M., Pigeontown, Retired Amtrak Mechanic
September 14, 2005
I was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1957.
I was working for Amtrak railroad until I got
shot, disabled in 1989. I had three brothers and
two sisters. One of my little brothers is dead.
I only have two sisters and two brothers, growing
up in New Orleans in the CBD area. I went to elementary
school thirty-six, McDonough 36. Then I went to
senior high at Booker T. Washington.
started working for the Pontchartrain hotel at
first as an assistant waiter, after school, and
then I went to Avondale shipyard in Avondale,
Louisiana. They taught me how to weld. And I quit
them to go to Amtrak railroad. I worked for them,
I think 15 years. When I first started with them
I was, like, a track man that put the tracks down.
And they sent me to school and I trained to be
a mechanic for them. I loved it.
married twice. My wife is deceased. I have six
kids. I love to be a Dad. I love it. Taking care of somebody that can't take care of
they self. My youngest kid is three. No I'm sorry
-- four, five, and six. My youngest kid's name
is just like my mother, Millie. My second kid,
youngest kid, is named Gerard. My third kid is
Jerome. My name is Gerard Jerome (that's my middle
name). And I have another set of kids, Gerard
and Jerome again.
How do you keep everybody straight?
ages. And it's not by the same wife, those. My
oldest kid is a girl and her name is Natace.
So, I was shot at work, someone robbed me. I still
have a bullet in me now. In my stomach. These
days I spend my time helping my mother out a lot.
She's disabled. She suffer with ah, high blood
pressure, diabetes and glaucoma.
Is your mother here?
here now. I'm with her now.
Are you with other family members as well?
I have other family members but I haven't even
uh, tried to locate them on the Internet. I've
got enough problems keeping up with my mother
right now. I'm interested in it, but I'm on the
Internet just as well as anybody else so I guess
they can contact me and whenever I get any time
to contact them I'll try.
So, you were living in the Carrollton area just
off of Spruce and behind the Sewerage and Water
Were you living there with your mother?
my mother have her own house. My mother stays
in the Ninth Ward. I live in what they call the
17th ward, Carrollton. Pigeontown.
Do you think you'll be returning to New Orleans?
I sure hope I would. Yeah, I wish I would.
Would you like to live there again once you're
I think I would. I think I would. What really
messed me up is that the hurricane did a little
something to New Orleans, but the water was the
most damaging thing that I didn't think was gonna
happen after the hurricane. I don't see how that
They got so many rumors. They say some people
blowed up the levee to save some people and I
don't know. But I know I didn't think -- my sister
told me, Hey the water gonna be like 18 feet and
I'm like laughing. I done been through a bunch
of storms. Bessie and Hilda and Camille and I'm
47 years old. And then this
Ivan even up
in Florida, up around Florida, that was okay.
But this one here
shook the house. I was in my little raggly condemned
little house where I live now. But I mean, it
shook it. But it didn't do the damages that the
went to get my mother. I went to get my mother
out the Ninth Ward. My niece come pick me up from
Carrollton. She stays right there in Fountainbleau
area and she picked me up and we went to the Ninth
Ward to get my mother. My mother didn't want to
go. She said, She can't go, she waiting on her
check. I told her the mailman wasn't passed. Said
it was closed but she still didn't want to go.
She is 78 years old.
had a misunderstanding and she didn't want to
leave, and I left. My niece waited and picked
her up and brought her to their house. My sister
and her, my niece mother, is my mother's daughter
and they waited and picked up and brought her
by my sister. For the storm, so. So I called on
the phone to makes sure she was gone 'cause if
not I was just trying to make her think that I
wasn't interested in coming back to get for she
could hurry up and leave. But my niece picked
up, so when I called her to find out that they
really did have her, I was satisfied with that.
went home and brought my little dogs inside. Pittbulls.
I got some pittbull dogs. And then I called to
find out if they home, and they was home so I
thought everything was alright. Okay so the storm
went by. It shook the house, blowed a bunch of
roofs off and all kinds of stuff. Knocked windows
and rain come in. It was scary, just for the storm.
And rained on me and all kinds of
I survived that. The next day it stopped raining
in the daytime, maybe 11 o'clock or 12 o'clock.
