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KY_TOP's Diary of Katrina Part l


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While a refugee in New Orleans I took some random notes as events unfolded. I arrived in New Orleans on Thursday for a business conference. I am staying at the Renaissance Arts Hotel a few blocks from the Convention Center. Both Thursday and Friday there was little talk of the Hurricane and the attitute was no big deal.

 

My Diary and randon thoughts start:

 

Saturday August 27th:

 

I awaken and turn on the TV and the local news is now all abuzz about Hurricane Katrina. What happened overnight I wonder. It is supposed to hit Monday morning so I contact Delta Airlines about my 8:11 am flight out on SUNDAY morning. I am told I am ok and should have no problem. Around noon the Mayor is calling for a "voluntary evacuation" of New Orleans. A few hours later I have a note pushed under my door from the Hotel manager stating that guests should consider leaving and checking with their airlines. He said "Delta Airlines" had already canceled their flights. I immediately check my reservation online and find that they have canceled

my flight and put me on a flight out MONDAY morning during the Hurricane. How stupid I thought and why hadn't they contacted me on my cell? I call Delta and the guy puts me through to the Regional office. I want to know why they have me on a Monday flight, why don't they put me on a flight tonight, and why wasn't I contacted? I was informed that they had canceled all saturday evening flights also. I asked to be put on another airline and Delta refused. After contacting Delta I checked other airlines but they were full with passengers from Monday flight sthey were trying to get out. Note: American and US Air flew until 1pm SUNDAY. Southwest said they would fly as late as they could safely fly to get all their passengers out. I later heard that the last Southwest flight also took their employees out. I'm STRANDED. The Hotel said they would not close and they would do everything to provide for our safety. My room overlooks a courtyard covered by an atrium. I have no external glass windows and I feel fairly safe. I start receiving calls form family and a few friends that know where I am at.

 

After going thru the NYC blackout I learned I need to get a few food items and stockup on Water. I got 6 bottles of water from the Hotel and got some chips and snack items from a small market close by. After dark the night is very pleasant so I head out to dinner in the Quarter, nothing is closed. Bourbon street has about half it's normal crowd and there is much talk about Hurricane parties. Go by a couple of the Gay bars and they small crowds. Corner Pocket has half it's dancers and all the natives are laughing at all the brou-ha-ha. Saying they've been thru hurricanes before. I get back to the Hotel about 1am still cursing Delta Airlines.

 

Sunday August 28th (before the storm starts)

 

I awaken about 6:30am and immediately turn on the TV. The Mayor now says he will probably order a mandatory evacation but he was checking the legality of exempting Hospitals and tourist stuck in Hotels. At 8am I go outside and it is a beautiful day with a very light breeze. I note my flight should be leaving about now and again curse Delta. I get breakfast at the Hotel and as I return to my room the Mayor is now ordering the Mandatory Evacuation with the Hospital and Hotel exemption. The storm is due in less than 24 hours, seems abit late. I try to get to the small store again, it is closed and everyone is closing. A sense of panic now seems to overtake the city as I walk down Canal Street. At noon I get a call from the Manager stating that they were moving us to the Pier Marquette Renaissance Hotel and the move must be done by 2pm. I get to the Lobby at 1pm but step back and allow the others to go. Many are getting rides out of the city with other guests that have cars. I'm the last guest to leave and the Manager himself takes me in is personal car.

 

Now the story really begins. More later...

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Guest skywalker

How exasperating -and infuriating- it must have been not to have been able to fly out either Saturday evening or Sunday morning.

 

Thank you KY for sharing with all of us your story of what occurred.

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I believe it was last Wednesday that this was brought up during an interview on CNN with the governor. She was visibly angry and stated she was disappointed in those airlines that chose to cancel their flights on Saturday and Sunday. She said the airport was open, the weather clear, leaving the only reason to cancel financial, stranding their customers in New Orleans. She also stated she intends to look into the airlines behavior as soon as the crisis is over.

 

Barry

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Part ll, KY_TOP's Diary of Katrina

 

Sunday August 28 (The storm approaches):

 

As we travel to the new hotel the manager is explaining why we are moving and why they think it would be safer there. He explains they are consolidating the remaining staff, food, water, and other resources of the 2 hotels. With flooding possible, the hotel I was leaving had a 1st floor ballroom and the new one had a 2nd floor ballroom. We would be gathering there during the worst part of the storm and also meet and have meals there. There would be 3 buffet meals a day and the times would be given to us later. The Manager escorted me to the checkin desk. The hotel seemed to be in a panic.There was 2 lines, one for guests and one for employees and their families. All employees that stayed, the hotel allowed them to bring their families and put them up in hotel rooms. I am the only person in the guest line but several guest are gathered in the lobby in conversation with some hotel staff. Part of the conversation centered on Delta Airlines. Seems everyone stranded from the Renaissance Arts Hotel had Delta flights. Someone said they heard Delta canceled early since the planes were flying into New Orleans empty, a financial decision. I hope that is not true. I was contacted by Delta, late Saturday, that they had moved my Monday flight to Tuesday. Actually, got 2 calls, one from a supervisor.

