FARAI CHIDEYA, host:
Time now for StoryCorps Griot. Each Tuesday, we bring you a story from this project that's recording black Americans across the country. Today, we have a story about loss, survival and Hurricane Katrina.
Two years later, the storm still haunts those who live through it. In New Orleans, David Duplantier can't forget what happened after the storm. The city police officer was separated from his wife Melissa Eugene who had evacuated.
He came into the StoryCorps booth with his wife, and David remembers the night Katrina hit when he was working in the Superdome.
Mr. DAVID DUPLANTIER (Police Officer): As the night progressed, we started seeing hole starting to form in the roof of the dome. And then this roof literally looked like an eggshell. It started to peel. And at that point was when everybody knew, okay, it's here. It's hitting us now. It wasn't a place really where people could find refuge. I mean, as the days went on and the water continued to rise so you couldn't go back out. And the people never stopped coming in. There was a point where we were trying to get evacuation going and the one image that haunts me to this day, there was a woman that broke through the crowd and she had a little boy in her arms. And he was convulsing and she was screaming that he was sick. And I kept asking her, do you need water? And she was trying to tell me what was wrong with him and she kept looking at me to do something. She kept asking me, where are the doctors? And I told her they were gone.
Ms. MELISSA EUGENE (David Duplantier's Wife): Do you know what happened to her?
Mr. DUPLANTIER: No, I don't know what happened.
Ms. EUGENE: And what were you thinking all those days being apart and not knowing?
Mr. DUPLANTIER: All I wanted to do was let you know that I wasn't dead, I was alive. I never slept. Eight days, I don't know how many hours I may have gotten and at night, that's all I thought about was you. I just wanted to get back to you. Go back to life again. The whole thing felt like a really bad dream. I remembered it was very early on a Sunday morning and they told us that we can go and check on our loved one and I remember just feeling like I just escaped. I just wanted to get away and get to you. And I remember your smell when I first saw you. Man, I got(ph) drunk off your smell.
Ms. EUGENE: That was the happiest day of my life.
Mr. DUPLANTIER: Me too.
Ms. EUGENE: Are you glad that we decided to stay in New Orleans?
Mr. DUPLANTIER: Yeah, this is home. And until it completely falls apart, if that ever happens, then we'll be here. Are you glad to be here?
Ms. EUGENE: I'm very glad to be here. You can't replace this place. It's just -it's a part of who we are.
Mr. DUPLANTIER: Yeah. I'm sorry for not talking about this with you before. It's weird because I find myself sitting down and I hear a song or I watch something on TV and I feel myself becoming full. And I think I'm just trying to put a lot of stuff in the back of my mind trying to forget about it. So when you ask I don't mean to be vague, it's just hard.
Ms. EUGENE: I know.
CHIDEYA: David Duplantier with his wife Melissa Eugene at StoryCorps in New Orleans. The StoryCorps Griot booth is currently in Oakland. The next stop is Clarksdale, Mississippi.
All the Griot initiative recordings are archived at the Library of Congress. A copy of each interview will also go to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
To find out how to record your interview and to hear more from StoryCorps Griot, go to our Web site nprnewsandnotes.org.
(Soundbite of music)
That's our show for today and thank you for sharing your time with us. To listen to this show or subscribe to our podcasts, visit our Web site, nprnewsandnotes.org. No spaces, just nprnewsandnotes.org. To join the conversation or sign up for our newsletter, visit our blog at nprnewsandviews.org.
NEWS & NOTES was created by NPR News and the African American Public Radio Consortium.
Tomorrow, we mark the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
(Soundbite of music)
I'm Farai Chideya. This is NEWS & NOTES.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.