I live in uptown New Orleans, Broadmoor neighborhood. I stayed in town for the storm at at the Lowe\'s hotel. The second day after Katrina, when the public was allowed on the street, my neice and I got into her car and came to our street to see what the damages may be. We had to park on Napoleon on the neutral ground and walk to our street (4100 block of Elba Street) since some water was backed up and about knee deep. But we could see that our block was not flooded and thought the water was from the back up at the pumping station waiting to be pumped out. So we waded in and sure enough the street was not flooded nor any of the streets around us. We paused to celebrate that. Her house is across the street from mine and her Grandmother\'s house is next door to mine. Se we began to check out the area, our yards, etc. I have a pool, so I wanted to see how much debris may be in it and what the clean out would be. I noted that my awnings were down and most of them in the pool along with screens, doors, trash, a huge tree limb, etc. So that was normal. I went into the house and we had lost some french windows from the front of the house, but other than some water on the floors we seemed ok. I went into the attic and noticed some small leak, but it was not going to be too much. We breathed easy. Then, about an hour later, I heard her screaming - calling me - Aunt Bunny, Aunt Bunny, come on, we have to leave, the water is rising. Mind you we had checked out each house and noted part of the gutters down, car port shredded, fences down and usual storm damages. But rising water and it was not even raining???? So we grabbed a few items and headed for the car. We had left 2 dogs (rotweilers-one 10 year old and one 6 month puppy) at the hotel along with some cloths and supplies typical for hurricane preparation. The water around our neighborhood had gone from our ankles to our knees in that one hour. We could see that it was much deeper as we approached the corner. So how would we get to the car? We grabbed a tree limb to poke into the water as we walked to keep from tripping. The water was not up to our chests and getting deeper. I remember saying to her I sure hope we do not have to swim in this. So we say a broken part of a fence and grabbed that in case we had to float the dogs, thinking we would get them and come back. When we got to the car on the neutral ground, near Napoleon and S. Broad, the water was laping just at the step - She had a jeep cherokee then. So we eased out onto Napoleon heading for Claiborne which is how we got home via Claiborne. Now we say some flooding on the side streets, but again, thought it was only water waiting for the pumps to take out. But, now Claiborne was flooded halfway up a pickup truck that was stuck in the intersection. So we continued towards the river, but large tree limbs blocked our way. We turned right to go further uptown and wind our way to Tchoupatoulas. But we had to keep turning right, left, go forward, because of debris and fallen lines. We were scared, but determined. We could see the dry street one block away, but debris and fallen lines were in our way. We had no choice but to go under the lines. As we left an area, the waters were coming so we could not reverse our direction. So she said, I will watch this side Aunt Bunny and you watch that one. We did and we made it. We headed downtown on Tchoupatoulas. We passed Walmart and saw people taking stuff, we saw a man in a limosene, who said the car company was giving away vehicles; we laughed because we knew that could not be true. We still did not know about the evaucation or the levee breaks. There were no radio signals we could find, no tv, no cell phones working, no electricity, of course, and no police in sight. When we got to the hotel, my neice\'s contact who is her husband\'s cousin (which is how we were able to stay at the hotel)said we have been looking for you. We have to leave and evacuate the city. WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? Everyone is ordered out. Where are we to go? So, we go the dogs, our stuff and loaded the car to leave. To go where??? We thought we would go east and then north. So onto I-10 we got and noted no traffic. Where is everyone? All the folks could not be gone??? We were stopped by a very young National Guardsman who told us the bridge had parts fallen off and we could not go east. So we turned around to go west, but to where? No one could tell us how to get out. And no one knew the reason we had to go. We had no idea that the levee had broken in so many places and we were fast going under water. So we stopped on I-10 with only a handfull of cars. We kept at the radio until we heard that one station broadcasting from the Hyatt Hotel closet. The announcer told us that the city was flooded and flooding more, that the bridge had lost parts so no crossing the lake and that the only way out was to use the Crescent City Connection and to follow highway 90 west, using the old highway. So we did. People we say walking we gave water, food, and good wishes. People begged us to take them, take their baby, take their children. But we were paked with 3 adults, 2 dogs, and stuff. We had one extra adult from our neighborhood with us who we had left at the