Survivors' Stories: Living Through Katrina In the months since flooding and high winds devastated the Gulf Coast one year ago, stories of loss, sacrifice and survival have emerged that help Americans understand what happened -- and to whom. For residents who are still recovering from the ordeal, the stories can be haunting.
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Survivors' Stories: Living Through Katrina

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Survivors' Stories: Living Through Katrina

Survivors' Stories: Living Through Katrina

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Time now for StoryCorps. This oral history project is recording the stories of everyday Americans across the nation. The past year, StoryCorps stopped along the Gulf Coast. Today we bring you two stories from those visits. Each is about loss, survival and Hurricane Katrina, which, one year later, still haunts those who lived through it.

Mr. DOUGLAS PAUL DESILVEY (Hurricane Katrina Survivor): My name is Douglas Paul deSilvey. I'm a native of the Gulf Coast. The story I want to tell today is about my family.

MONTAGNE: Douglas P. deSilvey tells us this first story from Gulfport, Mississippi about his wife their daughter and his mother-in-law, Nadine.

Mr. DESILVEY: The three women in my family have steered my life for the past 59 years to the man that I am today, and I hope and think that I am a pretty good fellow.

Every time we had a hurricane we would all go over to Nadine's home. We considered this just another storm. Since '77 when she built this house, we been through every storm in it.

Not knowing what we were in for, we were sitting on the bed and I could hear glass breaking. And I walked to the back of her bedroom, which was facing the Bay just to measure the water to see how high up it was. And in the back, the water just came up so fast it was unbelievable.

As I turned and told them to hold hands, that we was going to have to get into the water, the roof came down on all of us and my lungs started filling up with water. And I just kept asking Jesus not to let me go like this. I had to get my family out.

I got out and they didn't. I'm a big guy. I'm 268 pounds and I exercise and stay healthy and I just - I could not do a thing. It was just their time to go is the only way I can understand this.

Losing a family is - I don't think there's any words for it. It kind of makes you wonder what life's all about. Many, many questions I have not received answers for yet. I just don't know what I feel these days. I wake up and go to my office and do my job and I come home. I've got the house full of their belongings and that I don't know what to do about.

You know, when - as a father and a dad and a husband and everything, you always plan for the future of everybody, and it's just the opposite now. I have nobody to plan for or work on retirement for or save for buying a house or - it's just me.

MONTAGNE: Douglas P. deSilvey of Gulfport, Mississippi.


Our next story takes us to New Orleans where David Duplantier can't forget what happened after the storm. The city police officer was separated from his wife, Melissa Eugene, who had evacuated. This morning they tell their stories together in a StoryCorps booth.

On the night Katrina hit, David Duplantier was working at the Superdome.

Mr. DAVID DUPLANTIER (Hurricane Katrina Survivor): As the night progressed, we started seeing a 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, 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 the 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. And she kept asking me, well, where are the doctors? And I told her they were gone.

Ms. MELISSA EUGENE (Wife of David Duplantier; Hurricane Katrina Survivor): Do you know what happened to her?

Mr. DUPLANTIER: No, I don't know what happened.

Ms. EUGENE: 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. In 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 could go and check on our loved ones, 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 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 and try and forget about it. So when you ask I don't mean to be vague, it's just hard.

Ms. EUGENE: I know.

INSKEEP: That's David Duplantier with his wife Melissa Eugene at StoryCorps in New Orleans. These two stories and others from Katrina survivors are at And, of course, all StoryCorps interviews are archived at the Library of Congress.

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