 

I'm now 1 block from Canal and Bourbon Streets. They put me in a corner room on the 15th floor of a 19 story Hotel. 3 large windows that go almost all the way to the ceiling, on 2 sides of my room and on one side I can even see the Mississippi River, nice view. Not so sure this is what I wanted. I think I best eat so I make to the 1st floor Hotel restaurant just as they are closing their lunch buffet, but they let me in. Sand bags have been placed outside the Restarant's exterior doors and also the Hotel's. Still no rain but the wind has picked up some, it is now 2:30pm. I take a short nap, contact my family to let them know I had moved. Made it down for dinner at 7pm since they were only opening the Restaurant for a buffet and only from 6-7:30pm. Still no rain so I decide to get some fresh air, might not get any for awhile. Lots of police around, people boarding storefronts but things seemed very calm. The wind is blowing strong and the breeze feels very good. The mayor had set curfew for dusk so I headed back to the Hotel since the sun was setting and I definitely didn't want to be out after dark.

 

Back in my room alot of TV and internet surfing. About 10pm the Hotel put 2 letters under my door. One had BOLD print on one side to fill out the back and return to the front desk ASAP. They wanted my correct personal info, address, phone, etc and at the bottom of the page they wanted my next of kin and a phone # for them. Some how for the first time I get a feeling of fear. I return the form and then got throught the other letter. It had meal times and instructions for us to prepare for the storm. As instructed I filled my bathtub 3/4 full of clean water and also my sink. Blinds should be closed to shield galss breakage, sleeping should be in the bathroom Sunday night and early Monday until we are contacted to come downstairs. I have asthma and check my 2 meds. I have a 20 day supply of one and 3 days of the other. I double check to see if the rescue inhaler, which I rarely use, is still in my computer bag. It is. I look outside and the rain had started and the wind was picking up. I looked down upon a bld with a flag. I could gauge the wind from it. At one point it got wrapped around the pole but frees itself soon after. The wind was blowing parallel to my room but would occasioanlly shift with a direct hit against the window facing the Mississippi River. The streets are deserted except for the police patrols. The New Orleans TV stations are now off the air, replaced with Baton Rouge stations. I go to the bathroom and the water in the toilet is now sloshing slightly in the bowl. Winds are said to be 85 mph. I need to try to sleep so I pull the bed linens off and place them by the entrance door to the room. I decide I don't want to sleep in the bathroom. As I would enter the room the bathroom is on the left creating about a 6 foot wall and on the right is a closet and area housing the A/C, that area creates about a 7 foot wall. I figure I should be safe there and fall asleep, with the storm howling outside, about 1 am.

 

Monday August 29:

 

I am awakened by the loud noise of the storm which sometimes seems like it will push inside. It is now 4:30 am, 3 1/2 hours of sleep. I setup and lean against the closet wall. It is vibrating fiercely so I move away from it. I surprisingly still have electricity so I turn on the TV. All but one local station, is dark but 1 that comes and goes every few seconds. One just has a radar screen showing with someone talking. Winds now at 100mph. I venture to look outside the window and the flag is starting to shred. When it would shift, pointing to my window, is when the noise was so fierce. There is a 50-60 story bld 1 block away. The side facing me is getting the brunt of the strorm and it is a giant 50 story waterfall. It is actually very pretty with the bld lights shining through the water. My windows are sealed but I now have water blowing under the one facing the storm. I don't want to use a towel, I'll probably need that, so I use the bathmat to place on the window sill to stop the water. It has a rubber backing and it works. I close the blinds and put a chair against the window blinds hoping to secure them better if the window blows out. The water in the tub is now really rolling. I return to my floor bed to ride it out. I don't see how the noise could get louder but it does.

 

At 6:25 am the elctricity goes out. I check and my cellphone still has coverage. The worse of the storm is supposed to hit at 7:30am. I don't seem how it can get worse as I am sitting in the floor, under a comforter with my knees to my chest. Is the Hotel going to ask us to go downstairs... should I go on my own? A little after 7 am I get a loud knock at the door "POLICE". I open it and a New Orleans police officer orders me to the 2nd floor ballroom. The worst of the storm is hitting NOW he says, waste no time. Elevator is out, use the steps. The Hotel generator has kicked on and the hallways and stairwell are lit. He has been evacuating by lower floors up. Being on the 15th floor I was one of the last. Going down the stairs wasn't too bad. Once downstairs in the ballroom, there are no windows and you can't hear the wind. The ballroom is ungodly hot and filled with people, many with kids, mostly employee's kids. They have some cereal and juice and of course grits(yuck). I move into a hallway outside the ballroom next to the first aid supplies with a few other people, it is much cooler here. Ends up most of the people are CNN tech people. Producers, camera men, etc... They are using blackberries to get updates. The roof of the Superdome just gave way one said. I have cell coverage and make a few calls to my family and my office to let them know I am OK. At the worst of the storm the Hotel hands out ice cream...cool. It would melt so breakfast is cereal and ice cream. The Hotel had a meeting for an update at about 8:30am.

