Monday, September 05, 2005

One of the Millions of Hurricane Katrina Stories

I survived Hurricane Katrina, but it transformed me. I am a different person. I feel more loved than I did a week ago, and I very much appreciate all of the friends and family and even strangers who both helped me directly and who contacted me to say they were concerned and thinking about me and my family. The world clearly has plenty of empathy and compassion left. I saw people slide down ropes out of helicopters to rescue people from rooftops. I saw my neighbors break into grocery stores, fill up their boats with supplies, and row through neighborhoods distributing food and water to those in need. And as I drove 1000 miles north to escape the carnage, I saw convoy after convoy of people and supplies heading south to help. They are their brother's keeper, and I am so thankful for their support. Maybe there is hope for the world after all.

Much of the heroism affected me directly. Strangers actually risked their lives to save mine, and friends and family did so much to help. Two gentlemen from the Westbank in an airboat transported me and my dogs from the flood waters to dry ground. Firefighters from Phoenix helped a large group of us begin the process of leaving the city. Therese's friends the LaCinas and Kents in Purvis Mississippi hosted her and my children for several days as they rode out the storm. My father-in-law John flew to Jackson Mississippi to help Therese and the kids make it Omaha, Nebraska, where they'll be living and attending school until at least January most likely. My mom went on local and national TV asking for help. Hundreds of friends, even people I haven't spoken to in 25 years, have contacted me to voice their support. Thank you so much, you've touched my heart.

But I also learned that catastrophes such as this bring out not only the very best in people, but also the worst. I have witnessed and experienced some pretty awful things over the past week. I saw dozens of dead bodies floating in toxic waters. I heard about invalid elderly humans dying in attics and hospitals believing that the world did not care as they gradually ran out of medication and oxygen while the politicians gave press conferences about how well Democrats and Republicans were cooperating. I saw sick babies and paraplegics living for five days outside in 100 degree weather, while gangs of armed youths roamed, raped, and terrorized in filthy refugee camps of 20,000 of society's most afflicted and abandoned. These poor people were placed in massive outdoor "security" pens for as many as 6 days, and many of them died. This incredibly large group of people desperately needed food, water and transportation out of New Orleans. The immediate federal response for relief was so incredibly inept it left many of us to wonder if the lack of support was deliberate. This gross inaction while so many people suffered and died occurred in the world's richest country, and it makes me so angry with the government. I heard that Bob Hastert, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, said two days after this tragedy that it made no sense to rebuild New Orleans. He said this while families grieved over death and misery and desperately searched for missing loved ones. I saw drug addicts take over parts of the city and terrorize, and heard that they shot nurses in the back of the head to steal pharmaceuticals to ease their drug withdrawals. And despite what you might read in the news, this wasn't a case of everyone working together to save lives. Officials from neighboring more affluent parishes (counties) than Orleans said that citizens of New Orleans were not welcome in their parishes because they only had enough supplies for their own.

There were certainly elements in this drama of upper classes abandoning those less fortunate. But the disparity in fortune wasn't only about social and financial differentiations. Racism played a large role in this tragedy, I am sickened to say. Sure there were looters and murders and lawlessness, but there is after every hurricane. Heck, the same stuff happens after cities win the Super Bowl. But in New Orleans' case, these recurring images of young men with guns showed black men. Certain relief organizations refused to go in to the New Orleans area until several days after the hurricane, because they said it was "too dangerous," and this heartless refusal to act was devastating to thousands of innocent people. It even cost hundreds of lives. As I lay in my bed surrounded by my flooded city I heard on the radio caller after caller cry out for help and ask why they and their loved ones were not being rescued. People lay in hospitals and nursing homes and starved to death. It occurred to me that it was more complicated than concluding that suddenly the American government was forgetting these impoverished people, these descendants of the slaves who built New Orleans and this country. Instead, I realized that these poor people hadd been forgotten for hundreds of years.

I cried when I heard my mayor Ray Nagin's interview with Garland Robinette on Thursday, September 1. You can read the transcript here and from that sight there is a link so that you can hear it. The part that brought on the tears was about how so many people were dying due to the government's initial lethargy and apathy and how the great city of New Orleans would never be the same again. And much of this could have been prevented in my opinion. Of course we can't prevent hurricanes, but most of the death and destruction came from the subsequent flood after the 17th street levee was breached. The federal government had been warned repeatedly for 20 years that that specific levee was in dire need of attention, yet nobody listened. I believe these politicians were criminally negligent and are partly to blame for much of this. And perhaps now the country will start taking seriously the problems caused by coastal erosion. I hope.

If I hear one more person say "IF they decide to rebuild New Orleans..." I will explode. New Orleans was a great city long before there was even an idea about forming the United States. I know of course that they will rebuild the city. It will never be the same. It will take a great amount of time, money, effort, and patience. For the short future the world is focused on the city, but what about in a year when New Orleans will need so much and attention? Not too many will care then. I thought a great deal over the past week about leaving New Orleans permanently. I'm nearly 40, ripe for a midlife crisis, and this would a great time to move to another place and start over. Life can be very easy outside of the Big Easy. There are few places in this country with as much poverty, poor education, and overall problems. Also, I'm sure that many businesses and people with resources, education, and financial independence will never return, while the impoverished will, as they have no choice. But I think that for me and my family, returning to the devastation of New Orleans offers us a chance to really make a difference in the world. We could help to rebuild the great city that has become our home, and at least make our modest contribution to this Herculean task.