It was flooded outside. It was floodery out, probably
about three and a half feet. So I walked up Claiborne
street cause the buses wasn't running to my sister
house. That's a good way. That's about three miles
really in the water, yeah, in the neutral ground
so that's the high point.
when I get there to my sister house the water
gets higher, like four and a half feet. And when
I get there, uh, they tells me 'The water gonna
get 12 feet-it's gonna get 15 feet- it's gonna
get 18 feet' and I'm saying like 'Oh no'. My mother
got like a kinda new vehicle. I got a few vehicles.
I got like a flatbed truck that picks up junk
cars. I got a racing car I just bought. And I
got an old truck just to ride around in.
so the water went to getting up to the ceiling
of a vehicle and I say, "Oh that's about
all it gonna get" and I went inside talking
to my mother laughing and stuff. The water started
rising. And so I say 'Oh, man,' I say. I ask my
niece does she have a balloon or something where
I could hold on in case the water get too high.
I was gonna book it on the neutral ground on Claiborne
street the same way I came. And flag down a boat
or a helicopter -- because the helicopters was flying
all around. So I got uh, what was it? A balloon
swimming pool. So I got in the swimming pool and
just paddled until I got to Claiborne Street.
Once I got to Claiborne Street I was trying to
flag down helicopters but they -- they had a lot
of helicopters but they was all occupied.
you stand on top of the house they'll pick you
up but if you wasn't on top of the house they
weren't going to get you out. I didn't get no
response with that. Let's see how many days that
two days. They saw us. We had flashlights.
So, I went back home, back to my sister's house,
since I couldn't get no response. I made it back
to my sister house. And that night the water getting
higher and higher so I did it again. This time
the water was so high it was like high as high
as that stop sign. You couldn't see the name of
couldn't see number of houses, and that's the
only way you knew where the street was. It was
getting to the second story. So I got back in
the balloon swimming pool and went back to Claiborne
St. But when I got to Claiborne St., where Claiborne
street got a hill when you get on the neutral
ground, this much of me was still sticking up.
[Gestures at his chin.]
had this balloon thing. Inner tube. I had an inner
tube and on top of the swimming pool just in case
that the swimming pool turned over. And it was
like sewagey water. Stool in it, and oil and gas.
I could taste it. And tree branches and, and,
and, and containers. Garbage cans. The big dumps,
the thing you put ice in, what you sell ice out
of, big as a car-they floating. Everything floating.
I couldn't get, I couldn't get back. After the
helicopters didn't pay me no attention, I couldn't
a man passed in a boat. There were people saving
people in a boat. In fact, I did save somebody.
Yeah. I was on Channel Eight for saving a child
-- the first day when I went out, when I was pulling
the boat and I couldn't get no response and I
went back home with the balloon. I did, somebody
was around the neutral ground and I went across
the street and pulled them to the neutral ground,
a man and a woman. They had me on TV with that.
News 8 in New Orleans.
the second day I couldn't get no response and
I couldn't get back, and my mama and my sister
and everybody there with all that water. They
got the flashlights shining at the helicopters
making S.O.S. signs, and I had to get back. So
a man was passing, an old man in a boat. He had
run out of gas. There was like rope with a paddle
or something. Paddling the boat like that. So
he said 'Yeah, son, I'll give you a ride -- but first
whoever gets in the boat got to bring this person
wherever they going.'
can get in the boat, but okay they want to drop
somebody off and on the way back people lived
in that Fountainbleau area. My street was right
there but I just couldn't get down it but they
wasn't gonna go down my street. They had to go
drop this man off in the Fountainbleau area and
when they dropped him off that means nobody couldn't
paddle the boat so I'm a gonna have to paddle
the boat back.
So you would take over from the last person who
got off, then you would take over and pick somebody
else up and get them to where they needed to go?
And if you don't have no experience in paddling
the boat, the boat gonna go one side and you not
gonna get it right. And we tuggled, struggled,
you know: we got to go at the same time! And if
I go to, you know -- I could do me, but this other
man he got the right pace. He experienced. You
know, I'm just using strength. He's a smaller
man but he know how to do it. I'm just going too
much, got the boat turning and we oaring and stuff
like that. "Hey man, I got me, you got, no
man you got me" -- you know. And I'm like,
I want to get back to my mother and my sister
cause I don't know how high this water is. I could
swim a little bit but I mean, I don't think -- the
current, the current. Oh I fell about three or
four times. I like to got killed.
the man rescued me I was trying to go anyway.