 

The worst of the storm has passed and we should be on the edge of the eye soon. It will be a little calm before the backside of the storm hits and it will not be as fierce. No water has gotten in the Hotel and the water in the street is about 1 foot, just from the rain. The worst of the storm has hit to our east. I walk to a second floor window and see the rain and wind is very light and the water in the street seems to be draining. At 9am,I decide to return to my room. After treking 15 flights of steps I can ring sweat from my shirt. I got winded about 10 floors up but a short rest stop helped. I strip to boxers and towel off. Then call my son and daughter, and the office again to let them know I have made it halfway through the storm and hopefully the worst of the storm. As I am talking on my cellphone I note the Hotel phone still works. I look outside and my windows are all still intact, the flag is lightly waving in the wind. The stars have seperated from the stripes and the stripes have shredded, but it still waves.

 

I decide to try to sleep before the backside of the storm hits.

 

More later...

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RE: Delta idea

 

KY, glad you're OK!

 

The thing with Delta really pisses me off. There was a time when "US Flag Carriers" would've sent in extra planes to aid an evacuation regardless of profit. Yet more proof that Ayn Rand is bullshit if you ask me, the larger corporations are allowed to get the more money becomes the ONLY motivating factor in any decision they make. Airlines are now mostly deregulated AND receive massive bailout funds yet are worse 'corporate citizens' then ever...

 

Sorry to get off on a rant there. My suggestion is that you write an open letter to Delta, spelling out the reasons you will never fly them again (endangering your life to save money being at the top) and send it to all the Atlanta newspapers, as well as the FAA, FTC, and the company directly. Also donate any remaining FF miles to a good cause, preferably hurricane related and mention that in the letter.

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Part 3, KY_TOP's Diary of Katrina

 

Monday August 29 (Storm Report continues):

 

I awaken to the noise of the backside of the storm. Not near as loud as the frontside of the storm and as I look out the flag is flying in a direction away from my window. No rain is even hitting my window as the storm is hitting the other side of the Hotel. My cellphone and the Hotel phones are still working. As I am looking thru my book for the 800# to my office (I never use it) I run across Cooper's phone # from my trip to NYC. Since I have no internet connection I decide to give him a call that I am ok. The storm now seems like a cake walk compared to the first part. After a few phone calls, I head downstairs for lunch. The Hotel has another meeting saying that the levee has held and the storm is almost over. The next turning point will now be between 4 and 5 pm. Hightide and the storm surge should hit Lake Pontchartrain and if the levees breech, it is expected then. If we make it past 5pm we are home free. If the levee breeches we can expect a flood possibly up to 18 feet. We are told that will reach the second floor of the hotel where we are. If that occurs then the Hotel will just move the meals higher. As I head back to my room I run into a muscled dancer from Corner Pocket that I had tipped a good bit. I ask him how he ended up here. It seems he had a friend that works for the hotel and he was able to get the dancer and his girlfriend into the Hotel before the storm hit. I make my way back up 15 flights of steps, again my clothes are sweat soaked and I us another towel to dry the sweat from my body. It is very hot in the room but I lie down in just my boxers and fall asleep.

 

When I awaken it is about 5pm. I go to the window and open the blinds. The sun is shining, the air is so clear, it is beautiful. I look to the street, the storm surge should be past. Hallelujah, the street is dry and all the water has drained. We should be home free now. The Marriott a few blocks away has about 30-40 windows blown out but the Sheraton next to it only has a few gone on the sides I could see. I see that several people from the Hotel are outside on the sidewalk. Fresh air sounds so great so I decide to join them. Outside it feels great and there is some debri outside the hotel, but not alot. Many people are now walking the streets and many police cars are seen driving up and down the street. I decide to take a walk. As I get to Canal street there are many people, almost celebrating. There are many police gathered there and they are laughing and joking. Some people are removing sandbags from doors into the Quarter. Several trees are down but the damage seems nominal considering the storm. I see several pieces of plywood lying in the street that had been nailed over windows the storm had blown off. (Note to self: when boarding a window for a storm,,,SCREW Don't Nail,,,SCREW DON"T Nail) Water had gotten into some places but not high, even many unboarded windows are not broken. I walk down Bourbon Street and one bar has reopened with a car parked out front with it's radio on. Most of the damage seems to be to electric signs that now lay in the street. If the electric comes back there will be many live wires in the street. As I walk along I see a string of pearl white Mardi-Gras beads lying in the street. I pick them up to keep as a good luck charm. I get to St Louis Street and walk toward Corner Pocket. It seems untouched except for 1 cracked window and maybe a little water inside. Trees are down on St Louis and just past the bar a brick wall has collapsed into the street. Walking back to the hotel more people seem very happy. I pass one guy selling packs of cigarettes for $5 per pack. I note that a Tall office bld a few blocks from the hotel, toward the Superdome seems to have lost most of it's windows. Back at the Hotel at dinner, talk is of when the electricity will come back on and when the airport will open. My daughter was keeping in touch with Delta and they had, as expected, canceled the Tuesday flight they had scheduled me on. I was to call them Tuesday if possible. The Hotel asked everyone to be in their rooms by 9 pm and that the generator might be turned off to conserve fuel. As I look out upon the darkened city I can see police cars with their lights on driving the streets. As soon as one would disappear, it seems a new one would appear to take its place. Lots of police and Downtown New Orleans appears very safe and protected. The city breaths a sigh of relief.

