Military Cop Describes Superdome Scene

U.S. Army Sgt. Bobby Jones, a military policeman who helped oversee the Superdome evacuation in New Orleans, shares his memories of what the "refuge of last resort" was like and the conditions the city's desperate had to endure.

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ED GORDON, host:

I'm Ed Gordon and this is NEWS & NOTES.

Emergency management officials in Houston plan to close the temporary shelter in the Astrodome by this weekend. They're hoping hurricane victims staying there now will have found other housing options by then. The expectation of an orderly transition in Houston contrasts with the chaotic evacuation of New Orleans' shelter of last resort, the Louisiana Superdome. US Army Sergeant Bobby Jones, a military policeman, helped to oversee that evacuation, and he shared his thoughts about what happened there with NPR's Farai Chideya.

Sergeant BOBBY JONES (US Army Military Police): Well, we were tasked with coming in here and trying to make sure the Superdome and the convention center were secure. We had some unruly citizens doing some unruly things, and we tried to come here and straighten those particular things out.

FARAI CHIDEYA reporting:

When did you arrive?

Sgt. JONES: We arrived here late Sunday night.

CHIDEYA: And what were the conditions when you found them?

Sgt. JONES: Well, the conditions were deplorable. The city was in a shamble, high winds, high water. It was something no one expected. I've been living here 28 years myself, and it was just different. You know, you never expected it to come to this.

CHIDEYA: First the city was full of life, and then it was full of chaos, and now it's empty. How does it feel to have seen it go through those transitions?

Sgt. JONES: It's hard, because the city's known for several large festivals. It's known for sporting events. It's known for religious activities. It's known for political activity. It's known for a lot of good things. A lot of positive things go on in New Orleans, and now that will be put on hold for, I would say, at least a year. At my home, I have seven feet of water in my home. My car is under six feet of water at Jackson Barracks military installation. So, you know, everybody's--we all have to change our way of living for some time now.

CHIDEYA: Do you think--and I know this is a tough question. A lot of people said, `Why weren't the rapes prevented? Why weren't the children protected in the Superdome?' What could have been done to help the people who got the absolute worst of this whole situation?

Sgt. JONES: You know what I think? Family is responsible for children. I'm going to go out on a limb and say parents have to keep their children close or even closer. The data and intel that we got was after the fact, after these incidents had happened. When you have those large amounts of individuals, it's hard to contain those--all the little spots of people that were in the Superdome and at the convention center. It was just a very, very hard task, and I think we prevented quite a few things by providing better lighting, providing more security, more patrols, we worked around the clock. We worked on three hours a day of sleep. Sometimes we worked on a hour and a half sleep. But I think we did a fine job in trying to prevent those particular incidents from happening.

CHIDEYA: And now that the convention center is empty and the Superdome is empty and much of the city is empty, what is your job next?

Sgt. JONES: Well, we're on call from the TAG. Whatever our missions will be, they'll be handed down to our commander, and our commander will in turn give those particular missions to us. We'll probably be doing some R&R for 24 hours, some much-deserved R&R. And from there, come what will.

CHIDEYA: Thank you very much.

Sgt. JONES: Thank you.

GORDON: That, again, was US Army Sergeant Bobby Jones, a military policeman who helped oversee the evacuation at the Louisiana Superdome, speaking with NPR's Farai Chideya.

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