I had got in an ice thing just like I'm telling
you-that float around, that keep ice in it. I
looked at those. I got in it. This thing is big as a vehicle. You could put
bags of ice in it. It keeps the ice cold. Like a grocery store has sitting outside. I saw
one of those floating at a service station and
I climbed to it. I had this little innertube,
so I floated over allright to the gas pump. When
I get to the gas pump, I climb on top of the gas
pump. When this thing passed by, floating, I jump
in it. And when I jumped in it the doors shut.
I got out. It just didn't lock good. You know,
I'm glad it didn't lock good, 'cause I could have
drowned trying to come out. I don't know how I
was gonna get out -- but I just felt, you know -- I
didn't really feel dead. I didn't. So I got in
it and I should've stayed exactly in the middle
but when I went end to the end like, the whole
thing tipped over. So I'm in, I'm in all this
stool, number two, and tasting the transmission
oil and motor oil. Everything. You could see all
the residue on top of the water. But I didn't
care about tasting I was trying to get out of
there. So I get out of there and uh, I rode over,
what street was it? General Taylor, and uh, right
before Napoleon. By the funerary home. I float
over there. And they got this dumpster. I get
in the dumpster and the dumpster do the same thing.
It rolled over?
thing twice. And uh, then. Okay, so much for that.
Twice I like to got killed. I swim so much, but
I'm so short-winded now; I couldn't go too far.
I might could swim from here across the street
that's it. But I think I did good trying to get
somewhere. So, after this, I roll with the man
to drop somebody off down near Fountainbleau and
Carrolton in that area you talking about. Nice
area. Rich folks and stuff area.
we can't see. It's nighttime and we don't have
no light on the boat. Now they got the boats that
do got the lights on them passing by us and we
just roll. They got gas and vrooom (noise). Yeah,
they push water, just push us back. And we still
going. Paddles, paddles, that's what it was. So
this man know where he's staying. I don't know,
he must be a fisherman or something'cause there
ain't no signs -- all you can see is the top of the
houses like the top of the second story of the
Fountainbleau was messed up. Claiborne from the
Jefferson Parish line until the Claiborne bridge
on Martin Luther King was pretty bad. So when
we paddled, the man, the man told the guy on the
boat at first, "Ohm I don't stay but two
blocks." So we go to paddling, and this man
stay a mile. So, no lights on, no electricity.
Some kind of way we got up in there and they got
people supposedly evacuated but they didn't. They
was still around there watching the houses probably,
waiting for somebody to come and do something.
don't have no light. It looked like, you know,
it uh, like we that type of kind of person trying
to come get you. But it's an old man that's the
boat fer. So he says 'Hey man, we can't be going
in this neighborhood and people think, you know --
we don't got no light on here'. 'You ain't got
no flashlight?' 'I ain't got no flashlight, man.'
So he just wanted to get where he got!
So you thought rich people might think you were
coming to hurt them?
Rob 'em or something. Break in their houses or
something. They're nice houses. Mansions and stuff,
you know? So, anyway. So we went with the man
who know where he stayed. He know how to get there
but we don't know how to get back out of there.
Some streets you could see the top of the signs.
Some of 'em. [
] So we paddle into the trees.
We hit the trees at the top and the electric wires.
The current was off -- I mean, it got tied all in
the boat. You know you'd paddle, like, you'd paddle
wires. More or less down. More or less down all
in the streets, and trees done fell in the water
and you're on top of a tree. You might be on top
of a bus. So we'd get on top of something and
we were back up with it.
the man that owned the boat. He didn't stay but
around the corner from where I was going. So that
leaves, that leaves uh, the man who owned the
boat. And they had two guys rowing the boat with
me and the old man in the back. So when we drop
one man off that leaves the other man and me doing
it. So when we drop the first man off, we drop
the second man off, and that leaves just me. The
old man was trying, he know how to do it but since
the other guy stayed about two blocks from where
I stayed I took it over right there.
happened was, I felt sorry for the old man. So
I'm paddling myself 'cause the old man got to
get home from my house to his house around the
corner -- so I'm doing both of them. I knew how to
do it once the guy got out, 'cause I know what
this arm can do and I know what this arm can do.