What a long day this has been and I am VERY THANKFUL. A little after 9pm I lie across the bed and drift off to sleep.

 

Much more to come...

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RE: Part 3, KY_TOP's Diary of Katrina

 

The heroics of many police officers are written up in the NY Times; conversely, about one-third of the force has left, with two suicides. A very tough situation that puts what we do here in perspective.

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/06/national/nationalspecial/06police.html?hp&ex=1125979200&en=634ab0bf54180f6b&ei=5094&partner=homepage

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RE: Part 3, KY_TOP's Diary of Katrina

 

And on the other hand, while cops are walking off the job firefighters all over the south are taking refugee families into firehouses. I heard about one extended family of 60 now living in a firehouse somewhere in Texas.

 

Once again, it's the firefighters exhibiting the best of humanity across the board.

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RE: Part 3, KY_TOP's Diary of Katrina

 

This is VERY interesting reading. Reading all the details, including the seemingly commonplace ones, really enables you to feel exactly what it must have been like to be there.

 

Keep them coming. I, for one, am reading every word! Glad you made it out OK.

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RE: Part 3, KY_TOP's Diary of Katrina

 

>Once again, it's the firefighters exhibiting the best of

>humanity across the board.

 

Not to start a Police vs Firefighter flame war here but...

 

The Firefighters are basically being called on to "help"

people. As much as they can and as many as they can. No

doubt their calling and duty is noble beyond compare.

 

The Police are being asked to maintain order in a situation

that is complete anarchy. Civilization as we know it does

not currently exist in New Orleans. They are faced with an

overwhelming task that they cannot hope to accomplish.

 

Comparing the two is apples/oranges and completely unfair.

 

Both are worthy of praise. To criticize anyone who is on the

front line dealing with a crisis of this magnitude is untenable.

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Part 4, KY_TOP's Diary of Katrina

 

Tuesday August 30:

 

I awake about 6am to a dark room and no hallway lights. The Hotel generator has been powered down for the night to save fuel. I go to the window, open the blinds and the sun is rising. Looks like a beautiful day and I notice the birds have returned. I then look down at the street and freeze in complete HORROR. There is flood water all around the Hotel and over the sidewalk. It extends a block and a half past the Hotel and I note water bubbling up from the manhole cover in the middle of the closest intersection. OMG the levee must have been breeched overnight. At 6:30 the hallway lights come on and I move toward the stairwell stopping at the 15th floor elevator lobby, that looks out upon the French Quarter. Canal Street and the Quarter are not yet flooded. As I get downstairs they are putting out breakfast but the Hotel has started to run low on food. Breakfast consist of half a piece of fruit, half a bagle, half a cup of juice and of course all the grits you want (yuk, not that hungry...yet). From the second floor lobby I could see out over the street. The water is rising very slowly and several cars will soon be past moving. After breakfast we have another meeting. The levee has been breeched in more than 1 spot. The largest breech is as big as a football field. Everyone is now confined to the hotel for their own safety. All roads leading to the airport are flooded and not passable. Even if the airport opens Wednesday, as is rumored, we will be unable to get there. We are truly stranded. The Hotel is starting to run low on Diesel fuel for the generator and also some food items. Starting Wednesday we will be put on 2 meals a day at 9am and 4pm. The generator will be on 2 hours and then off 4 hours. The manager assures us we are safe and the the Marriott Corp was using every resource they had available to take care of us.

 

I return to the room and the Hotel phone is still working as is my cell phone. I had planned a Toronto trip for the Labor Day holiday that was to start Thursday. Even if I get back by then, I think I just want to stay home. I am able to cancel my plane tickets (United, with a penalty) and my hotel reservation. I contact my family and work to update them on my plight and tell them of the flood. My daughter said she had talked to Delta and that the airport was to be open by 9 am Wednesday and for me to contact them for a 10am flight out. I told her if the airport does open I can't get out so I pass on talking and getting pissed again at Delta. Surprisingly I am now getting incoming calls on my cell. So many in fact my cellphone is now getting low on juice. No way to recharge it, no outlets are hooked to the generator. I had already checked the hallway. I make outgoing calls on the Hotlel phone using an AT&T calling card I bought at Sam's club. Gosh am I glad I was carrying that thing. Then in the middle of a call the Hotel phones go dead. Must be the water.

