Listening to New Orleans: Charmaine Neville

IndyMedia New Orleans

Charmaine Neville’s story, WAFB, Baton Rouge video

I was in my house when everything first started. I was in my house, yes, I live in the Bywater Area of the Ninth Ward of New Orleans. When the hurricane came, it blew all the left side of my house, the North side of my house. And the water was coming in my house in torrents. I had my neighbor, an elderly man who is my neighbor, and myself, in the house. And with our dogs and cats and we were trying to stay out of the water, but the water was coming in too fast. So we ended up having to leave the house.

We left the house and we went up on the roof of a school. I took a crowbar and I burst the door open on the roof of the school to help people, to get them up onto the roof of the school. Later on we found a flat boat. And we went around in the neighborhood in a flatboat getting people out of their houses and bringing them to the school. (Crying.) We found all the food that we could and then we fed people.

But then things started getting really bad. By the second day, the people that were there that we were feeding and everything, we had no more food, no water. We had nothing. And other people were coming into our neighborhood.

We were watching the helicopters go across the bridge and airlift other people out, and they would hover over us and tell us “hi!” but that would be all. They wouldn’t drop us any food, any water, or nothing. Alligators were eating people. They had all kinds of stuff in the water. They had babies floating in the water. We had to walk over hundreds of bodies of dead people. People that we tried to save from the hospices, from the hospitals and from the old folks homes.

I tried to get the police to help us, but I realized we rescued a lot of police officers in the flat boat from the Fifth District police station. The boat. The guy that was driving the boat, he rescued a lot of them and brought them to different places where they could be saved. We understood that the police couldn’t help us. But we could not understand why the National Guard and them couldn’t help us, because we kept seeing them. But they never would stop and help us.

Finally it got to be too much. I just took all of the people that I could. I helped two old women in wheelchairs with no legs, that I rolled them from down in that Ninth Ward to the French Quarters, and I went back and I got more people. There were groups of us, you know, there was about 24 of us. And we kept going back and forth and rescuing whoever we could get and bringing them to the French Quarters because we heard that there were phones at the French Quarters. And there wasn’t any water. And they were right there was phones, but we couldn’t get through.

I found some police officers. I told them that a lot of us women had been raped down there by guys who had come (audio deleted) [not] from the neighborhood where we were that were helping us to save people, but other men. And they came and they started raping women and (audio delted) they started killing. And I don’t know who these people…I’m not going to tell you that I know who they were, because I don’t.

But what I want people to understand is that if we had not been left down there like the animals that they were treating us like, all of those things wouldn’t have happened.

People are trying to say that we stayed an extra day because we wanted to be rioting and we wanted to do this, but we had no resources to get out, and we had no way to leave. When they gave the evacuation order, if we could’ve left, we would have left. There are still thousands and thousands of people trapped in the homes in the downtown area–when we finally did get– in the Ninth Ward, and not just in my neighborhood, but in other neighborhoods of the ninth ward there are a lot of people who are still trapped down there. Old people. Young people. Babies. Pregnant women. I mean nobody’s helping them.

And I want people to realize that we did not stay in the city so that we could steal and loot and commit crimes.

A lot of those young men lost their minds because the helicopters would fly over us and they wouldn’t stop. We’d do SOS on the flashlights, we’d do everything. And it came to a point. It really did come to a point where these young men were really so frustrated that they did start shooting. They weren’t trying to hit the helicopters. Maybe they weren’t seeing. Maybe if they heard this gunfire they will stop then. But that didn’t help us. Nothing like that helped us.

Finally, I got to Canal Street with all of my people that I had saved from back there. There was a whole group of us. I–I don’t want them arresting nobody else–I broke the window in an RTA bus. I never learned how to drive a bus in my life. I got in that bus. I loaded all those people in wheelchairs and then everything else into that bus and (sobbing) and we drove (crying) and we drove.

And millions of people was trying to get me to help, for them to get on the bus (crying, crying, crying).


Note: Thanks to New Orleas IndyMedia for the link to this video. See, Katrina and the State by Kate. Another link from the article takes us to a news report about 18-year-old Jabbor Gibson who also “stole” a bus to get people out. What’s fascinating about the link is that it is from Free Republic, where the usual crowd of Republican apologists are cheering Jabbor for Mayor! Say survivors Larry Bradshaw and Lorrie Beth Slonsky: “the official relief effort was callous, inept, and racist.” An article and audio interview by Malik Rahim also serves to witness the mess on the ground. All this and more at New Orleans IndyMedia.–gm

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