In fact, no, I'm lying. I took one paddle and
took it on both sides. (cough) [Demonstrating
both hands on the paddle.]
the old man wanted to help me and I didn't want
him to, 'cause he had a job trying to get home
and I appreciated. When we got in the boat it
was like evening time where it was still evening,
daylight a little bit. But it wind up at this
time like this was no lights. So I felt sorry
for the old man and I didn't really know if the
old man was gonna make it or not. I really wanted
to get where I was going. I was interested in
the old man but to tell you the truth I was just
trying to get where I wanted to go. I wanted to
just get where I wanted to go: to my mother.
I got there the second night the helicopter's
was picking other people up. They saw the SOS
sign of the big flashlights we had.
How did you know the SOS sign? From Amtrak?
[laugh] I made them up [more laughter] I guess
they was SOS but they may have been BOB. I don't
know what they was. But I mean, watching Gilligan's
Island and stuff like that years ago, yeah! Blink
them off and on and stuff like that. So, uh what
happened was they picked other people up in the
helicopters and took them (who-who-whoo-whoo)
blowing the roofs off houses. I mean the real
helicopters, yeah. The real ones, yeah. I mean
not no little ones. Over at Amtrak they got big
engines, a train that pulls a train -- these engines.
I've worked on those. Those big, and they are
diesel engines. I'm affiliated with fixing diesel
engines. But they didn't sound like that. That's
the real deal, Uncle Sam stuff. Just like the
hummer, there's the Latoya hummers, and they got
the real hummers, you know. So. Anyway, the helicopters
picked them up, and uh, another day pass. Two
days pass. The third day.
What were you doing for food and water?
sister had cans, canned foods. She had, oh. She
got, she keep three babies. She already had that
before the storm. I mean she got three babies
for my nephew. Her daughter got two babies and
they keep food in the house. Just canned foods.
And uh they already had charcoal. A lot of food.
It, it, it ran out. I mean it didn't run out before
we got rescued, but I could have just ate regular.
In fact I was. I was eating just corn, open it
up and eat it out of the can like that. So, the
third day of the helicopters, I got on top of
the house. We was on the porch and my sister got
a two-story house. It's a two story and the water
was getting up to the second story. So I took
the flashlight and went to shining the flashlight
and stuff like that. Alright. And uh, and they
they respond but they didn't stop. They went next
door, get somebody. So when I climbed on top of
the roof and went to with the red flag they (whoo
whoo whoo whoo) made a U-turn and come back and
I knew I said. "Hey y'all get ready, y'all
get ready." So, they came back and I was
on the part of the roof, the edge, and I backed
up and when I get back I told my mom and my sister
to get ready. Alright. And my mama didn't want
to go either.
How'd you feel when you saw that helicopter coming
felt good, but I know (pause) something just feel
like we were gonna separate for some reason. There
was a lot of confusion in the packed house anyway,
cause the neighbor's inside with us and things
were starting to blow. There was too many people
packed in the house so I was glad for some of
us to separate.
managed to let my niece get in there with her
three, with her two babies, and my nephew, three
kids, with my sister. So that's five kids and
my niece gone. That's one load. So, the helicopter
didn't come back for three, about two or three
hours. But it came back. When it came back I let
my sister get in there and my mama didn't want
to go and I picked her up and helped her out the
helicopter is the one with both of the blades
on. They got the one with the one blade on it
and that's pretty strong, but we had the maximum
one. So I let my mother and my sister get in the
second load first. I let my mother get in there.
The big old guy that they had downstairs. He rents
from downstairs. So she let him come up there,
just a friend. And I let him get in the helicopter
and I was the last one to get in it. Yeah, I wanted
to rescue everybody. So we got in there and they
shot us on the Interstate 10 going west at the
Causeway exit. It was a dry land surface and they
had like a site set up with things for sleeping
and stuff like that. The Army or the National
Guard or something would bring this little stuff
you put water in it. It's food. You put just water
in it and it get hot. Steam come from it. Like if they fighting over in Iraq or something.
