and all my law school books and clothes were getting wet so we moved some back downstairs and others to the hallway on the second floor. While we were doing that I heard a loud crash and went into John's room on the second floor and I could see outside through his roof. At that point I told my mother to leave everything and come downstairs so that the roof wouldn't cave in on us.
Of course I had to fight with her 'cuz she wanted to save everything that she could. So while we were downstairs leaks started to spring everywhere because the water was coming straight thru to the first floor at this point. We were sitting there at this point thinking that the house might fully collapse and we could see the roof to my aunts house which looked fine so we took the keys and went into her house. At this point I called the police and anybody else I could and told them our situation. They didn't have much sympathy as they felt that we were warned to evacuate. They told us that they wouldn't send their officers into harm's way. At this point my mom laid down on my aunts couch and took a nap and I stood and watched the telephone poles outside that were swaying towards the house. While my mom was sleeping the water started to raise outside, but we calculated the storm could only last so much longer and the water wasn't to the house yet so we would be safe. While my mom was asleep I watched the water raise outside. In about a half an hour the water got from the street to the front door of my aunt's house. I began to hear the water slowly trickle in the house and it wasn't long before it was at my ankles ans I woke my mom up and told her we needed to get out of this house because it was only one story. So we put some of my cousin and aunt's heavy clothes on and took what we still had in hand and went outside. When we got outside the water was higher -- it was almost to our knees. We began to walk to the corner thinking that maybe a boat would come pick us up. I didn't want to walk that far because I didn't know how deep the water would be at the corner and at that point we noticed that our neighbor was still in his house with his son, two daughters and two grand-babies. We knocked on that door and they let us climb in the window where the water hadn't gotten to yet. So for a few hours we stayed and waited as the hurricane passeed. They had a radio and so we just hung onto the daily updates. We sat there in the house talking, but after the hurricane ended we realized that the water was still rising. Thats when we heard the news about dead bodies floating in Eastover and that there was a breach in the levee and that's why the water was still rising. We stayed there for a few hours and we decided that we should go back to our house because the storm was over. We got to our house and our neighbors wouldn't come, they went up to their attic. So we went to our house, took what was still dry and salvageable from the first floor up to the second floor. Around six in the evening before it got dark we saw our neighbor across the street on the backside on top of his house. He said his wife and son were in the attic and he was trying to get his boat to start but he couldn't, so he somehow found help. He walked towards the sound of boats with his air horn and came back with the National Guard. When they came back I yelled to them and they said they saw us and they would be back for us. So we went inside, packed a bag and went downstairs in the water which was at our hips and waited for about two hours, but as it began to get dark we decided they probably weren't coming so we went back up stairs and dried off. We spent the night there, slept for a few hours and called to our neighbors to make sure they were fine.
At the first sign of light we could hear helicopters so I went out on the roof and we spent the majority of the morning on the roof waving at helicopters who were probably actually filming us as opposed to trying to save us (my neighbor actually talked about firing his gun at them to get their attention). We had light reflectors and everything shining at them, noisemakers, we heard other people firing guns off and what not. We saw a boat come down around our street and we called and they said they would come but never did. By that afternoon you began to hear people screaming and panicking from their attics and so one neighbor decided to walk and see where we could get too. He came back and told us that the water was still only about four feet and that we could walk to the highway. The only problem was that the radio was reporting that there was a shark spotted in the water in Jefferson Parish and there were a lot of snakes in the water in our neighborhood and we had two babies. As we began to plan to make our walk we heard another boat and we flagged them down. Before we packed everything and left me and my mom walked back to Iris' house and saved what we could of pictures and diplomas and files and put it up as high as possible. We walked back to our house took a few things and got in the boat. People in the boat were crying as we had to leave our houses. As we went down the street we could see a lot of people still standing by their houses with water up to their chest. We got up to Chef Highway right behind our house and somebody took us in a truck down Chef to Loew Express Bus Depot which the man who owned it had opened as a place for refugees from the neighborhood. We stayed there all day with the boats bringing back more and more people, and there were officers who had stayed and were in there with us, they cut the locks on stores around and got food out and we barbecued ate and what not. There was shrimp boiled crabs, red beans, hot sausage, and the like. A lot of people got really drunk and some started hitting on the women as well so you had to keep the women and children you knew close by as it got darker. While it was still light outside I took a jog outside because I had seen the Orleans Levee District Police riding up and down Chef highway. I got up to Chef and read and saw that they were set up there. I found out they had been stationed in a hotel during the hurricane and got stranded and had to be rescued. Now they had taken a hall and turned that into their station but they couldn't really use their radios so they were as stranded as we were. I told them that if they got desperate we had greyhound-size buses where we were. Some of the officers were going into the car lots trying to take cars but most of them didn't have gas and we really had nowhere to go because there was water on portions of the interstate. There were rescue missions still going on at this point and everyone was telling stories about people who had died in their houses that they had to leave behind or electrical fires that had left them in the street during the hurricane.
So as night fell some people went to sleep but most stayed awake, worried that the water was going to eventually rise up to Chef highway because it was rising on both sides of us, and there were rumors that they were going to flood certain areas to relieve the pressure on the levee. I took a nap for about an hour early that morning. When the sun started to rise people came running in saying that we needed to pack our bags because we were leaving on the buses and the police were here. When we went outside the police were there and they said we were in a state of martial law. They told us get on the buses and get out because nobody was coming here to save us. They moved through the place with heavy artillery starting every car that they could and then they left. We loaded up the buses, we got all the people that we could on, some people were walking up trying to get on put we couldn't take them all so a lot of people were standing outside crying, some people had to leave pets so they were crying and some people actually stayed behind with their animals, but we did make the trip with about five dogs. As we began to drive up Chef highway there were thousands of people on Chef highway and there were still more boats going into the neighborhood on rescue missions. There were people on Chef highway under picnic tents with barbecue grills, just living out there. We had to pass them all by. They waived at us, made all kinds of signs to us so that we wouldn't forget about them too. All together we had buses and one limo bus. We got on the interstate and we could see behind us going towards Morrison there was a portion covered in water and people were on the other side trying to get across it. We drove across past the Almonaster exit and what not. As we got to where the Lower Ninth Ward is, everything was covered in water, you could see just the roof of most of the houses. There were people boating to the interstate and getting on there and there looked like some military people there with them. As you got closer to the 6-10 split you could just see more and more people and everything in that area was under water. We actually had to drive through water when we got to the Lower Ninth Ward area. As we got towards uptown there were thousands of people on the interstate just waving at us, some looking confused as to how we go those buses. We drove past Canal and it was under water and stuff was just floating down Canal Street. When we got to St. Charles it was all dry but it is probably under water by now. We continued to drive and got towards Houma then Algiers and nobody would let us get gas because they were saving it for military vehicles.
We finally got us to Baton Rouge and we ended up at the ABC News studio. They wouldn't let us inside to use the bathrooms, phone, or phone books, but they tried to bring cameras out to get coverage and so people started cursing and yelling so they told us to go back to the bus. We got on the bus and it took us to the convention center, as we pulled up I saw a guy who I played in the band with in high school and he was volunteering there. After I got inside I walked around the place until I found him among the 16,000 people and he brought me and my mom up to his dorm which is where I am now. So there is my story. I know I've been blessed. I prayed a lot, and me and god discussed how this wasn't my time, I still got a lot of living left to do.
I was confident we would live I just didn't know how we were gonna get out of there but we made it and we are safe and sound we are waiting for adrian and john to come pick us up so we will call you all when we get the chance.
Ava with Rob and his brothers John and Michael, at a recent graduation at Morehouse College.