 

Get downstairs for lunch. Meals have become the big events of the day. Confined to a small room and released for meals, sounds like a prison. But I am safe and not hungry. Noon update we are told that the Hotel had obtained more fuel and that the lights would not be cut off for 4 hour intervals now. They had also got a little food from the Marriott Hotel on Canal Street, but we would still be going to 2 meals a day. Everyone that had a car was told they could leave the Hotel but the Hotel could not guarantee their safety. Also, many vehicles had been getting flats from the debri and gasoline would be problem. CNN has 3 flats on the SUV they are now using. They were given a route to take out of the city that was dry at the moment, but no one knew for how long. The water has only risen a few more inches since morning. The outside pool deck on the 3rd floor of the Hotel is now open for some fresh air and people with dogs. I sleep the afternoon away until dinner.

 

By dinner the water has stopped rising and is about 1-2 foot deep in the Hotel's marble lobby. From the 15th floor I note that Canal Street had flooded past Bourbon but the French Quarter was only flooded 1 1/2 blocks from Canal street and the rest of the Quarter is dry. We again must be in our rooms by 9pm. When I get upstairs I start walking the 15th floor hallways like the tiger at zoo in his cage. An older man and his wife, parents of one of the employees, has a dog that tries to get to me but is stopped by a leash tied to the door. I offer to walk the dog down the hallways. They relucatntly agree. At least it gives me something to do. So I walk and play with the dog for an hour. Funny thing is I am allergic to dog hair, so I wash my hands and arms, plus change clothes as soon as I get back to my room. Flushing the toilets had become an issue for some but after I washed I used the trash can's plastic liner to scoop out and dump my dirty water into the toilet, forcing it to flush. Glad I stored water in the tub and sink. I scooped water from the tub into the sink and was able to wash. All soapy water was used to flush.

Doozed off sometime that night, another day over.

 

2 Days more to come.

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Part 5, KY_TOP's Diary of Katrina

 

Wednesday August 31st:

 

I awaken after 6am again but stare out the window for the longest time. No Hotel phone and now I have no cell coverage. The water has stopped rising. It ended up over the bumpers of the cars in the street outside the Hotel. Also it is still only 2 blocks past the Hotel toward the Mississippi River from the hotel and the French Quarter is still dry. Since we are now on 2 meals a day and breakfast is not until 9am, I go to the pool deck about 8am for some air. One side of the pool deck is littered with alcohol bottles, including mini bar bottles. Seems a few decided to get drunk last night. I see the Corner Pocket dancer and his girlfriend again. He has been wearing the same white breakaway pants since Sunday and he has now ripped his T-shirt. I take a peek at the hotel lobby as I head to breakfast. Gasoline and motor oil are now floating on top of the water in the lobby. Breakfast was bigger than yesterday and of course grits (yuk) were available. I note that the Hotel security is now wearing guns on their belts. The Manager uses the Hotel emergency speaker system to tell everyone to come to the breakfast meeting and telling all Renaissance employees it is mandatory.

 

We are informed that the Renaissance Pere Marquette is no longer safe. That we would be evacuating to the Springhill Suites Marriott in the warehouse district. The Hotel was dry and had been closed before the storm after they had consolidated their guests with another Hotel. The evacuation would take place from the lower floors up. We would be going through the parking garage but would still have to wade through flood water to get to pickup trucks that would carry us thru the water to Canal Street. At a dry spot on Canal we would transfer to smaller vehicles for the rest of the trip to the new Hotel. NO luggage can be taken for space reasons plus, we would be unable to carry it though the water we are told. We can only take what will fit in 2 hands. The evacuation is expected to take a few hours. After the meeting I talk with the Head of Hotel Security. It seems not only do we have gas and oil in the lobby but the entire area around the Hotel was looted overnight. Another reason for no luggage is that it would make us a target of the looters when we get out on the street. I return to the room to prepare to evacuate.

 

