Katrina Victims Share their Stories

The story of Hurricane Katrina continues to unfold in the massive recovery effort and the lives of the many thousands of people affected by the storm. Hear some of the voices of people who have been living through the disaster.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

We listen back now to the week that began when Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast. At first, it appeared that New Orleans might have escaped the worst. But the levees broke, the city flooded, thousands were stranded. As people saw Katrina's destruction throughout the region, it became clear that a monumental disaster had occurred. The story of Hurricane Katrina continues to unfold in the massive recovery effort and in the lives of the many thousands of people affected by the storm. Here are some of the voices of those who have been living through it all.

Unidentified Woman #1: No one in New Orleans had any clue that this was about to happen to us. And it was really quite stunning how quickly this went from, `Oh, another little storm spinning in the Gulf' to `It's headed straight for us. Run for your lives.'

Unidentified Woman #2: Giant ancient oak trees were uprooted. There's a statue of Jesus, and the trees fell around him.

(Soundbite of machinery)

Unidentified Man #1: So we figure we're very lucky. We figure we're very--the Lord took care of us, that's for sure.

Governor HALEY BARBOUR (Republican, Mississippi): You simply cannot imagine the destruction. I would say 90 percent of the structures between the beach and the railroad in Biloxi, Gulfport, Long Beach and Pass Christian are totally destroyed. They're not severely damaged, they're simply not there.

Unidentified Man #2: There's people on the rooftops and some people are still in their houses. We rescued a young lady. She was in the house. She couldn't get in the attic. And I don't know how she survived, but she made it. We had to get her through the side of the house...

Lieutenant Commander TIM TOBIAS (US Coast Guard): We had lowered our rescue swimmer down, the roof actually began to sink. The first...

President GEORGE W. BUSH: I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees.

Unidentified Man #3: Everything I own, basically speaking, except the car that we are in, is underwater, so we basically have just what we brought.

Unidentified Woman #3: My home--I don't know yet. I live on a second floor apartment.

Unidentified Woman #4: We begged all of those people to get out. The people who stayed chose to stay, in some cases, and in other cases, had limited resources.

Unidentified Woman #5: We're looking for family members. We don't--you know, they're feeding us every four hours or so, but it's just so hot, and they're just piling more and more in.

Unidentified Woman #6: You need to understand that we are working in a--what is essentially a primitive site condition. These conditions make it extremely...

Unidentified Woman #7: It's scary, because I've only got like $80 to my name. My job and my bank and everything like that is all in New Orleans.

Pres. BUSH: I met with Chairman Greenspan at lunch, as well as their economic team, to evaluate the impact of Hurricane Katrina. We particularly spent a lot of time talking about the damage done to our energy infrastructure and its effect on the availability and price of gasoline.

Ms. BETH NORRIS (East Jefferson General Hospital): We've had about five babies born, a couple of them did go to the NICU, which were transported out this morning. The remaining babies are...

Unidentified Man #4: So far, we've had about 70 buses to depart from the Louisiana Superdome carrying medical patients. The general evacuation is in the process. General evacuation...

Unidentified Man #5: There are, I estimate, 2,000 people living like animals inside the city convention center and around it. There is no food. There's...

Unidentified Woman #8: Two babies have died, a woman died, a man died. We haven't had no food. We haven't had no water. We haven't had nothing. They...

Unidentified Woman #9: I've lived in and around New Orleans all of my life, and to see it just completely devastated like this--it's terrifying.

MONTAGNE: Some of the voices that told the story of Hurricane Katrina this week.

And after a harrowing week, one more voice now, a note of hope. Irvin Mayfield plays trumpet in New Orleans and is the city's official cultural ambassador. He is in Baton Rouge today with much of his family. His father and one of his brothers stayed in their New Orleans area house during the hurricane. Irvin Mayfield hasn't yet heard from them. The young musician offers these words on the future of the city of his birth.

Mr. IRVIN MAYFIELD: Born and raised 100 percent true New Orleanian and I've prided myself on never having to really live for an extended period of time anywhere else. You know, I pretty much made my living and my name, you know, living and residing in the city of New Orleans.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. MAYFIELD: I mean, we have to rebuild. We have to move forward. Cities must be resilient if we're going to show the resilience of our country. So I think that's part of our job, you know, what people have to do is--I play the trumpet so I need to go back and play the trumpet. And then there's teachers who need to go back and teach. You know, kids need to go back and grow up properly, and we don't have that option as Americans to look at any part of our country in a sense of abandonment.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. MAYFIELD: The only thing that could make New Orleans more so of a cultural mecca is if the Constitution was written there, but the music, the constitution of music was created. That's where jazz was born. Jazz is the music of America, and really, jazz is really the manifestation of democracy in the music.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. MAYFIELD: There's just the question of, you know, how are we going to be resilient? What we can do? You know, I think jazz can be a representative of that because what jazz actually does is, jazz takes--yeah, it's hard right now, but it's going to be better. It's a great sensibility to take what we have and we're going to do the best with what we got. And then the thing about jazz is you don't just what you got and just do what you can with it, you have to do it with style.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. MAYFIELD: Tragic situations give a person the mandate to define themselves of what they're going to be and who they are. And I think that the city of New Orleans, of New Or-leens, I think, has to sign a resilience because that's what it takes to move on. But this country has endured many things and the world has also. And, you know, this is just another major catastrophe that we're going to have to deal with and we have to endure.

MONTAGNE: New Orleans trumpeter Irvin Mayfield. He asked that we play the music that you're hearing, which is by Mayfield and pianist Gordon Parks. It's called "Wind Song."

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

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