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Rickey B. Calliope Housing Projects 09/10/05

My name is Ricky B. I’m from New Orleans, Louisiana. I’m from the Calliope Housing Project. The way I got here is by boat that my partner had, and I was saving lives with the boat. I have been shot at, people tried to take the boat from me, okay? I got my family out, I got friends and elderly people out, I saved a couple of lives, you know? I saved a baby drowning, you know? Went in the water, I was already in the water.

Babies were floating on a mattress, and the baby fell off the mattress. And nobody couldn’t find him., and they had a bunch of men trying help find him. I come up with the baby. It feels good, you know, to save lives, because I have seen people get killed and die, but I have not seen that many people at one time. What I went through, I never thought I feel the way I feel about life. Living, you know, is beautiful, and God sent us to a place that we never been.

I even saved a dog. That’s how intimate this thing was. It was intense, it was scary, it was a situation you’ll never forget. I heard the dog screaming. The dog was trapped in the twines where a tree had fallen. He was standing up on his hind legs trying to keep his head above water. He was trembling. But the dog was real friendly to me. He must have known I was the onliest person going to save him. I held him in my arms and brought him to this porch. Later on, that porch was covered with water so I don’t know if the dog made it okay or not.

Since I been in Austin, I ran across a lady named Christine and her husband named Jerry, also an older guy named Joe. They from here. They been with me all the way. They told me they wouldn’t give it up until we find them, and I took them as my family too. They wonder what I’m gonna do, whether I’m gonna stay, but I have to go back to New Orleans because I got twin boys, fourteen, and a daughter, fifteen years old, they’re still over there on the West Bank side, and they got a baby brother. They did not have to evacuate Algiers. It did not flood on that side.

The peoples know that levee was weak. The money they financed to fix the levee, they went undercover with that, they went under the table with that money. They didn’t use the money to build the levee up, not like they’re supposed to. Mayor Nagin, he ain’t never done nothing for us since he been in office. Morial did more for us than Nagin. Nagin is for the high-class people, he’s not for the poor blacks and the Spanish and whatever.

So it took people like me that was in the flood and everything to get the assistance that we really needed. I’m one of the guys that did the looting to save lives. Gathering supplies. People was up there three and four day with no water, up on the interstate across from the Superdome. My mother was up there. My mother is seventy-eight years old. And I could see it in her eye that she couldn’t last much longer up there for four days with no water. They had Kentwood water trucks parked, just parked, the city never did take them out and use them. So me and two of my cousins, two of my friends at least, one of them named Jap, said “Ricky, I’m going get one of those trucks, bro, I’m going to Baton Rouge in it.” He said, “What y’all gonna do, y’all gonna come and take your family, too?” He went and got the first truck, and me and my partner Beau, a friend of mine named Beau, we went and got the trucks and brought them up on the interstate and just gave people water. That was some relief for them there. Then turn around, get my mom up higher, and built her a tent to keep the sun from her. She a diabetic. We found piece of tarp from an eighteen-wheeler truck, so what we did was me and my other brother and two of my cousins made her a tent so she could get up underneath it, keep the heat off her. It was cool up underneath it but it was hot.

So, you know, so much confusion. I was fearing for my life because I was shot at quite a few times by people trying to take the boat. And they people that I know. It was a motor boat but we were rowing it. The boat I was using was from a friend of mine, I knew he wouldn’t mind. I don’t know where he at, or his family, and his brother, his family, they was in Saint Bernard Parish. There’s no more Saint Bernard. I don’t know where they at. They had livestock and everything down there. I know him, he took the livestock out and his family. I know he took them out because he loves horses too.

We lived in Calliope Projects. They changed it to B.W. Cooper. I stayed on Dorgenois and Third Street. I been all through Mid-City on the boat. I was on it for four days, saved a lot of lives, a lot them. I got out by helicopter, on Interstate 10. They took my mother out of there Friday evening and my wife, she’s in San Antonio. When I heard her voice, I cried. I cried because I wasn’t good enough. People try to poison your mind, tell you that you got to go on with you, which is true, but all the love and relationship that we have for each other… I might argue with her and everything, but that’s the way we are.

I kept my heart strong with my higher power: God. Without him, I couldn’t have did it. I feel like a big burden is off me now. I have a phone number where I can get in touch with my wife, and I can get in touch with God too. He on the main line. Just tell him what you want. He’ll give it to you, but he won’t give it to you when you want it, he give it to you when he gets ready to give it to you.

I love it here. People show me all kinds of kindness, help, support. I’m trying using it as my advantage to get me some work. In New Orleans, I was self-employed, construction work, landscaping. I did it all for myself, you know.