I inventory my clothes and items. I stuff my computer bag with my last set of clean clothes I have saved for the plane ride home. I have a small vinyl bag from a vendor at the conference and I am so glad I have it. I put my running shoes in it, toiletries, and the last of my bottled water and Ritz crackers that I have had since before the storm. I roll a few clothes items up as tight as I can and force them into the bag and my computer bag. Pack everything else in my suit case and leave it packed upon the bed. I soon had a knock at my door that it is time to leave. I commented that it seemed they where at my door so soon. He said this is going fast and YOU are the last. I make my way down the stairs until I reach the vacant evacuation area on the second floor. Someone sees me and yells we have one more, is there room? I am lead thru the kitchen and down a long hallway to a loading dock area. There is a large pan of Iodine (where did they get so much Iodine? I wonder). I am instructed to step into the pan and rub iodine on my legs. I take off my shoes and someone says no don't...keep them on. I tell them I will need dry shoes. I am them led down a few steps into the sewage water that has flooded the city, as I carry my 2 small bags and my SHOES. It was a short walk into the garage to a waiting large pickup truck where there we people to help me into the back of the truck. As we enter the flooded street several people wading thru the water are staring at us. A right turn on Canal Street and then the truck drives on the Cable Car track down the middle of Canal that is not underwater. Military trucks are traveling down Canal Street in the opposite direction toward the Superdome. 2 blocks down, vehicles and security are circled in the middle of the street as we are transfered to a smaller pickup truck. A crowd has gathered to watch us as we transfer. We drive down Tchoupitoulas Street for a few blocks were we see 2 cars smashed from a brick wall that had fell on them. Then we turn left toward the River and then a right past the Riverwalk and Convention Center. As we approach the Convention Center we see thousands of people on it's steps. As we pass there are Elderly people in wheelchairs, women holding naked babies, many disperate people, an unbelievable sad sight to behold. Some start yelling at us "Where are you going?" A few males start running along side the pickup truck. The driver speeds up and passes the street where the new Hotel is located until he is well past the Convention Center. He curves around a few streets taking us in under the Hotel where no one can see us. We are taken into the hotel from the rear by way of the kitchen. We are told to stay away from the windows. With all the people at the Convention Center 1/2 a block away we are told we will not be safe if they see us and think we have food and water.

 

Upon on arrival we are told that Marriott has now obtained some buses. They will be coming from Baton Rouge to possibly take us to Houston, if the Governor will give them clearance. We learn that Marriott had trucks of food, water and fuel in Baton Rouge to resupply us yesterday, but the Governor would not allow them through. They wanted us out, not supplied. While I waited for a room I talked with a woman and her mother. They thought they might get someone to come and get them. If so they where headed to Atlanta. They offered to give me a ride if they were successful. That would put me halfway home I think. After an hour they have me in a room that I cannot lock when I leave. They could not make electronic keys and had to use a master to get me into the room. Because the door locks use batteries I was able to continue to lock my room at the Renaissance. Oh well most of my stuff is at the Renaissance anyway. I am told the lobby pay phones are working so I head that way. After waiting in line I contact my family and give them an update as to what is happening. A attractive young lady, that worked at the Hotel was needing to call her family and all she had was an ATM card which she could not use for the phone. Seems she is from Turkey and had only been in the USA for 1 month. She needs to call her family in Turkey to tell them she is OK. I use my AT&T Card to help her call. We try twice but she gets no answer. As I am making another call for myself she brings me a big bottle of water to say thanks.

 

A manager drags up a table across the lobby doors, about 20 feet from the phones, and starts taking names. "Whats happening" I ask. He says the first bus has made it thru, would be here any minute and he could only put 55 people on the bus and he asked me to sign my name. Where are we going I ask? Baton Rouge he answers. I am #20 on the first Marriott bus out. I run to my room to get my stuff and see a man from NYC. He and his son had been in the Renaissnce Arts Hotel with me from the start of his whole thing. I asked him if he had heard. No, What he says. I tell him of the bus and tell him to hurry if he wants to be on the first one. I had exchanged room #'s with the women from Atlanta so I ran to their 4th floor room to tell them, my room is on the 2nd floor. Only the mother is there but she says she'll pack. When I get back downstairs the bus has already arrived and is almost full. 2 Renaissance employees see me and shout that I am on the list and I am allowed onto the bus. A few seats back I see the man from NYC and his son. Behind him is the girl from Turkey and she has saved me a seat. The Corner Pocket Dancer (still wearing the same clothes) and his girlfriend are also on the bus. Only 3 Renaissnce employees are on the bus assigned to travel with us. Most employees will be on the last buses we are told. A crowd is gathering across the street from the bus.

 

As we approach the ramp to the Mississippi River bridge people are camped bside the ramp trying to get a ride from anyone approaching the bridge. There is water and flooded car on the ramp but the bus has no problem getting around the care and thru the water. People are walking up the ramp carrying things on their backs and pulling luggage. Once on the bridge it is surreal, like something from a movie. The brige has refugees on foot trying to flee to city. There are 3 travel lanes in our direction and 2 of them are taken up with walking refugees. The bus is silent. As we clear the bridge in the West bank of the Mississippi River and enter Jefferson Parish the people dissipate. There is no flooding and the houses are damaged, mostly roofs, but still standing. McDonalds has lost it's sign but it still stands. A few miles down the road as we are crossing a canal bridge close to Lake Pontchartrain we see lots of police cars and an ambulance. We are able to pass on the left. The police have stopped 2 postal vehicles, that are full of peoples personal stuff and one has a wheelchair on its roof. Some people had stolen US Postal vehicles to try to flee the city. The police had them all lined up and hand cuffed. Guess they will be charged with a Federal offense. As we travel on we see many cars beside the road, out of fuel, flat tires. Soon we have crossed back across the Mississippi and get to I-10 toward Baton Rouge. We see many check points for vehicles headed to New Orleans. We see a convoy of buses headed that way. Convoys of corrections vehicles from other parishes, military convoys, police convoys... The closer we get to Baton Rouge the less damage we see. About halfway there all of a sudden the air is filled witn the sound of cell phones beeping. Most now have coverage and they start trying to contact their airline.