Certainly my relationship with my dogs Kochise and Mosey is stronger. For those who don’t know, I stayed behind with them to ride out the hurricane. It was an amazing experience, and the house outside survived with little damage. However the wind made the house racked, meaning the upper floor was blown so hard that the walls of the bottom floor now lean considerably. But slowly over the next 36 hours the water rose, until by Tuesday evening there was 8 feet of water in our streets, and four feet on our bottom floor. Me and the dogs lived upstairs, and watched from our balcony as people canoed by. I even got my acoustic guitar and played "dueling banjoes" as they passed to evoke images from the film Deliverance. I didn't have direct contact with Therese, though I was able to use my cell phone once in a while to tell family in Omaha I was OK. I kept thinking the water would recede and I could start cleaning out the house, but it never happened. On Wednesday I swam to Xavier University, and I was happy to see that the university as a whole didn't appear to have too much damage, though it was badly flooded. I heard the students were finally evacuated with the help of Jesse Jackson, though I've heard rumors that one student passed away. I don't know the details yet, and I'm so sorry to hear about that tragedy. I don't know how the parents of that student will make it through this trial. I swam to my office and found that it was intact. So I swam home and was going to wait for the waters to recede, and then I would spend half my time working in my office and half my time cleaning the house. I had plenty of supplies, and was planning on experimenting with a diet of only home brewed beer.

But then in the end I left. I learned that my father-in-law was flying to Jackson Saturday, and Friday those guys in the airboat showed up. I was very worried because I had heard that they were not letting people evacuate with their animals. But these guys said that had changed, and so I put my computer and a few papers in my backpack, loaded the dogs, let the birds go, and put Oot the sugar glider with food and water in Kalypso's room to await my return, much like Napoleon leaving for Elba I suppose. We drove in the boat all over the city looking for people. It was so surreal with the helicopters and all the boats up and down Canal Street amidst all the devastation. Towards dusk on Friday I arrived at I-10 and Banks Street, not far from my house. There they packed all of us pet owners from Mid City into a cargo truck and drove us away. They promised they would take us to Baton Rouge, and from there it would be relatively easy for me to get a cab or bus and meet the family in Jackson.

But then everything went to hell. They instead locked up the truck and drove us to the refugee camp on I-10 and Causeway and dropped us off. Many refused to get out of the van but they were forced. The van drove away as quickly as it could, as the drivers appeared to be terrified, and we were suddenly in the middle of 20,000 people. I would estimate that 98% of them were African Americans and the most impoverished people in the state. It was like something out of a Kafka novel. Nobody knew how to get out. People said they had been there 5 days, and that on that day only 3 buses had shown up. I saw murdered bodies, and elderly people who had died because they had been left in the sun with no water for such a long time. I’ve traveled quite a bit, and I have never seen the despair and tragedy that I saw at this refugee camp. It was the saddest thing I have ever seen in my life. I am still so upset that there were not hundreds of buses immediately sent to get these people to shelters.

There was a group of officials going around and taking people’s animals away. It was then that I decided to try to escape. I knew there were armed looters outside the camp, but there were inside as well, and I had Mosey, who is a pretty big dog and can be scary when she is barking. I could not have ever told my children that I gave up the dogs to save myself. Officials were not letting anyone past the city of LaPlace to pick up relatives, so I decided to try to sneak out of the camp and walk the 30 miles to LaPlace. On the refugee camp’s perimeter there was a girl named Robin from my neighborhood who wanted to save her cat, and a guy we just met named Carlos who was trying to get to LaPlace, so we teamed up. It was an odd group. Me with two dogs, Carlos who is an African American guy who works in the oil business, and Robin, a skinny white girl who paints movie designs or something like that. So we slipped out at 3 AM and walked along the side of I-10 to Clearview, and then walked through the dark and destroyed neighborhoods until I was on Airline Highway. Amazingly the police never stopped us, I think because we were such a bizarre grouping, and we weren’t shot by the looters or vigilante groups trying to stop them. Fortunately on Airline we found a shopping cart to put the cat inside. We then walked almost to the airport by 9 AM Saturday. But by then I was about ready to give up. My feet were bloody and the dogs were totally exhausted.

Robin had a cell phone, but the batteries were dead. We found a neighborhood that still had power, and then noticed a gas station that had a broken window. Robin climbed inside and charged her cell phone enough to make a call. We knew then that her uncle would be in LaPlace, but concluded he would not be able to make it past the checkpoint. Suddenly miraculous things changed my fortune. Her uncle was retired from the Mississippi government and he had several ID tags, and he was able to finagle his way through checkpoint after checkpoint, and he picked us up, and drove us past LaPlace all the way to Jackson airport, as he lived just a few miles from there. When I got out of the van, there was Therese, her dad, and my children. Then, after an 18 hour drive, we're all safe in Omaha.

I think in approximately two weeks I'll return to New Orleans with my father-in-law, as he is an insurance adjustor and will be sent to the area to work on claims. A few days later Therese will fly down and we'll sort out all of our stuff. We lost a lot of things to the flood, but I don't feel too bad about it. We had too much stuff anyway. Kalypso and Gilgamesh will start in a new school tomorrow, and it was the same school that I attended, which makes me happy in some sense. So like Moses we are strangers, though we are by no means in a strange land.

For now, if you would like to contact us, my email address is, and Therese is We don't have connections to the internet all of the time, but we'll do our best to get back to you. Our daughter Kalypso is especially curious about what happened to her friends.

Finally, thanks again to all those who were thinking about us and keeping us in their prayers.


Blogger Sue said...


