Copyright © Ric Dexter 2005

On August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, 80% of the city was flooded, causing a reported $125 billion in damage. That doesn’t include the human damage. One thousand two hundred people died. One million five hundred thousand people were evacuated. Twenty-six thousand came to Dallas.

The Convention Center was converted into to a shelter. What started as orderly rows of cots quickly became irregular groups of family homes, neighborhoods, winding streets and in fact, a city. That’s what the residents called it, The City.

The day they opened the center some friends and I went to see how we could help. For the next three weeks a group of us showed up for the 8pm to 8am shift. While some residents fitfully slept others needed to talk. We needed to listen, and to help where we could. When the population of The City dropped from the initial 5,000 to only a couple of hundred, we were sent home.

Three Days after Katrina

Bus after bus and
One by one
Greeting people covered
With 3-day old mud

Walking in the door
Wearing not much more
Than the filth
That clung to them
From the flood

You do what you can
What can you do
An unflinching hug
Is a start

The loss, the confusion
The fear, the unknown
Showed in their shuffle
Their slumped shoulders
And that 1000 yard stare

Having nothing
Needing everything
The best we can offer
Is show that we care

Bring them out of the sun
Find water, a sink, a bed
Listen to the bleeding
That comes from their heart.

Yolanda Boswell
Can you help me find my husband Johnathan Lawrence Boswell. He’s 83 and today’s his birthday.
Last time I saw him they put us on separate busses in Metairie. He don’t walk too good.

Lem Bodden, broken ankle in a wheelchair
I’m OK. I’m OK. I just need to get in touch with my mom. She’s OK. She left before the storm.
She went to my sister’s house in Waveland.
How could I tell him that Waveland was wiped off the map.

John Andrews, at 4 am
Last I saw of my wife and kids they were walking off through the water.
I was holding my grandmother then there was more water. It pulled her out of my arms. I couldn’t reach her. I watched her drown.
Ric, Ric I found my cousins! We’re still looking for my wife and babies …. But I found my cousins!

Walter Johnson, when we asked him to help distribute the free newspapers,
Shouting above the din of The City

Look beyond the moment
You see in their eyes
To the Thus Come One
Deep in their lives
There you’ll see the NEW
New Orleans rise.