hotel when we came to see our street.We also had a huge dog carrier tied to the roof of the car, a 50 pound bag of dog chow, a few suitcases, our hurricane emergency packs, etc. We were loaded. I sat in the back seat on about and 8 inch spot, with a very excited and happy puppy weighing about 40 pounds, hopping all over me. When she was still she had her paws on my shoulders and her head resting on my head. She was funny. We wanted to help folks, but we couldn\'t give out any more water, food, supplies, nor could we take any more passengers. We cried. On the way to the hotel, we saw people walking to the Superdome and the Convention Center. It was madness. We say bodies on the street covered because they were dead. We saw a dead person in a wheel chair and more water following us. We cried. We gathered our resolve, said prayers and headed out. We still did not know that I said, let\'s go to Iota, Louisiana. My daughter\'s in-laws live there. We could go there. My neice said emphatically NO. we are going north. But we had to go west to do it. We were in the big traffic. Restaurants along the way were running out of food, stores were running out of water and supplies. Hotels and Motels were full. We stopped all along the way. We finally got to a McDonald\'s to eat and feed the dogs. We put ice in their water because they were getting dehydrated. We had to let them cool off and stretch. Mind you, we left in wet cloths that dried on us. When we got near Baton Rouge, we stopped to ask the State Trooper for advice and information. He thought certain hotels still had rooms. One we went to had pushed their prices up and they did not even have full service. No lights. So we kept going West Northwest. We kept trying our cell phones because we were not in an area that had electricity, but no luck. Finally she reached a friend in Virginia who is a computer wiz. We asked him to search for a hotel within 100 miles of our location. We still could not call anyone else, only that one call. So we also asked him to call family and let them know we are ok and making our way out. The only other call we could make was to him when he told us the information on a hotel in Winfield, Louisiana. We tried the number and GOT IT. We believe God smiled on us for this. We used my debit/credit card to hold the last 2 rooms and YES, we could bring the dogs, and we got directions. A small Best Western with only 52 rooms. So we breathed easier knowing we had someplace to get to. We were able to get gas on the way. We were getting scared about that too. So, we kept going and hours and hours later we pulled in the hotel. These folks were incredible. They were so understanding, so caring. We were able to shower and eat. We could walk and relieve the dogs. We finally saw television and what had happened to our city and the gulf coast. We cried and cried. We called our relatives. Her husband is a policeman. He was stationed at the superdome. We worried and worried until we heard from him. My oldest daughter lived in Kenner, but she and her family had left several days before the storm. She is a first responder with the State Health Department and they had given orders for the staff to leave well ahead of the disaster. She, her husband and 2 sons had gone to Tennessee since we have relatives there. But my youngest daughter was in (southern) New Jersey and frantic worrying about me and my neice, Michelle. The next day at the hotel, we talked to see what would be the plan now. My daughter in NJ got me a plane ticket from Alexdandria to Baltimore. I would be leaving the next day. Michelle was to stay in Winfield and wait on her brother who was flying in from Virginia to assist her in driving to her mother\'s house where she eventually left the dogs. She stayed in Winfield several days because her husband was getting a relief break and would join her for a short stay and then go back to New Orleans. Several days later she and her brother took the dogs to Virginia, but she turned around and came back to New Orleans to join her husband. They had accomdations on a cruise boat. My daughter picked me up in Baltimore and we drove the hour and a half to our home in Woodbury NJ. She was hysterical. Mad that I stayed for the storm and glad that we were ok, but hysterical just the same. She had seen the reports on CNN, MSNBC, etc. My oldest daughter was so angry with me too (and Michelle) for not leaving when she left, but glad we were ok.One of the items we put in our hurrcane prep kit are important papers . So as soon a I got to Woodbury, I started calling the insurance company, FEMA, Red Cross, etc. The lines were busy busy. So I decided to call State Farm anywhere in Louisiana. I got thru to an office in Monroe, Louisiana and filed my claims for the house and car. Having the claim numbers gave me some sense of relief. I was afraid the company would run out of money so I wanted to get registered right away. At this point I did not know what I was going to do. I was numb all over. I watched the reports on tv and cried and cried. I would wake up in the night crying. I would wake up from nightmares about it. I worried about Michelle and my daughter, Lenette being in New Orleans. They were both on cruise boats. Lenette had to leave her family in