I can't even imagine what it must have been like for you. There are no words for what you witnessed.

And I think witness is what you and others should do. Witness. Tell your stories. Tell your anger and grief. Tell it so we all can hear it and hear it again. It will change the world. It will change the world.

3:00 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

I'm so relieved you are well. We have never met so far as I recall it (unless we have crossed paths at the SBL) and still I felt connected to you. We will continue in our small ways up here in Tennessee to do what we can to help those of you who have endured so much. And please rest assured that we will also continue to pray for you- for shalom.

6:10 PM  
Blogger Editor B said...

I'm amazed by what you have written. Amazed as much that you were able to be so articulate after such a mind-boggling experience.

And I'm overjoyed that you (and Therese and Gil and Kalypso and the dogs) are safe. I look forward to working with you to rebuild the city. It will take the rest of our lives...

6:51 PM  
Blogger Miko said...

Thank you for sharing your story. It is heartbreaking to read. Please keep telling what happened to anyone who will listen. We need to do better for one another, as Americans and as humans. Perhaps the horrors you have seen will prod us into become more humane and respectful with one another. I wish you and your family all the best.

8:09 PM  
Blogger Neal said...

God bless you. I can't even imagine what it must have been like.

8:14 PM  
Anonymous Serena said...

I found your blog through Metafilter. Thank you for sharing your amazing story. God bless you and your family.

9:34 PM  
Blogger Calulu said...

You confirmed my worst fears and best hopes about what was going on in my home town. I'm a New Orleans escapee from many years ago, one of those that sat nervously awaiting word if their family was gone. Thanks for sharing your story.

6:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Michael,

My sister was with you in Israel this summer (Kiiiirrsten is what I think you called her :-)) and had told me about your blog. I have been praying for you and your family. I know Kristen made such a special connection with you and Kalypso and because of it, I feel like I already know you. I am so thankful that you have demonstrated courage and determination and will continue to support you with my prayers.
Grace and Peace,
Jennifer Smith

9:36 AM  
Anonymous Dave said...

Mike and family,

I am glad you all made it out safely from Katrina's grip. Welcome back to Omaha. It is through these life changing experiences that leads people to God's love and grace. Share your testimony and give Him the glory.

Stay strong buddy! After our high school days, I knew you would be a survivor!

Dave Nickelson

11:48 AM  
Blogger theorajones said...

Unbelievable. You must tell everyone. People in other parts of the country are saying things like, "why didn't they leave?"

I had no idea people were trapped like prisoners. I saw it on TV, and I still can't believe it.

You have to make sure people know your story and know it's true. This can't be the story of a city where looters took over and the federal government did a really great job, but the poor (who are all criminals) prevented the government from saving everyone.

11:52 AM  
Anonymous tbtine said...

I am completely overwhelmed by what you've written--such a beautifully written piece to describe such madness and chaos. My heart breaks for what you and others like you have seen...

12:28 PM  
Blogger Twokandoux said...

I was rivited by your story, and so appreciate your ability to articulate the scope of experiences you have endured. I found your blog through, and finally feel a real connection with the aftermath of Katrina in New Orleans. I tried to imagine all last week "what was it like", and now you've given me the clearest picture. Thank you for sharing your life.

12:37 PM  
Blogger Mad Kane said...

Wow! Thanks for sharing your astonishing saga.
Mad Kane

1:21 PM  
Blogger lemming said...

Wow - I'm awed and overwhelmed. Thanks for sharing. I still can't believe that this has happened in the USA.

Minor though it sounds, I applaud your insistence that you would not leave the dogs behind. I too cannot imagine leaving my pets behind without a struggle.

Best wishes - keep us all posted.

2:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow, that is quite an amazing story. i am glad you made it out alive with your family and dogs. its times like this that makes me ashamed of my country, i cant believe they let it get so bad.

my prayers are directed your way.

-Haley from K.C. Missouri

10:27 PM  
Blogger Gaby de Wilde said...

wow - I'm happy you've made it.

I didn't know about the help not being allowed in and those in need not being allowed out.

Sounds like a lot of that has to change soon.

12:23 AM  
Blogger Rosie said...


Your story is amazing. I am passing it on, I just found, and I think you have a gift with writing.

We wont let the politicians forget thier slow response. It simply shows that there is not an election to be won this year.

No one will ever forget...

2:25 AM  
Blogger Rosie said...

God bless you

2:26 AM  
Blogger holojojo said...

Peace be on your spirit, Michael. It's hard to live through these things and recover your life, but I have faith that you will. You're obviously a strong and coutageous person, and I think Sue (up above) is right - you should witness your story wherever and whenever you can. It may not change the world, but it may change the way dome Americans feel and act towards their fellow citizens. It must be so traumatic to feel like a refugee in your own country.


3:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for telling your story. You write so well. This is the best blogging can be. Telling the truth and sharing it with anyone who can find it. I really appreciate being able to have a source outside the mainstream of "soundbite" media. Yours is the longest blog post I have read and I was riveted. I think what happened is a call to action, both to highlight the inaction and to be ready as individuals for the inevitable crises that are in our future. I am going to learn about emergency planning, equipment, kits and get some first aid and CPR training at a minimum. I hope others are inspired by what you have shared here.

6:03 AM  
Blogger Indigo Blue said...

What an amazing, horrible, crazy, hopeful story. I hope you don't mind my linking to this post on my blog... It's too good to not be shared.

Thank you!!!

10:02 AM  
Blogger Indigo Blue said...

10:26 AM  
Blogger Red Mum said...

