Old Tales of Hurricane Betsy, New Fears of Katrina
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
In New Orleans, many residents of the city's 9th Ward have had to evacuate because of the flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina. Those old enough may also remember the way another hurricane, Betsy, ravaged their close-knit neighborhoods 30 years ago. Mia Wells and some of her family, most from the 9th Ward, are now in Georgia, but their thoughts are still with home and the past.
Ms. MIA WELLS: My mother--she was living nearby in that area, and she was just saying how it's the same way. I mean, the levee broke then and went down into the 9th Ward and destroyed all these homes. My family and my sisters--my brother's house is gone. My sister's house is gone. One of my sisters, they don't even know where she is right now. Her house should be OK, but we don't even know 'cause we haven't even talked to her yet. So seems like everything is just under 20 feet of water, but, I mean, the same people have lived in my neighborhood since I was little. We know everybody. I mean, New Orleans--it's a big city, but to see people on the news that you know but can't reach out to is just really hard.
CHADWICK: Mia Wells. She's living in or was living in New Orleans' 9th Ward.
Finally today, on Monday, when the hurricane hit New Orleans, we spoke with Katie Lasky. She had evacuated the city. She was in Youngsville, Louisiana, which is outside Lafayette, 135 miles west of New Orleans. We've reached her again by phone.
Katie, hello and how are you doing?
Ms. KATIE LASKY: I'm doing all right, thank you.
CHADWICK: And what are you hearing now?
Ms. LASKY: Not anything good. We're hearing that there's still water pouring into the city, that they haven't been able to close the breach in the levee at the 17th Street Canal, which is not far from our home. We haven't been able to get any local information about our neighborhood. I love our city, and it's heartbreaking.
CHADWICK: When we spoke on Monday, you had just learned from your alarm company that your house was open, that a door had opened, and you were worried at that point about trying to go back. You were thinking you might be able to think about going back as early as yesterday. That now seems impossible.
Ms. LASKY: Yes. From all accounts, we won't be back for weeks. Right now, I think that our open door is, unfortunately, probably the least of our problems.
CHADWICK: Here's the lead from the Associated Press this morning: `The governor of Louisiana says Wednesday, the situation is worsening. There's no choice but to abandon the flooded city of New Orleans.'
Ms. LASKY: Oh, gosh. I hope they get everybody out safely. I hope that they go door to door and get people out of their attics and off their roofs, and then when they pump the water out, we'll be back. I mean, it's impossible to wrap your mind around, really. We look at the pictures and you see all these places you know and you can recognize and they're underwater, and you say, `Oh, there's City Park underwater,' and it just is totally surreal.
CHADWICK: How do you think about your life? I mean, how do you figure out what to do?
Ms. LASKY: I don't know. Luckily, we're young and we're lucky. I mean, they talk about the people who stayed in the 9th Ward and in the lower 9th Ward, and I think people need to know that those people stayed because they couldn't get out. They don't have the means to get out, and it wasn't stubbornness; although there's a lot of that in New Orleans. It was the need to stay with what you have, and I will be able to rebuild my life. I have insurance, and I have a good job. But there are people who are just going to be totally lost.
CHADWICK: Katie Lasky, a New Orleans resident who's staying now in Youngsville, Louisiana, west of the city.
Katie, thank you.
Ms. LASKY: You're welcome. Thank you.
DAY TO DAY's a production of NPR News, with contributions from slate.com. I'm Alex Chadwick.