Tennessee while she returned to work. They were on different boats, but could not visit each other on the boats even though they had ID for the boats. So they met in the street, but that ran the risk of not getting a parking space close to the docks. Of course the city was black at night. As time went on - don\'t ask how many days because I stopped counting or knowing - I heard from the flood insurance. Claim approved and check coming to New Jersey. No word yet on wind damage or the car. I left my little classic Mustang convertible in New Orleans. I could not drive it out when we left anyway. I knew it was going to drown and it did. I heard about Mayor Street, in Philadelphia,opening the doors of the City for 1000 evacuees. Of course I was angry with the news media for calling us refugees, but Mayor Street did not do that. I went to the Wannamaker School in Philadelphia which was the staging ground for evacuees. They had a wonderful plan. I say FEMA and filed my report/claim; Red Cross; SBA; and social services. They had volunteers to assist each person/family to show us from place to place in the building. He had taken a vacant school and converted it into assistance central. I was seen at the clinic and checked out; I was seen by counsellors and referred to assistance in NJ; I did not need a room in the building. They had converted school rooms into sleeping quarters for folks. I did not need clothing. But they had a room full for children\'s cloths, adult cloths, a bag of toiletries and wash cloths and towels; the showers were available in the building, and the folks were fed by Salvation Army using the school cafeteria. It was incredible and so very well organized. I was so proud of Mayor Street and the City of Philadelphia. I had worked in Philadelphia shortly before I retired and returned to New Orleans, about a year before the Storm. My former coworkers and friends in the area had been trying to reach me. They were so supportive. But I was a basket case. A walking, talking basketcase. The counsellor in NJ told me to stop looking at the news and stop reading the papers, but I couldn\'t. I just couldn\'t. The nightmares continued long after the storm, but have pretty much stopped now. Every so often, I still have a flash back. I worried about friends in New Orleans and the surrounding area, church members, co-workers from my days working in New Orleans, etc. Like everyone else. People my girls went to school with who lived in the 9th ward or in Mississippi. Where are they? Are they alive? Is there house gone? Did they get out? Friends who lived on the Lake side of town. What happened to them? I lived in a numbing stupor state for months. But I had to put on a good face for my girls, so I did. Woodbury is a very small, quaint, NJ town. When the word got out that Katrina survivors where in town, assistance came knocking, literally at the door. The church in town gave us clothing. ( I still had my neighbor with me - a gentleman) They referred us to all kinds of services. Brought food and gifts of money. I sent out over 100 thank you notes. I cried and cried over the generosity of America. I rented a car to handle all of my needs and my neighbor like going to look for jobs, getting medical services, etc. I went to the Bank of America where I already (fortunately) had an account from my earlier days in that region. They bent over backwards to assist me, setting up a construction account when my claim proceeds came in, etc. Sending wires to service persons I was able to reach, long distance. I am so blessed. I used the same electrician, plumber and pool service for years so I was able to reach them. My electrician, said Miss Bunny don\'t worry. I have you on my list, but it will be about 2 to 3 months before I can get to you. My plumbers said it would be about a month and the pool service said about 3 weeks. We waited and watched every day for when we could enter our area. It was late September, early October before the Broadmoor area was opened. But the City still had a curfew. And we had no electricity in our area. My God-daughter lived in Harvey, LA. Her home was ok. So my youngest and I went down in October to see. By now I had purchased a used car. Well, that car broke down on us on the way. It was subsequently fixed since it was still under the 30 day warranty. When I bought it I told the dealer we were going to LA right away and was he certain this car could do it. Oh yes, he claimed. Well guess what? But we got there. Driving thru the I-10 with one lane crossing the Lake was traumatic. When we crossed into New Orleans, the first thing we saw was the totally dead wild life reserve in New Orleans East. Then we say the mud covered and dried grey color on everything. Not a sound anywhere. Not a living thing anywhere. No people. No animals, no dogs or cats on the street, no bugs, no sound at all. It was a quiet I hope never to hear again. We were both crying so much we had to pull over and collect ourselves. As we got further into town, we saw a sight that we hope never to see again. The destruction was devastating. No people. No music. No noise. No cars. No electricity. No natural gas. No mailman. No garbageman. No restaurants. No gas stations. No drug store. No grocery store. NOTHING