What an amazing redendition of those hard days. I was mesmorised reading it.

I have no words, my thoughts and prayers are with you all.

10:47 AM  
Blogger Darnell Clayton said...

That was the longest, yet one of the best posts that I have read in a while!

I hope you don't mind, but I posted a partial post of yours on my blog (giving you credit of coarse).

God bless man! And thanks for sharing with the world what has been going on!

1:09 PM  
Blogger Hons2 said...

Michael, I read with much interest and sadness your treatise on Hurricane Katerna. I hope you will NEVER stop telling your story. Our Government needs a good house cleaning to rid itself of the overpaid rifraf that have infected it over the years.

God Bless you & your family.
God Bless all those affected by Katerna!

1:20 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Thanks so much for writing this, I have been think of you and praying for you. Delighted to now hear you survived!

Your account of the tragedy is so clear...

God bless,


2:20 PM  
Blogger Jessie said...

I'm completely awestruck; there was no way I could even imagine what it was like. Your story is incredible.. I couldn't even imagine. This is the best use of blogging I've seen; there is a need for people to know the situation and the damage the lack of government response caused. I'm going to post a link on my blog and will find out about what I can do to help. Thank you.

3:21 PM  
Blogger Agius said...

I don't know you, but I must say this is an amazing story. I congratulate you on your bravery, endurance, and courage. I wish our government had any of those qualities.

4:06 PM  
Blogger dragon knitter said...

wow. what else can i say? i'm glad you did get the dogs out, there's lots of pets who have lost their owners. and welcome to omaha, i live here myself.

10:21 PM  
Anonymous David said...

Michael, I am so sorry you and your family had to go through what you went through. You took care of yourself in a heroic way.

I take offense to one statement:

"The immediate federal response for relief was so incredibly inept it left many of us to wonder if the lack of support was deliberate. This gross inaction while so many people suffered and died occurred in the world's richest country, and it makes me so angry with the government."

Deliberate? That is BS!

What about the ineptness of the governor and the mayor?

This is an unprecedented happening in our lifetime. I wish you had been in charge, then all would have worked out well with no problems.

10:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am an Omaha native and just read the piece written by Rainbow Rowell in the Omaha World Herald. I then couldn't resist to read your blog. It shed light on the true circumstances that the media has not portrayed. I have been tormented by the images of infants and toddlers in just diapers struggling to stay awake in the heat and from lack of food/water, from the elderly just left to basically die, and from all the abandoned pets. What did the officials who were rounding up pets do with them? At the refugee camp, was there water and food? Please keep writing, although the truth is hard to see, I need to see/read the truth.

10:50 PM  
Blogger problematic said...

I live in Melbourne, Australia and I am obviously distraught about what happened to your home town.

Well done for your tenacity and your bravery, I send fond wishes to you and yours.

I'm so glad you got your dogs out okay.

12:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps I missed it but I do not think that you ever say if the "officials" who were holding people at check-points were federal, state or local. But I would imagine that they were state or local officials.

Most of the "bureaucracy" that people are referring to in many of the blogs and news articles is not specifically described as state so people around the nation are naturally assuming that they are the hated feds.

I grew up just north of New Orleans. I still recall the day that I watched the local TV network carry an interview of then governor Edwin Edwards (now serving prison time) as he stood on the steps of the captitol in Baton Rouge and was asked about his stand on abortion. His response, "Well, some of my friends are for it and some of my friends are against it and I stand with my friends", is now a classic from the pages of the book on the infamous legacy of political corruption that permeates the history of Lousiana.

There was even a time when you could get travel brochures for Louisiana that, among other things, bragged about their "unique brand of politics".

State and local officials in Louisiana are notorious for corruption, kick-backs, and intimidation. I doubt there are very many, if any, politicians in Louisiana, that did not arrive at their positions without taking on the badge of compromise.

Even the distribution of the anticipated debit cards with be a corruption nightmare.

It is human nature (self-perservation) that, when you see a pack of avid dogs coming at you and you are about to be exposed to them, to "dangle the meat and then throw it elsewhere" to get the dogs off your trail. Louisian politicians are past-masters at this.
See: .
(This is what I am talking about!)

There are literally millions of dollars pouring into Louisiana right now through monetary donations. Be sure that, just like the check-points that you speak of, the "officials" in Louisiana will need to preside over the distribution of funds as well.

I find it interesting that the American Red Cross (who was investigated for missappropriation of funds after 9-11) has no problem getting the neccesary permits to go in and yet does not really have a presence in the worst hit places while others are being turned away because they need to go and buy the neccesary permits to be there to help. Now, the Red Cross is telling the public that they do not have the volunteer man-power neccesary to provide the help that the funds they are taking in is supposed to provide. It will be interesting to hear their account of what they did with all that money instead.

7:57 AM  
Blogger The Wisdom of Wislon said...

My thoughts are with you, it was sobering to read what has happened to you and your dogs, family and everyone you came across.

All the best with everything.

8:07 AM  
Blogger Justine said...

I'm so struck by what you've written. I'm sorry about your city - and I admire your fidelity to your dogs

9:11 AM  
Anonymous Windy Hill said...

My newphew is an EMT working in New Orleans, and your recount of the events confirms what he's been telling us - things were MUCH worse in New Orleans than what we were shown on TV.

God be with you and your family. Thanks for sharing your story. My heart goes out to you!

12:14 PM  
Blogger Allan W. said...