 

We have been taken to the Baton Rouge Marriott and as we arrive we are asked to stay on the bus for instructions. We are told the Hotel is full but we will be put up in the Marriott Hotel Ballroom, which I fondly later call the "Marriott Refugee Camp". We are told there is hot food awaiting us and people waiting to get our information. As I exit the bus I am greeted by the Beton Rouge Marriott manager, welcoming us and saying she is grateful we have made it.Then every 3 feet there was a Marriott employee to greet us and point us in the right direction. Many had name badges showing thw=ey were manager sof other surrounding Marriott properties like the Courtyard Marriott. The greeters continued inside the Hotel to a table setup to get our info. Many on the bus headed staright to the airport and never entered the Hotel. Even many with morning flights decide to go on to the airport.

 

After signing in I head straight for a wall socket in the ballroom, set up camp, plug in my cell and contact Delta. I had to be connected to a regional office in Atlanta to have my New Orleans reservation changed to Baton Rouge. I asked how soon she could get me out. She had a seat on a 5:17pm flight. I ask her what time it is, "5:55pm in Atlanta sir" she replies. That makes it 4:55 here and I can't get to the airport in 17 minutes. If I was at the airport I'd be at the counter and not talking to her. Ends up the earliest I ca get a flight out is 2:30 pm the next afternoon. Oh well I am safe and a night in the Marriott Refugee Camp won't hurt me. I ask her for an address to write and file a complaint to Delta. She com=nnects me with a supervisor. The lady is very nice and instaed of giving the address she offers to type and file my complaint. I said ok but I still wanted the address. She ended up asking me all kinds of questions about what I had seen, where i was during the Hurricane and how I got out. I could hear her typing and she said it would be part of my complaint. Said she was glad I was ok and finally gave me the address. I make my way to the food and a soft drink with ICE. I drank more than I ate. We still couldn't shower but the Hotel put out soap, towels and wash cloths at a restroom so we could freshen up. Gosh I need a shower, havent had one since before the storm Sunday.

 

Back in the Marriott Refugee Camp they have set up a TV with CNN on. It is our first pictures of all the distruction throughout the Gulf Coast. At one point we all just stare and some people point. They are showing looters using a backhoe to crash through store windows. People were pointing because they were outside the Deli that was across the street from the Renaissnce Hotel we had left earlier that day. I saw a couple on the bus and now camping out I had not seen before. They were from the Ambassador Hotel and had left there that morning when they were getting no help or info from the Hotel. They saw us leaving the Renaissance in pickup trucks. They said after the last pickup left the New Orleans police officers gave the manager a couple of guns, said you are on your own now, this place will be looted soon, good luck and left. The couple had talked to the manager about getting out and even though they were not his Hotel guests, he put them on a truck with the last hotel employees and some supplies they were moving to the Springhill Suites. They arrived just in time to get their names on the first bus.

 

The Dancer and his GF have camped out in a corner with one small soft side bag. Later I see him in the hall, noting he is still wearing the same, now very dirty clothes. I tell him I had a flight home the next day, so I was finally getting out. I asked what they were going to do. They had lost their home and probably most of their stuff to the storm and flood he feared. They were contacting someone to come and get them. I asked if he had money. He replied not much. May as well give my donation to someone I half way know I thought. So I pulled out my wallet giving him some money. He looked shocked, shook my hand and thanked me. He was from Chicago originallly and said come see me dance in Chiacgo sometime. I guess that is where they decided to go. I make my way through the crowd saying my good byes to some of the Renaissance Hotel Staff that has now arrived on buses. 2 of women hugged me. I returned to my spot in the Marriott Refugee Camp. Children are running and playing almost out of control. The hotel goes to a store and brings back children's board games trying to occuply them. Are being cooped up in hotel rooms for days they were just letting lose. The people that camped out beside me had a sick man who had missed his dialysis while stranded in New Orleans. They had taken him to dialysis in Baton Rouge. The buses kept on coming for 5 hours. We were the first Marriott Guest to be bused out because we had been in the most danger. Later people from the Marriott on Canal street and the JW Marriott arrived. The Marriott Refugee Camp was getting very full now. People ahd started camping i the hallway and the Hotel had moved the food line to the hall outside the Ballroom (Camp). The Renaissance manager finally arrived making his thru the Refugee camp to talk to everyone. I shook his hand and told him I didn't have enough words to tank him for all he had done. I was alive and safe beacuse of him and his staff I told him. He seemed humbled and tahnked me for being is guest and partner in what we had all been through.