I mean it's got the dessert, the appetizer, the
main course. Yeah, little packs of it. In fact
I got some inside right now. They treated me good,
they did perfect job. Uncle Sam did up beautiful
job. For me myself. Yeah, I got no problem with
that. Uncle Sam did his job. He did the best that
he can do.
for what happened in the Superdome or the Convention
Center I have no idea, 'cause I was in a facility
that Uncle Sam set up on the Interstate that I
had no problem with. I think they did a hundred
percent okay. You know. For the rescue and Uncle
Sam boys that are fighting for the country. In
fact I thought he had half of the people out of
Iraq here helping New Orleans. I think FEMA and
Uncle Sam and everybody did perfect from day one
with me and my family. I can't say what happened
in the Superdome -- I've heard different people tell me.
don't know. I don't think too much it was Uncle
Sam. I think it was the local government and the
city and mostly the city folk in New Orleans.
That's what I think. I could be wrong but in this
mean everybody had time to get out of New Orleans
if they had wanted to.
could have got out. That was a poor excuse. But
I'm saying, Mother Nature can't -- Uncle Sam and
nobody can't stop was going on. Even me myself,
I had time to get out of New Orleans. It's that
I didn't think. We had warnings from the Mayor,
we had warnings from the Governor. Even before
that the President even said, you know, or what
Sam flew us through the dry surface on the Interstate
going West of Interstate 10. dry sites. It's a
nice site. And food. FEMA came through there and
fed people like they never was fed before. And
I know it was uh, military food, but it didn't
taste like military food. It tasted just like
if you were in a dining room to me and anybody
else that eat it. They're still eating it in New
Orleans, the people that they dropping it off
to. My mother, by her having a disabled problem,
I stuck with her. They separated my sister and
they called a bus to another parish first. I didn't
want to get on that bus with them cause it was
like some fussing in the family and I couldn't
take the fussing part.
was fussing so I said, well, too many women around
together, too many women together ain't gonna,
ain't gonna make it. So I said, well, let me step
in there. And it's my old mama -- I can't just let
nobody talk to her any kind of way. I say some
things to her sometimes make her think that I
don't care, but I care, you know. Sometimes you
have to say some things to get your point through --you
might not even mean them. So my sister and them
got on the bus with the kids and the buses came.
And everybody couldn't even get on the bus- oh,
they had thousands of people out there. So my
mother was like in a wheelchair and people probably
would have pushed her around, so we just sat in
one of those little cots until the next day and
we didn't even try to get in line. I knew old
people was gonna come up another time. The next
day it was the old people turn, and they brought
helicopters. The first day it was just bringing
helicopters to drop you off safe but the next
day was helicopters flying you to the airport.
So we got flew to the airport. Not too many loads
before us but we they had enough people. I believe
it was about the third load of the helicopter
ride to the airport. So we get to the airport
and they've started bringing people.
they doing the best they could do. They trying
the helicopters-oh, they doing everything they
could do, I know they were. So we stayed about
two days sleeping on the concrete at Louis Armstrong
Airport. They was full upstairs and downstairs.
So you had to sign papers to get on the airplane
to go to Houston or to go to all parts of Texas
-- Houston, San Antone, uh, San Diego.
first that's how Houston get a hundred and twenty
something thousand people. At here we only got
4 to 5,000 people. And they separate them -- Kansas
City and stuff like that. So by the time that
line went down the next day we spent the night.
So when the daytime came they had too many people
left. Flying everybody out -- first class, Delta
whatever, no name airplane -- whatever it is get
you out of New Orleans.
my mother still wanted to lay around, she didn't
want to go again. And I couldn't get her on the
airplane. I wanted to go. She wouldn't get on
the airplane. So I had somebody to kind of scare
her, like she was going to go to jail or something
if she didn't go. So after that she got on the
airplane and they flew us to Austin airport. Flew
us to Austin airport and once we got there we
caught the bus, come down here and that was it.
been great. 100 percent, I think. Our plans are
to still take care of my mother and see if we
can get some kind of temporary housing. And investigate
the property damage back in New Orleans and then
take it from there. Pray every day and hope for