I heard on OPB (Oregon Public Radio) that pet-advocacy groups are trying to get disaster planners to accomodate peoples animals - SO many refuse to evacuate because they would have to leave animals (to certain death, not to mention the owner's grief). Perhaps this will improve next time - a small consolation, but stories like this may help.

Thanks for sharing your amazing story. It's apocalyptic.

12:41 PM  
Anonymous Tyler said...

You don't know me, I don't know you, But I feel very sorry for you
I can't say anything else besides,

1:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can only imagine how you felt when you were dropped off in a sea of 20,000 people. Im Glad you found a way to get you and your dogs out of New Orleans. There is so much the MEDIA has not told the rest of the world. Can you imagine that some neighborhoods were purposely flooded to save realestate more valued in other neighborhoods? Have you heard about the floodgates being purposely opened?

1:45 PM  
Blogger Gina said...

What a terrifying story. I am sure many others are mourning their own loss of pets stolen by the "authorities". Many in the US are confused or ignorant why some chose to stay and your story sheds much light on the situation. I am relieved to know you, your family (including the dogs) got out and were reunited.

5:49 PM  
Blogger G' white said...

i as well was stuck in katrina's grasps. although many of us from Algiers(the westbank) did pull together and helped whare they could there were still ignorant people who were only concerned about themselves and started mayham and mischief. i'm thankfull for every story that comes along of people reaching safety, yet i know there will be a long road ahead of us and great responsibility to ensure New Orleans is a place WE can once again call OUR home

7:41 PM  
Blogger Kerry said...

Thankyou for sharing your personal story. I am thankful also for the safety of your loved ones. Tell your story to all who will listen. Never forget what you have seen or experienced. I am saddened by the seemingly lack of humanity shown to all survivors, and horrified at the tales of brutality endured by the innocent
take care and hug your loved ones tight

4:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


So glad to hear that you're doing okay. I've been wondering about whether you got out and have been praying for you and your family.

Andrea (Zeitah '04)

11:16 AM  
Anonymous From MA said...

I came across this from AOL IM. Thanks for sharing your story and God Bless your family and friends.

8:13 PM  
Anonymous Jason said...

I'm glad to hear you made it out. May you be home soon.

9:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I cannot imagine what it was like, your blog has helped me see a wishes to you.

9:53 PM  
Anonymous Pam said...

You MUST witness! You are in a position to be believed. I cannot seem to get people to SEE the direct A-B-C correlation between systemic racism to poverty to what happened in NOLA this last week. Anyway, I found this, and the story is so similar to the one you posted in that there WAS an impenetrable ring that did not allow help in or survivors out.

When, oh when will people SEE the direct correlation between what Babs Bush said the other day, the skepticism in their own hearts, and what is allowed to go on here? I guess if you can deny it is happening, you don't have to change.

1:32 AM  
Blogger CobaltBlue said...

Oh my goodness!!! I'm so sorry you had to go through all of this. It must have been horrible! I've been watching CNN since before the storm hit and I was gobstruck by the reactions of some officials, particularly the FEMA director. I wanted to go through the TV and strangle him! The nerve, the attitude..grrrrrr. There have been so many stories, so much horror and grief it is hard to comprehend all of it. My prayers are with you and all of those who have suffered this terrible storm.

12:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michael, I am so pleased you survived to paint a word picture of what you endured and saw.

There is something that bothers me and I figured you might be the one to shed some light on this. I am dumbstruck at the number of families who for one reason or another were not with their children and spouses when the evacuation started. It seems grandparents, boyfriends and other family members were caring for the young ones, in some cases and as a result familes were separated for many days. Is this a LA or MI way of life? I am not being critical, believe me. I just haven't heard anyone ask these questions. Do extended families bear the burden of caring for the young ones? I have done a lot of soul searching and I know without a shadow of a doubt I would not get on a bus without my kids and my husband! I don't think at the beginning parents were asked to choose but since I wasn't there I don't know this. I ask you to give your input here. I know we learn from everything that happens in our lives. I do hope the families get something positive from the suffering an mostly I pray that those with whom we entrust our safety take a long hard look at how they failed. No one person dropped the ball. I am so proud of the Americans and others from around the world. They are doing their part and no one can ask more. Thanks for giving us a voice here. God speed as you pick up your life from here.

2:56 PM  
Blogger Sleeping Mommy said...

A truly amazing story and one that I think more people should here.

American's should not be kept in detainment camps. And that is what those refugee camps amount to. There's one being set up long term here in Oklahoma and it sickens me. Free American citizens treated as criminals, told they cannot leave the camp and if they do they can never come back...

I'm linking your story. More need to hear it.

4:38 PM  
Blogger deputyswife said...

My God, what you and other people went through. My thoughts and prayers are with your family.

4:51 PM  
Blogger dilani said...

its a shame that America has acted this way.... even in the developing countries when the tsunami took place the government and the fources took care of its people better, how can such innocent people who have gone through a disaster be treated in such a way if they were criminals..

5:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for telling your story.
If anyone wants to see another amazing hurricane journal, look at the one that a seventeen year old girl is still writing at

6:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want you to know that we are keeping your family in our prayers, and appreciate you taking the time to write your experience down with deep reflection. In Pensacola, we are still digging ourselves out of the mess of Hurricane Ivan...and its been a year. We are not rich people, but we have alot of love and strength on the Gulf Coast that comes from above. I hope your faith and hope will make a better New Orleans for the future.

9:15 PM  
Anonymous SDC said...