 

My camp consisted of 3 chairs, a pillow and sheet. The dailysis patient came back and sat next to me. He hadn't been there 10 minutes when he tensed up, grabbed a chair and started to fall forward. He is barely conscious, and not responding. I get some Hotel staff and he is very cold to touch. I ask for a blanket and cover him. Warming him seems to arouse him abit and he wants ome thing warm to drink. An ambulance arrives and takes him off to the Hospital. I lay on my chairs and try to go to sleep. Gosh this has been the longest day. I am safe and soon to head home.

 

1 day left to write about.

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Final Entry, KY_TOP's Diary of Katrina

 

Thursday September 1:

 

The dialysis man got back from the Hospital after 4am. He looked good and his wife said "they got him fixed up good now".

 

Even though it is quiet and cool I cannot sleep. My mind keeps going back to the people I had seen as we passed the Convention Center. The women holding naked babies like it was a third world country. This is the USA for God's sake. Old people in wheelchairs. I am out of New Orleans safe, they are still there, doesn't seem fair somehow. I am safe because I could afford to stay in a nice Hotel and depended on that hotel company to get me out. They are still there because they are poor and couldn't afford to get out. Their only hope is in the government now to save them.

 

About 7 am they bring out breakfast. Lots of fresh fruit,cereal bars and pop tarts for the kids and of course Grits (yuk). I then realized the hotel Restaurant was open and I could buy breakfast. I got a newspaper and have a nice leisurely breakfast in the restaurant. Seemed to make me feel things were getting back to normal. I was able to check e-mail from a few computers the hotel had in the business center. Had several from a few friends I replied to. I had one e-mail from a M4M'er that offered to give a place to stay until I could get a flight out,if I got evacuated to Houston. How cool of him I thought. After breakfast I washed as best I could under the circumstances and put on my last clean clothes. Hope I don't smell... I think to myself. Figure there is no reason to hang out here any longer. I say goodbye to the dialysis man's family and the hotel calls me a Taxi to get to the airport.

 

The Taxi has only 1/4 tank of gas and the driver says there is no gasoline available in all of Baton Rouge. He says "I'll drive until it stops". Noting I have no luggage he said he had made 8 trips to the airport already and only 1 couple had any luggage of the 8. The airport is small, only 10 gates. I get to the airport 3 and a half hours before my flight. After checking in, I call my daughter who is to pick me up at the airport at home, to let her know it looked like I might actually get home today.

 

On the plane we are delayed in leaving about 45 minutes. Seems there was a problem fueling the plane. Delta usually only uses small commuter jets in Baton Rouge. Due to all the people Delta had stranded they had flown in larger planes. We were on a 757 and it seems the fuel guy had never fueled one before. The person seated beside me had been at the same conference as myself. Her Hotel had closed and she thought of trying to stay with friends at the Hilton. But she went to the Superdome instead. She had some medical background and they put her in one of the first aid stations. From her stories it seems they did a good in keeping her segregated and protected from the general refugee population. Sounded like a real war zone inside the dome. She had gotten to Baton Rouge on a helicopter yesterday. The other person sitting with me lived north of New Orleans. He had minor damage to his home, no water and no electricity. He had called Delta to get out to El Paso Texas. They wanted over $700 for a ticket. He talked to a supervisor and they dropped the price to just over $500. That is what he payed to get out to friends.

 

I had a 2 hour layover in Atlanta and again called my daughter telling her that I was ontime to get home. When I landed at home I finally seemed to start to feel normal. As I walk past security I spot my daughter waiting with others to greet arrivals. I feel like I am going to cry so I turn and look away. I don't want to cry. As I get close to my daughter I see a tear well up in her eye, I grab her with both arms and just hug her tight. I am safely home now and I really don't want to cry.

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RE: Final Entry, KY_TOP's Diary of Katrina

 

You're definitely racking up those tales to tell the grandkids, pal.

 

I know you'd rather NOT be, but you've got a ton of 'em. LOL

 

As breathtaking as your story is, I'm struck by how much worse the situation is for the refugees that didn't have the resourcess of Marriott Corp. behind them. I can't even imagine how much worse their tales must be.

 

I'm just glad you came through it. I imagine you'll be staying home for a while?

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RE: Final Entry, KY_TOP's Diary of Katrina

 

We're all happy you finally made it home safely. Thanks for the in-depth reporting. It made the whole nightmare come alive in a much more personal way for those that know you.

When you are ready for another trip though, maybe you should consider Chicago. I bet there will be a dancer who will be very happy to see you.

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RE: Final Entry, KY_TOP's Diary of Katrina

 

KY, I just wanted to add my thanks for your tale of surviving Hurricane Katrina. I posted a message before the storm struck, suggesting you keep away from windows, and I'm glad you took my advice!! LOL.

 

Anyway, great to hear you didn't come to any harm. I feel as if you have walked me through the ordeal with your excellent reportage. The combination of reporting on the mundane and the horrific side by side had a very "cinema verite" feel to it.

 

I once thought that experiencing a hurricane would be a nifty thing. I have revised my view and now think I will stay away as far as possible from them. We simply forget how much we take for granted all the things that surround us in a fully functioning city.

 

P.S. I hope you get your luggage back!

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