EVERYWHERE. We went straight to Harvey since it was getting late, after passing thru our area. The curfew was 6pm and then 8pm. Once in the city, no getting out and once out, no getting in until the next day. The next day we drove home. We were keen to keep our cell phone operable and charged. I reached all my service persons. The plumber got to me, drained my lines, and replaced my hotwater heaters and took care of the inspections, etc. My pool servicer came, drained and cleaned the pool. We were referred to a contract from Mississippi who we met with to gut out the first floor of my home. It was totally ruined along with a part of the stairwell to the second floor. What had been beautiful hardwood floors were now crumbled and crunched like potatoe chips when you walked across them with nails protruding. We stayed for a little over 2 weeks to make all of the arrangements. We met with my daughter Lenette and my niece Michelle. We had 3 refrigerators to get out of the house. (My home is a duplex with a raised cottage in the rear, i.e. 3 living units.) We had to replace 2 hotwater heaters. Every plant in my yard was dead except the fan palm tree I had planted 16 years ago. It was the only thing that made it. The freezer was across the street; the french windows on the front were hanging on or gone. The awnings were in the pool and just gone who knows where. Trash cans had disappeared. Yard furnishings were gone or mangled. the first floor apartment had been rented to university students. All furnishings destroyed, molded and ruined. The smell was awful. I can never forget that smell. We gutted down to the original rafters and sub-floor. To see the entire interior piled on the curve is something I wish for no one.; We went to Kenner to assist Lenette in pulling out her carpets, furniture, clothing, appliances, household goods, kids toys, everything almost. We salvaged a few things since her water was not as deep. I had 7 and 1/2 feet of water in my area and in my house. My niece lost everything she owned in her house. Her Grandmother\'s house lost the entire ground floor and the roof was destroyed causing some damages to the main house interior. My roof was damaged in places and we got that patfched. We were blessed agaain to get service people so soon. However, we had to wait on repairs. I had to sue the insurance company regarding wind damage. I filed for a trailer and it came in March following the storm and made fully functional in April. But I returned for good in February even without gas for hot water and heat. In October, our first trip down, I was there when the street lights came on so I knew that electricity was restored to the area. But I still could not get service since my electrical panel boxes had gone underwater. My electrician said still about 2 months to get to me. That turned into 3 months. So, after gutting out and making as many arrangements as we could, my daughter, Tahirih, and I loaded up some valuables, and drive back to NJ. I received a call from my daughter, Lenette, to come home right away. This is in January following the storm because the Mayor\'s plan for restoration included making Broadmoor, and my area of it in particular, into green space. WHAT? The houses are still standing. These are old historical houses, built with cypress. They are still good. There was a big neighborhood meeting around the corner from me. Church members who live on Napoleon got word to Lenette to call me. Another meeting was scheduled for February and I was determined to be there. I told her to hang up, I am on my way. Three days later, I was there with my nephew Douglas (Michelle\'s brother) I called Virginia with plans to take a rest stop at his house on my way down with the car loaded with supplies. He said I will drive you down and stay with you. He did. When I hung up with Lenette I called my electrician for two reasons. Lenette and Michelle had jimmied my electricty on and I knew it was dangerous and I wanted my electrician to get me legally on because I was coming no matter what. Take our area. Is the mayor out of his mind?????? He got to me. He did the work, got it inspected and legally on. WOW. I am still grateful to my electrician for so many reasons. He said to me, Miss Bunny, here are all of my phone numbers. If you need anything, get scared or what ever, no matter what time of day, CALL ME and I am on my way. My plumbers where so accomadaing too and the pool servicemen. So Doug and I drove in. He knew what to expect but it still left us both speechless and crying. It was so scary at night. Well Lenette called and said mom, go to the Walgreen\'s on Tcoupatoulas way uptown, they are open and have hot plates, electrical heaters, etc. So I went. WE got the heaters, hotplates, a rotissery and a crock pot. I went home and cooked a mess of food for me and Doug and the only other neighbors in our area. The Hayes/Williams family of young men (3 of them) where home in a trailer. They came everyday to see about me. They came for coffee in the morning since my pot was on all day every day. That winter was very cold so Doug and I lived in 2 bedrooms and the kitchen. We got one channel on tv and the radio stations that were back. The rest of the house was bone cold. But I did not care. I