New Orleans shall always be a true lady - a city of diversity, romance, music, muses and light - She has been called the Paris of the US and rightly so.
Praise the Lord that you and your family and dogs survived. Your witness will indeed help in her rebuilding.
Today, September 11, 2005, another poignant time - I have just discovered blogging - that likely seems incredible to anyone reading this. Your posting was destiny. Thank you!
We were visiting in New Orleans last year when Ivan was expected to wreak the same devastation. The anxiety of "escaping" and feeling I missed my time there has been overwhelming. I started a book about the whole eery events then - Now seeing the special places we loved drowning the drama lives even stronger.
I grieve for you and everyone who lost their homes, their belongings and so much more... Our memories we carry with us always.
God bless you and yours.

9:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have one problem with all this. I feel very very sad for all those who died. For those who were too poor or too sick to evacuate on their own and needed help I wish they could have gotten it faster.

I do have a problem with people who chose not to evacuate and then complain about the way they were treated when they needed help.

1:10 PM  
Anonymous Sherry said...

Dear Michael and family,

We are all so uplifted to learn that you and the dogs made it out to safety, and so horrified to read your story... I will pass the word on to those who know you here in Israel...

Do you know where Roy is? I've searched the web but haven't found anything about him (you wrote that you swam to Xavier)...

2:48 PM  
Blogger lowerthanlo said...

i think that there will be alot of stories like this one. There are alot of people down there in New Orleans that have had similar experiences. But not everyone will take the storm as well as this person.

Its one of those things that you have to have been there to know what it was like, not that I was there but I am positive that the people that were there and are still there may never be the same again. Some people that had it made with the great house and the great job might not know how to take it especially if they did not have flood insurance.

1:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for your personal story of survival. My prayers are with you and yours, and all who have their stories still to tell. My hope is that some way you can spread the story, publishing it as much as possible, so that others might know of this instance of man's inhumanity to man. I have only been to Baton Rouge, but heard so many stories of the New Orleans area from my late grandmother who grew up there along the Mississippi. My daughter (Kristen) has told us much about the dig this past summer and about you and your daughter. Like Jennifer, I feel that I know you, and I also pray for grace and blessings.
Susan Henthorn

10:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What you saw was terrible, and really shows how our country is rapidly degenerating: our economy is going down, we're still fighting a war that is costing billions of dollars, now Katrina is costing even more billions, our entire country is, in my opinion, crumbling from both without an within. God bless you.

4:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you're an idiot. the media briefly showed pictures of black men with guns because new orleans is 2/3rds black and all the sensible white people left before the hurricane hit. the widespread murders, rapes, and looting was only briefly touched on because the idiot media decided it was too racist to focus on blacks committing crimes so let's focus on the imagined crimes of the president and the government instead teehee. the response of the government was not racist, nor did it have anything to do with race. the fact is right after the hurricane hit everything that could be done was being done. helicopters were flying all day and night rescuing people and they were sometimes getting shot at by criminals. many miles of the city and other areas were under 10 feet water. the supplies and help had to be brought in from hundreds and thousands of miles away. this isn't something that happens overnight, plus no one should have been left in new orleans anyway (and don't give me the sad sack bs story of 'some poor people couldn't afford to leave'). if you can tell i'm angry i am...i went to new orleans to assist in the relief efforts. in the middle of the night while assisting patients, people SHOT at the makeshift hospital we had set up. we packed it in the next morning and only the presence of rifles hanging out every window thankfully helped us get out alive from the gangs roaming looking for people to rape, murder, or steal from. so don't give me any of your bs.

7:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well hello there i am so happy that you and your dog is okay. I am so sorry for all the trouble that you had to go through. No one will understand what you have gone throough unless they were right there beside you. I totally agreee with you and the whole government thing. They had no right to wait all that time to start rescuing people. We aren't animals. Well im so glad that you and your grouping are okay and i wish the best for you. My Sympathies

3:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh my god!!! i feel so bad for u hope are going to be ok!

4:10 PM  
Blogger TS said...

Nice Blog!!!   I thought I'd tell you about a site that will let give you places where
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2:45 PM  
Blogger kalisekj said...

Cool Blog, I never really thought about it that way.

I have a Hurricane Katrina blog. It pretty much covers hurricane related stuff.

Thank you - and keep up the thoughts!

3:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It really touched me when I read the Blog, it was also very interesting. I hope everyone out there is doing something to help those in need because ahile we are out there having fun ad partying they are suffering and dying.

6:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It really touched me when I read the Blog, it was also very interesting. I hope everyone out there is doing something to help those in need because while we are out there having fun and partying they are suffering and dying.

Please help the poor victims.

6:11 PM  
Blogger Andrei said...

It's a good thing you're alright... I hope it wouldn't happen anymore. Let us all take steps to ensure that... Comment on Disaster

6:29 PM  
Blogger Asia said...

Im glad that you made it. And know God loves you and HE WILL ALLWAYS BE THERE FOR YOU AND THE WORLD

8:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know that it has been months and months since Hurricane Katrina hit, but some americans are still being affected by it today. I was not there, but I have read many stories about the horrible condition that people went through in New Orleans. (hint: someone should make a book of people experiences after the hurricand and if I had the resources I would). I do believe that money issues had alot to do with this and where ever there is a money issue, best believe race issues is the fuel behind it. Most of the wealthy to middle class that stayed in New Orleans had enough money to leave, but if you are working a $6.00 to anything less than $12.50 and taking care of a family then money is scarce. I am single with a room mate in the south and making $10.00 hourly and it is barely enough. Imagine if I had kids, elderly parents, or someone sick to take care of...I would be PINCHING by. I am sure that some have interviewed for better jobs, but the south runs on 'the buddy system' and 'it's not what you know, but who you know' theory. So yes I do beleive that most did not have the funds or neccessaties to leave.....vehicle(s), gas money, hotel money, cash, credit card(s), debit card, checking account.
Then remember the hurricane didn't itself did not destroy the city as much as the levee that broke did.
We should hold accountable the gov't (that means PRESIDENT BUSH for the slow people)that had the money to fix the levee but used the money in this 'uncalled for' war. Best believe if it was Caucasions with money (money=power)that stayed in the red zone of the levee breaking, it would have been fixed along time ago.
Yes, everywhere you go there will be meatheads who cause ruckus and chaos to make it look bad for others of the same color, particular african americans. (I am speaking of the idiots shooting for no reason but for pure evilness, but ride with me in my imagination for a while and see if you can relate.
Imagine that the ONLY thing you did wrong was NOT have ENOUGH money to leave town and your black. Your house was flooded and you and your family have been stuck on your roof for 2 days in the dead middle of summer surrounded by sewage soupy waters with little DRINKABLE water laying in your own waste because you have no bathroom. You see news media helicopters, other helicopters and boats pass by without even dropping one line to get one person off your roof, let alone a bottle of water. The majority of the people passing by are white. They have cameras on you but are not helping you...and you NEED help and yet they are broadcasting your family, who are laying in filth, before the nation. HOW EMBARESSING!!! (If I had a gun and saw you pass me by 2 or more times without trying to help, I would shoot at you too so that you would recognize to go away if you are not going to help us.)
Finally someone does come but they have to take ya'll 2 at a time and somehow during the back and forth are seperated from some of your children. (You let them go first, because as a parent you'll sacrifice your safety and life for your children's)(Read your slavery history books of blacks being seperated from their families. )It's like the ghost of de ja vu.
They tell you that they are gonna take you to one place and they take you to another. The only thing different about this place from your roof top are: You can walk around and there are dead bodies, and the water is not stopping you anymore....but the national guard are stopping you from leaving this 'hell camp' UNLESS you have a car.(Read the story of the hurricane in florida in the 1920's when owners (whites) would not let share croppers (blacks) leave when they fled to a higher ground from the levee's...once again the ghost of de ja vu ((, and on the other side they are turning away help.
It's hot, you are hungry, thirsty, tired, worried.....and to add insult to injury you see the dern president fly by and give a thumbs up and keep on flying!! Yeah he stopped for a photo here and there (to say he helped) but I am sure he did not stay long.....and then to hear his mom make that awful statement to the effect of 'they are quite happy down there, because they are poor and are used to that environment'.
It's been 3 or 4 days since you have eaten and you see a store with food. Let's reason: If the food in the store stay there in heat (no electricity) it will spoil, you are hungry and thirsty and you see elderly people, children, babies, and mothers, who need food and water...what do you do? Common sense, survival of the fittest, and human nature (duh...sociology 101 class) suggests that you get the food and water!!!! (would you call yourself a looter or a survivor???)
You see a vehicle and you know that you have a your family you need to find and that you need to get out because of all the meat heads who have made it unsafe to stay here....what do you do.....steal the car.
(at least that is what I would do if that was the only way out)

We must face it....America did some good for the people of NO.....but for the most part....I feel we did more bad than good. BUSH BLEW IT!!
And yes help could have been there the FIRST day. We all are familiar with the miltary aircraft that can fly across the U.S in a matter of hours. Even aircraft that is not military!!! With all this technology, it does not take DAYS to get HELP!!!
New Orleans...filled with oil and gas and ports that make bookoo's of money with the wealthy living on higher ground (literally) looking down on the less fortunate and repeatly saying the south is not racist...we are not racist.....this hurricane brought it all out in the open...if you missed are blind.... ..America is racist...not in the form of chains...but in the form of papers and red tape I try to over look it's constantly being slapped across my is even right here where I am.....charleston, Sc. It took GOD's breath and water to stir it up!!!
Much love and my prayers are with matter your color...of NEW Orleans.
More stories at In the search bar type HURRICANE KATRINA STORIES and click GO. Scroll to number 8 and read different testimonies

10:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amazing story. I read another one here:

2:21 PM  
Anonymous said...

By chance today I saw your daughter's video-then I read some of your postings-then more of your daughter's! My goodness, what an amazing family! Kalpyso is so intelligent and delightful. I know she will do some wonderful things in her lifetime, and I love her New Orleans spirit! I was at the Barkus parade and saw you all there but did not know who you were at the time. Perhaps next year I will be able to say hi. My husband and I live in Arkansas but love New Orleans and do what we can to support the most beautiful city in the world. Thanks for sharing with us. You have touched our hearts.

3:43 PM  
Anonymous Banyan Productions said...

TLC (The Learning Channel) is looking for people who want to overcome the obstacles they have faced to acheive their goals. We would like to feature someone who survived Hurricane Katrina and is trying to rebuild their life.

Stories can involve any variety of mental, emotional, or physical obstacles. If you or anyone you know has a story like this to share, and a goal they wish to acheive, please email your detailed story and a photo to Include an email address and phone number where you can be reached. Time is of the essence; the sooner, the better!

1:25 PM  
Anonymous vince said...

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9:23 PM  
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I'm usually not a fan of Gehry's work, but this is an exception. Using wood as a wrapper imitating structure is not only novel, but ties the space down through the use of a consistent, inviting, and non-distracting material palette. Perhaps Gehry is more suited to small-scale projects Laptop battery.

5:21 AM  
Anonymous Tara said...

