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Cleo and Bradley, New Orleans, High School Students 9/11/05

Interviewer: Abe Louise Young
Location: An alcove outside of the Austin Convention Center

Bradley: My new school’s bigger--way bigger. They got two weight rooms, they got a football, baseball, and softball field, three different fields, swimming team, wrestling team. We didn’t have no wrestling team in New Orleans.

Cleo: We didn’t have swimming team either. And the basketball players and the tennis players had to play in the same court. And we had to wait our turn and stuff, that was irritating.

Bradley: We got two gyms. We can take bowling for a class.  That’s why I like that school!  Take basketball for a class, football for a class. And now I’m taking French. I only know oui, oui, but now … that means yes.  (Laughter)  The only word I know!  I figured I might as well sign up for French because I know one day I wanted go to Paris.  I wanted to understand what they was saying!

Cleo: I like writing stories about myself. That’s fun. I just write stories—crazy lil’ stories about myself. Like daily stories like what happened, and I add some extra stuff in it, to make it seem exciting or something. When I would stay, when we was in New Orleans all I used to do was sit inside and talk on the phone and eat popcorn. I like popcorn.

Bradley: I don’t usually have time.  I don’t usually have time to watch TV.  School, football practice, and work.  I used to work at a Sonic.  Looking for another job now.  I’ll work back in the fast food, me.  It’s easy; I’m just trying to pay a little bills for my mama.  My mama’s doing good now.  She’s here, I think she asleep right now. Getting her rest.

Cleo: We waited a long time to get here.

Bradley: Too long.  Too long. It took me a week to get here.

Cleo:  When we was in New Orleans, they had so many people died.   A lot.  And we had to sleep at the Convention Center there for like a week, with no water and food.  I was there for a week and two days, most people was just there for three days. We had to break in stores and get food… 

Bradley: I was eatin off of Chinese noodles.  And Pop Tarts.

Cleo: And, we didn’t have no water. All we had was like, Juicy Fruitopia and stuff, but I still wanted water.  Cold water.

Bradley: Another thing that killed me was hot cold drinks, hot water, and no showers.   I took a water bottle and brushed my teeth, but them showers! Ain’t enough water bottles in the world…

Cleo: Yeah, I had a toothbrush.  I was alright cuz I had a toothbrush to keep my breath clean! But that was sad how many babies and stuff died.  A lady, um, her baby fell in the water.  She tried to jump in there after him, but she couldn’t swim.  And the other baby jumped in there, and all three of them died and we seen their bodies floating.

Bradley: She jumped in for her loved ones.

Cleo: Oh, that was nasty. 

Bradley: I saw dead people tied up against poles. Holding them there to keep them from floating around.

Cleo: The police act like they don’t care, because they watched a lady die and they covered her body up. They said it wasn’t important and left her there for three days before they came and got her. It was an old lady. She was dehydrated; she just needed water. And they refused to give water to her.  And another man died because he was on an oxygen machine, and he didn’t have no oxygen. 

Well, I’m alright now because I know ain’t nobody else gonna go nowhere. I think everybody’s safe now.  Because they have a medical center in there and stuff.  And we have water and stuff. I was happy to get some water!

People sleeping on bridges, on top of houses, schools, a lot – a whole lot of people died in three schools in the east – Livingston East, Eanes, and in Reed. 

Bradley: It took me a week to get up here. A whole week. I was at my house. Our house wasn’t really flooded, only thing we lost was a car.   Furniture messed up.

<Cleo: A friend of my cousin got stuck at her house, and we don’t know if she alright or not.  And yesterday we found out that my daddy, my little sister and my two brothers drowned.

I’m alright, I’m alright. I can’t cry yet! But I’m happy everybody else made it to Austin alright.  Just my mom and my stepdaddy. Him, my lil’ cousin, and my other two brothers and my friend.  That’s about it.  Almost the whole family died. I don’t know how I’m keeping it together. (Laughing.)  I really don’t know. Because my mama and my everybody-else broke down, and I was just looking, like, I don’t think I could cry.  

Bradley: That stuff hurted my heart. It hurted my heart. Glad my grandma left before it happened.

Cleo: My grandma got stuck. I had to swim all the way to a bridge, and I had to carry my little cousin on my back– well, she’s in there.  Nobody else didn’t want me to bring them in the water.  I mean, I was getting tired, but they had trees nearby so I could rest. I had to hold on to the trees. The water was so high, I could get to a branch and hold on.  And she had on a lifejacket, so if she slipped off, she was gonna be alright, all I had to do was grab her.  But that was a long way to swim, all the way to a bridge! Maybe like twenty or thirty-five minutes.  I never swum that long before!