was home and I was there to fix up and fight for my neighborhood. I was also a contractor victim, but that is not so important. I lost about $12,000.00, but I cashed in my retirement to keep the work going and to make up the needed funds that my insurance did not cover. I won a few more dollars from suing the insurance company, but I still did not have enough. So after much harranging and trouble, Road home came thru with a few more dollars and SBA loaned me some funds. This process took over a year - almost 2 years to complete. So the work stopped and started as resources became available. Of course the pool was all out of pocket and the total spent on that was over $12,000 over two years. But it\'s up and running and once again the family, friends and the Broadmoor 4-H club have used it. Ihave been in this house since 1990 and many neighbors learned to swim here and now their children are doing the same. We are almost completely restored now. This year I have finally started replacing the awnings. The last of the big ticket items. Of course I had to get a car and on retirement income it has been a struggle, but I would do it all over again if I had to. I love New Orleans, its people and culture. There truly is no other place like it in the United States. During my evacuation travels, people said ugly things like let it go, why go back, the sins of the city caused this, etc. I explained the life style here. They all marveled at it and understood. Do we tell the midwest to evacuate and leave forever because of tornadoes; or California people to leave forever because of fire storms and so on? Of course not. We will rebuild I said. I have already started. Then the first Mardi Gras after the storm. People were agast that the City would dare. I explained that the City does not do Mardi Gras. The people do. They were surprised of course. I asked, do you remember how important that baseball game was after 9-11? Oh yes they said. Well, I said this was the same for us to have Mardi Gras and it was great. It gave us faith and more determination and will to get the job done. It was a time to see folks that you were concerned about. Reunions all over the place. It was wonderful. Well needless to say Broadmoor was not turned into green space. We won our battle and now we are about 85% restored and occupied. I have worked as a volunteer with the Broadmoor Improvement Association, and now serve on its Board. We have assisted over 200 families with their homes thru the Broadmoor Community Development Association spun off our neighborhood association; won the Clinton Global Initiatives for assistance because of the redevelopment plan we produced from the ground up; and have had the pleasure to have students from major colleges and universities all over the USA to come as volunteers and interns to work with us. We have over a million dollars worth of in-kind services from volunteers and won our battle to get our school and library back. The Carnege Foundation has awarded us $2M for the library and the school is the first all green school in the city. We take occupany this January (2009) in the new Wilson Charter School. Friends have found their way to my door including one of my oldest friends in New Orleans, who now lives in my raised cottage and is my carpenter - a master carpenter and great family friend and protector. My neice has restored her house; my Daughter, Lenette is out of the trailer and in her house with her family and we are still working, as a family, to get Grandmother\'s house next door completed. We will get it done so she can come back too. It looks like the resources are finally lined up to get it raised 4 and 1/2 feet and repaired completely. We have repaired the roof and other items but the finish will be once it is raised. I am fortunate that my house is already elevated on piers. But it took 3 shorings to get it leveled and a dump truck full of river sand to fill in the dirt that the storm washed away. So I have a happy ending from the tragedy. My NJ daughter has returned and is making her way thru the Tulane MBA program, my Lenette is still with the health department and her husband is back teaching school. Michelle is finishing her degree in biology to teach and should finish this year. Douglas is back in Virginia with his family and most of my neighbors are back. One by one, we greeted them and welcomed them home. We are closer now that ever before and will remain that way forever. There are many other dark moments in my story, but I choose not to talk too much about that, like when we say a film in the air that made it look like it was foggy, but it was minute debris everywhere, or heard of deaths that caused us much grief and mourning. Those folks are in the next life and worry free. So we will perservere and keep going. We will keep New Orleans alive. And this means our culture because it is the people and the culture that makes our city so unique. I love this town and its people and culture. So, if you are in Broadmoor, ask for Miss Bunny. Someone will know me and tell you where I am. Come on by, have food, swim and enjoy.

Citation

Elsie Bunny Walker, “[Untitled],” Hurricane Digital Memory Bank, accessed September 25, 2017, http://hurricanearchive.org/items/show/41734.