What a great read, Michael.

I was in New Orleans earlier this year, on January 7-12. It was the week of the LSU vs. OSU college football grand final and, I must say, what an atmosphere it was there! After driving into Orleans and seeing the devastation that still remained after 2.5 years, it was wonderful to see that it hadn't lost it's character. It truly was the most memorable city I visited during my time in the US.

With love to the citizens of New Orleans,

I am thinking of you all & hoping for the best with Gustav.


8:06 AM  
Anonymous Mae said...

='( That makes me really sad. I feel so sorry for you. I have never been in that situation, But It's a really bad situation. I am also angry with the goverment. They arn't caring as much as they should, And arn't really keeping track of all our problems.And no sense to Re-build no orleans?!?!?!?!? Nonsense! There was many reasons to re build it. Just because a hurricane happens and practicly destroys it, Doesn't mean you don't rebuild it. I think the goverment is being kinda selfish.

Im happy you survived, Have the best life you can have Michael. Best Of Luck^^

~ Mae
(Im only Nine years old, sorry for spelling mistakes!)

7:11 PM  
Blogger Michael Homan said...

Mae, thanks. I will tell you that while I think of those days after the levees broke every day and probably will until I die, I am doing good right now. We just moved back into our remodeled home, and we're rebuilding a great city. So thanks for your kind words.

8:04 AM  
Blogger brit said...

hi i am Brittney in georgia i am 14 and to know your story gives me insperation to go on in life i am glad you are ok and may god bless you in all your journys

12:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello, I don't know you, but i was researching hurricane katrina for a project. I was amazed at your story. I am so happy that you and your family are okay. I hope your journeys are better from here on out =D.

love and god bless


10:18 PM  
Blogger Michael Homan said...

Thank you Natalie,
My family and I are doing pretty good now. We moved back into our renovated home in October of 2008. But to be honest a day doesn't go by where I don't think about things I saw that week in 2005. I imagine it will stay with me until I die, but that might be a good thing.

7:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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7:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm just glad this story had a good ending.

From te begining to end i was biting my nails,

I'm so sorry this had to happen to you,
It has been a while since this happend but no one will ever forget.

This is the first time i read this and it kind of changed the way i see the world. It sounds horrific but I can only imagine what it would have looked like. It's a cold story that should have never been wrote.

Billions of dollars can build the city
But Hundreds of U.S. officials and not one has a heart to understand and solve a problem like this.
This makes me lose trust in the people who manage our lives.
It makes me sick to picture their lives and compare it to the poor children in a city of America especially in New Orleans when this happend.
Nobody hears everything but overtime every 1 hears something
and now that ive payed some attention to this story I can understand the Governments problem and it's not about the money.

Because stuff like this doesnt happen every day and everywhere but when it does they refuse to use their powers and thats sad,I have a family that supports me through anything. Theyve never had to help me in a life or deat situation but if they did they would put their lives before mine tey will do anything possible to save mine. when you think about the Family of America and how they treat teir children is really unfair and they even have the power to shove us away like a steppchild and thats where its wrong. and the rest of us should read story's like this and judge every scene and every actor and every director and any one else around the picture.

9:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Omg that was so i mean well yeah u kno how hard it was 4 those people

12:58 PM  
Anonymous nono said...

thank u very much for this story god blass you and protect u

2:27 AM  
Anonymous frontline plus said...


Katrina left the people of New Orleans full of stories, sad and happy too. I lived in New Orleans for five years because of my work. 15 days before the disaster I moved to Canada. It really moved me what happened. Regards

Adrianne Blas

11:30 AM  
Blogger kimberly said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5:48 PM  
Blogger santa claws said...

I am an Omaha native and just read the piece written by Rainbow Rowell in the Omaha World Herald. I then couldn't resist to read your blog. It shed light on the true circumstances that the media has not portrayed. I have been tormented by the images of infants and toddlers in just diapers struggling to stay awake in the heat and from lack of food/water, from the elderly just left to basically die, and from all the abandoned pets. What did the officials who were rounding up pets do with them? At the refugee camp, was there water and food? Please keep writing, although the truth is hard to see, I need to see/read the truth.
Water Damage

5:24 AM  
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This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:19 AM  
Blogger marcoz said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:00 AM  
Blogger Emma said...

Dear Micheal,
I'm in the seventh grade and I have to do a project about hurricanes! I would love to skype with you for an interview. Your stories are very interesting! Thanks,

6:08 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hola Micheal!
would you like to know something ironic? I am in the 7th grade and am supposed to do a paper on Hurrican Katrina. I was going to read what you've written and put down all the really important details. Earlier this friday, I was given a paper with a story about someone who was in the Hurricane Katrina (hint hint). As I was reading through I realized that it was EXACTLY THE SAME PAPER. Ironic? Yes. Very much so.

7:51 PM  
Anonymous hp samsung said...

nice blog :)

5:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

a great inspirational story, i wish i could write more but completely moved

3:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Homen,
I am a 9th grade high school student. I'm writing a report about the comparisons and differences of Hurricane Katrina and Mt St Helens. I needed a personal experience and something about your's appealed to me. I know that this was written shortly after the hurricane hit, but your blog is still appealing to those around us. I was 6 and in the first grade when this devastation happened. I had no clue of this. Reading your experience has opened my eyes as to what happened. Thank you very much. I'm so glad I clicked on your blog for my report. Thank you so much.
Nikki B

4:19 PM  
Blogger Michael Homan said...

Thank you Nikki, that is nice.

8:22 PM  

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