Christine and Jerry and Joe, they were there for me from day one. Everything I needed, there were there for me. That’s my family too. There’s a bad apple in every bunch, but they got some good people through those doors. I thank God that he didn’t send me to a place like Houston. From what I hear there’s a lot of people going to jail, rapes, everything. I been hearing all kinds of stuff, but you can’t go by what people say.

My cousin was sitting right over there, and I listened to him talk about my wife telling you that you get a job down here and she get a job up there, that means she got something else. They trying to poison my mind. How can she do something like that when we been together so long? She’s coming by me. By the grace of God, nothing happen to her. Her and my cousin. All three of us want to stay together.

What’s happening with that now, I put in an application for a place with one bedroom, and I got my cousin with us with all three of us staying in one bedroom, because we have stayed in a one bedroom before. Until I find her boyfriend, so I got people on that right now. The white guy, Joe, he getting ready to go to Dallas, he’ll be back Thursday. They’re there for me, and I’m not going to let it go just like that. I’m a hard-working man, I can survive anywhere I go in the United States or anywhere, but the first place I’m looking for is a shelter, and an unemployment office.

My mom had nine boys, no girls, all of them safe. All of them lost everything they own, but they safe. Grew up in a tiny town in Mississippi, except my baby brother, he a New Orleans baby, the only one. He by his self. My mama raised me up with no daddy in the B.W. Cooper Housing Project. She’s a strong woman. She raised me and she didn’t raise no bum, she raised a hard-working man. We went back and forth from Mississippi to Louisiana, and I plowed mules for a living before tractors even came out to our farm.

I’m glad to be here. I know a lot of people didn’t make it. I never thought something would affect me like this here in my whole life, but it has affected me to see what’s happening. And to see what’s happening with people that don’t have no heart at all, to try to do what they did, you know? And it mostly its my race, the young ones, not the elderly, not the older ones. I’m forty-four years old. It’s the ones in they early twenties and they early teens that been doing all the bad stuff. Shooting at helicopters and everything like they did in New Orleans. That’s the ones that don’t want to live their life, that take life for granted. I want to live as long as I could, I like to get like Moses and them was, a hundred thousand years old, nine hundred years old. You never know. God take care of his people, he take care all his people.

The hurt, it comes and goes, you know. At night, I got a joy tear, but I also got a sad tear too. I’m the type of person that don’t cry. I hold a lot in, but it had to come out. Everyone been good to me, treating me good up there, can’t ask for no better.

Who gonna rebuild our city. It gonna take a while. Too much partying. It’s the one place you can go twenty-four hours a day and get what you want. Mardi Gras, Saint Patrick’s Day, we got a party city. We can’t let it go like that. The only thing hurts is that they knowed about the levee, they knowed there was a weak part of the levee they knowed if something like that come, what it would mean to the city. They knowed that already. See, the lower Garden District is flooded, but the Garden District? Not flooded. That’s where the richest houses are. Lakefront, part of the lakefront? Not flooded. St. Charles? Not flooded. See what I’m saying?

The people were the cause of the people getting saved. Because the National Guard and everything to come in and start picking them up with helicopters. All they was doing at first was taking the prisoners away. I got a brother, he went to jail two weeks before the storm, we don’t know where he at. That’s my next thing, to try to find him, where he at. Because I know one thing, I did time too, and the system is corrupt. I’m gonna find him. I would not give up. That’s my brother.

If there’s anything I can do to help anybody here, I’m gonna do it. I can’t do no more than God let me do, you know? But he also told us, he said he would not put no more on us than we can bear. Sometimes I feel like giving up, but I can’t. I gotta be strong for the next one.

My experience is living. Life is the best thing that can ever happen. What I went through, if I had to do it again to save a life, I’d do it. I’d do it. Anywhere in the country. We all sisters and brothers. Everybody equal, your blood and my blood is the same, and we breath the same way. We all born to die and live and love.

One more thing: Times-Picayune is one the best newspapers there is. I met people from Washington, D.C. and put interviews in and let people know what happen. I have nothing against Mayor Nagin, but I despise the things that he did. The police force, they was all right, they can’t do it all, they got to try to take care of themselves too. But the mayor, he ain’t worth the shit come out of a buzzard’s ass, and that’s the way I feel about him.

Make it public. He did nothing for us from day one. Ray Nagin did nothing for us. Eddie Compass did his best. He did his best. I’m not mad at him; I’m mad at the mayor. Eddie Compass did a lot in his own way. Before the storm, he got all the police on the force and added on to it. He did what he could do. I’m with him. Ray Nagin, I don’t want to say it, but your day coming.

Before you sign off, I want the people to know that God is good. Take this as something in life to look back on, but you got to keep on going on. You can’t give up. I know a lot of people lost their loved ones, I lost some of mines. We just got to be there for each other. We got everybody in Austin and other places that are coming to help, that are showing us great love, and we showing it back to them. And if something was to happen to they city, we would have been there for them. 

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