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2005-09-12

New Orleans Evacuee Compares Louisiana Shelter to Jail

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We go to Gonzales–between Baton Rouge and New Orleans–where a shelter has been set up for evacuees. One New Orleans evacuee compares the shelter to jail and says, "It ain’t our fault that the hurricane came and we had to come here. Like we had to end up in a place that we got to be told what to do." [includes rush transcript]

  • L.C., evacuee from New Orleans speaking in the Lamar Dixon center in Gonzales, LA.
  • William Ansardi, evacuee from New Orleans speaking in the Lamar Dixon center in Gonzales, LA.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We go now to the Lamar Dixon Center in Gonzales. It’s between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. There are thousands of homeless or evacuated animals there, and also more than a thousand people. This is L.C.

L.C.: My name is L.C. I’m 18 years old. We ended up here from a hurricane that happened in New Orleans and like destroyed our city.

AMY GOODMAN: Where were you? Where did you live?

L.C.: I lived in Kennett.

AMY GOODMAN: And what happened? Tell us about that day. Was it Sunday?

L.C.: It was on a Sunday, and rain, you know, the storm just started coming happening. We were watching the news. And I wouldn’t think it was going to be this serious. So my mom left me. No, like my mom asked me, did I want to go. I was like no, because I didn’t know, I thought it was going to turn like it always do, but it really came and hit, and the water was so high, we were walking through high water, water to my chest and everything. We — you know, we were going through a struggle, trying to survive.

AMY GOODMAN: Who were you with?

L.C.: I was by myself. My mom and them had already came like towards up here. I was down there — I was like in my auntie’s house. We was all in my auntie’s house. So, it was — the heat, the lights and all that, all of the food was getting stale in the icebox, so I was like, we couldn’t take it, so we had to get in a truck and go.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, how high up was the water?

L.C.: Like eight, nine, ten feet.

AMY GOODMAN: And where did you go?

L.C.: We, like, got in the truck, hit the interstate and I got to Baton Rouge. And so when I got to Baton Rouge, I called my mom up and asked her where she was at. She was in Dawsonville. So some people I knew had came, got me and picked me up and gave me a ride to Dawsonville, and I hooked up with my family, and like, you know, I ended up here after this.

AMY GOODMAN: And how is it here?

L.C.: It’s all right. Some — it’s all right. Like — it’s on the night shift when the police be acting bad and trying to, you know, — trying to act hard on you, like you’re in jail or something, but you — it ain’t our fault the hurricane came and we had to come here, like we had to end up in a place that we got to be told what to do and stuff.

AMY GOODMAN: What are they telling you to do?

L.C.: Like, say they got grown people out there, they be telling them to go in for curfew and all that, and they sit in front of the building. They be making you go to sleep. How they going to make you go to sleep? You know what I’m talking about?

AMY GOODMAN: Lamar Dixon. 18 years old — sitting outside the Lamar Dixon Center, that was L.C. We also bumped into William Ansardi, who was a man who was evacuated to this center. When we tried to talk to him near the inside of the place where more than a thousand people were, the soldiers came and said they were protecting the people’s privacy inside, that they didn’t want us talking to people, until he said, "No, I want my privacy violated. I want to talk." This is what William had to say.

WILLIAM ANSARDI: My name is William Ansardi. I’m here at the Lamar Dixon Center where I have been since I think day two after the hurricane. So, it’s like going into two weeks now. And so far, we had a lot of promising, a lot of politicians coming by saying they’re going to take care of us and get us out of here to let us live our normal lives again, but we haven’t had that, and every day it is just getting worse and worse.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, did you get the FEMA $2,000 debit card?

WILLIAM ANSARDI: No. From what I understand now, it’s not a debit card anymore. It’s a check that’s coming from the government, but, I hadn’t got one yet. And I think it was the fourth day that I was here that we finally got through to FEMA to apply for it. And my wife, which is in Daytona Beach, Florida, waiting for me, she has got it online and it’s just everything is still pending. So —

AMY GOODMAN: How many people here have gotten a check?

WILLIAM ANSARDI: So far, I have seen maybe 30 to 40 people might have got a check so far.

AMY GOODMAN: And how many people are based here? How many people are taking refuge here?

WILLIAM ANSARDI: Well at the highest, I think we had almost 2,000 people here, and right now, we’re around 1,200.

AMY GOODMAN: So about 30 of the 1,200 have gotten a check?

WILLIAM ANSARDI: Right, and then we are told we just have to wait, you know, and they’re doing the best they can. Red Cross, you know, when you ask them something, they tell you, look, we’re feeding you, we’re clothing you, we’re sheltering you. That’s all we can do. You know, and I keep asking, all I want is just a way to get out of here, to go find my wife and be with my wife, that we got — you know, we have been apart now two weeks.

AMY GOODMAN: Why did you get separated? What happened?

WILLIAM ANSARDI: Well, when the storm came out, we found out — we was en route to Memphis. And I found out my dad stayed. So we turned around and left — I left Memphis and I left my wife there and my daughter. And I drove back to find my dad to get him out of the storm. That was the main thing.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you find him?

WILLIAM ANSARDI: Yes, we did. We got — he’s safe and everything now, but then I got stuck here. I got stuck here at the Dixon Center, and it’s like there’s no end in sight, because these people promise you things, and the government, these politicians come here and they want to shake your hand and tell you how better life is going to be, but yet here we are stuck. Day in, day out, eating food and everything, and having a place to live, but they’re not helping us get back to the normal procedure that we had that we call life.

AMY GOODMAN: They said they didn’t want to us film inside there. Has anyone been allowed to film?

WILLIAM ANSARDI: Mary Landrieu was here with her film crew.

AMY GOODMAN: The senator?

WILLIAM ANSARDI: The senator, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Did they ask your permission to take your picture?

WILLIAM ANSARDI: They didn’t ask my permission. She came in and did showboating up there, and they took pictures of everybody sleeping about 10:00-10:30 at night. I didn’t see her ask anybody how they were doing or anything. But she just come in and did her little crew. And she left. I haven’t seen her since. Peyton and Eli Manning came here and they did more for the spirit of these people than what Mary Landrieu and all these other great politicians we got.

AMY GOODMAN: Who is it who came in?

WILLIAM ANSARDI: Peyton and Eli Manning, the quarterbacks from the great state of New York up there by you guys? But they came by and they did autographs and stuff like that. And it lifted our spirits, you know? Like I said, right now, I’m in the process of trying to get somebody to help me get out of here, because I’m down to like five bucks left in my pocket, about a half a pack of cigarettes and I’m done, financially. And there’s people here that’s not the Red Cross or FEMA that are actually stepping forward, individuals are helping me get to where I need to be, instead of the government agencies that are supposed to be helping me.

AMY GOODMAN: Have you seen any FEMA folks here?

WILLIAM ANSARDI: Yeah, they came in for two days and they did a bunch of electronic filing, the same thing we have been trying to do over the phones forever. Just to get through to FEMA, it was like you had to go to 3:00-4:00 in the morning just to get someone. And then once you filed, then they say, "Well, that’s all we can do for you. You have to wait."

AMY GOODMAN: What’s your wife’s name, and is there a number you can call?

WILLIAM ANSARDI: Oh, for my wife. I know where she is at and everything. I speak to her on the phone. And it’s just that for me to be there to actually physically touch her and hold her, you know, and let her know, hey, I’m okay. And she’s going to let me know that she’s okay. And that’s what I miss most.

AMY GOODMAN: William Ansardi speaking at the Lamar Dixon Center in Gonzales.

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