Bradley: I had to swim back and forth to get some food. 

Cleo: And my grandma, we got a boat, to come back for her, but the water was up, so she probably was in the attic, and I couldn’t get up in there cuz I couldn’t hold my breath that long.   So.   They say they’re still taking people out, they’re still taking people out of New Orleans and stuff…I haven’t gone to see the counselor here, cuz I might cry and stuff.

Bradley: I don’t wanna do that.

Cleo: I used to have this little – it looked like a red balloon and it had this black stuff and then you could squeeze it.  To get stress out.  

Bradley: We met a lot of nice people out here.

Cleo: Everybody’s polite.

Bradley: Treating us good, you know, feeding us, taking us showers!

Cleo: (Laughing.) I know.

Bradley: We eat on the regular, like they feed us breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  It keep us healthy and the children healthy.

Bradley: Ain’t nobody thought it was gonna hit like that.

Cleo: I was crying every day.  I thought we was gonna die.  And then everybody kept saying they was gonna open the floodgates in the middle of the night, we had to get up and run ‘cause the water was coming. Boy, I was mad!  And they had a lotta water get up there to the Convention Center.  But nobody drowned from that water ‘cause there was a lot of room up there.  We had to keep going on a bridge and coming off the bridge, ‘cause the police  -- Then the police came!  A swarm of them just came with guns that was pointed at beaucoup people, scaring everybody. I don’t know, nobody was out there doing anything, everybody was trying to survive.

Bradley: Say you get shot.  “If you steal something, you getting shot on contact.” 

Cleo: No, not us!  When they, when my brothers and them went up in there, they told us to get what they needed and get outta there.

Bradley: Oh, you talking about whenever we started stealing and all that.

Cleo: Yeah, underclothes, clean underclothes…

Bradley: Police popped open Wal-Mart for us so we could get some charcoal.  Cook the frozen meat before it go bad.  

Cleo: Most police was letting us do that ‘cause they knew what was going on. They told us that it was wrong that they couldn’t do nothing, so they took it upon theyself and they got helicopters, and they was riding helicopters bringing everybody to the airport and stuff. 

Bradley: When they started evacuating people, when they had most of the people evacuated, then they was like, “Shoot on contact, for stealing.”  I had to get outta there. “If you see anybody stealing something, shoot em.”  No questions asked, no handcuffs – 

Cleo: When we were there, the police was taking a lot of stuff out of our bags, too. Like water and food.  I don’t know why.  They came, and they gave us these Army packets of food.  It was nasty, but I was alright because it was something hot to eat.  And they gave us one bottle of water.  They told us to make it last for two days until they get back.  But that was hard, ‘cause I was thirsty!  I was thirsty …

Bradley: The only water we had was rainwater.  And it rained one time.  My mama collected the rainwater.

Cleo: Only one time— and it was scaring the children because everybody kept saying that everybody was going die there.  Crazy people walkin up and down the streets, “Everybody goin’ die, they’re gonna open the floodgates!” and stuff.  I was like, maaaan. I started crying.

But see, when it started happening we was outside during the hurricane. Ne and my friend, we was outside playing in it, ‘cause the wind was so powerful.  And we was holdin onto a tree and like, the wind picked our body up.  And it was fun, it was fun!  And later on that day, the water was rising, but we didn’t think it was gonna get too bad, we was still outside playing in the water. And then all of a sudden the next morning I started crying ‘cause I went to the door and the water was actually high. If I was to stand in the water it would be completely over my head.

Bradley: It was high. I was on the second floor and it almost came all the way up there, half the house.

Cleo: It was over the cars, the cars was floating in the water.  I tried to swim and get my grandma and them to a bigger house, we had to kick down a door.  And then I slept in a gym, me and my cousin slept in a gym and when we got back, the water was in the house, the TV and stuff was floating, and we couldn’t find my grandma.  So when I swum to the bridge we came back with a boat and some lifejackets, and we couldn’t find my grandma. They probably got her out of there,

maybe she’s at a different shelter. We don’t know. Hopefully, she is.  Cuz she’s a diabetic so… There’s a lot of diabetics in my family, but I’m not.  I’m happy.  I don’t have to take no shots!

Bradley: Helicopters was passing us up – 

Cleo: -- and, I was, we were sittin on the roof!  And I had on this green shirt, this loud-colored shirt. And I was waving it at the police, and they was waving at us.  The police was passing by!  On a boat.  This is before we made it to the Convention Center.  The police was passing by, there was like four or five boats was passing by at a time. And they were waving at us, and I was like, where are some lifejackets!  And they wasn’t doing nothing.  They waited all till the last minute, till they finally saw people dying and stuff. 

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