Memoires from Metairie: 3 Students from the Metairie Park Country Day School Tell Their Stories

By Adeem Nachabe, Jessica Cohn-Phillips, and Amelia Kish


Surviving Katrina (Nachabe)

Thursday, September 5, 2005 at 6:00 AM we were asked to leave the hospital area, where my mom was working during the storm, and move to the garage. We were to be evacuated that day. My parents and I, my sister Asyl, my brother Rayam, my friends Mickey and Sam, and their mom were excited and started moving. It was the first time I felt the breeze since Monday evening that week. We had been confined to a closed area with no air conditioning for days. The area had been sitting in three feet of water.

We started to move on to the garage with only one bag per person. That was the limit of bags on the helicopter. We had a little breakfast. At 10AM, the people lined up on the fifth floor and were supposed to get evacuated from the seventh floor by helicopter. First we were told that because we had our pet bird with us, we would be taken by boat to the Superdome. My mom refused to go there; she thought it was not safe. We decided to hide the bird. We placed it in a FedEx Box with a cup full of bird food and one full of water. He was going to be smuggled onto the helicopter.

The line kept on moving until about 11AM when we heard trucks coming up the garage ramp. We all stepped aside so they could pass. I looked into the truck and saw patients. This was strange because Tulane had evacuated all the patients during the previous days. Later the hospital director came and told us that these were Charity patients. He added that we wouldn't be evacuated until all the patients had left. Everyone knew that was going to take a long time.

Later that afternoon we started running low on food. My mom and I offered to go and search for food in the hospital. When we entered the area where we had stayed, it was completely deserted. It was dark and creepy. I dashed to get as much food as my bag could hold. Then we went back to the garage. A few hours later, a National Guard person came and told us to move away from the railing because snipers were shooting at us.

Using the bathroom was a big problem. We had to do it in big red bags filled with kitty litter attached to toilet seats. The kitty litter was supposed to drown the smell, but it wasn't long until it was everywhere.

In the evening, I became very tired. I felt very weak and couldn't keep my eyes open. I spread a bed sheet on the ground and slept on it. I used my bags as pillows and my clothes as covers. I was awakened at 4AM by a sudden violent shaking of the building. It was a loud bang! I thought it was either a tornado or a helicopter crashing into the roof. Children were screaming and crying from fear. Adults were alarmed and looked scared. Than a National Guardsman came and told us that it was a chemical refinery explosion in Chalmette.

The next morning, the rest of the patients were evacuated. We were told we would be evacuated soon. Finally it was our group's turn, and we went onto the top floor. I saw a helicopter waiting for us. Eagerly we ran toward it. When I climbed inside, I knew that this was an experience that I would never forget.

Surviving Katrina (Cohn-Phillips)

The wind howled and the lightning flashed like fireworks. The lights flickered out for the last time. It was surprisng to think that the day before the hurricane, there had been no clouds and blue skies. Even though we did not want to be in the middle of Hurricane Katrina, we had no choice. After a short while, my father and I began pacing from one end of the house to the other. To occupy myself, I decided to try to go upstairs and take a nap. Less than five minutes later, I was fast asleep. My three cats—Thomas, Sara, and Susie—were lying on top of me, keeping me warm.


I went down the stairs to see what was going on. I saw rain flowing into the house through the ceiling like a stream had decided to collect in the attic and then fall down into the living room. Everyone who had been in the room when the chaos started was soaking wet. The pool of water that was collecting on the floors soon entranced me.

My father calmly told me what had happened, but I could see the fear in his eyes. He said sadly, "Two trees have fallen on the house and their branches have gone through the roof. Hopefully more will not fall through, too." He explained that the storm was filled with microbursts, little tornados that could flatten a house. When a microburst struck the forest near our house, it started a small chain reaction. We were at the end of one of those chains.

Later we found out that enough trees had fallen for it to take us two days to saw our way out. At the time, we had more important things to worry about. We all knew that there was no way to prevent the rush of water, but we could collect it and pour it down the sink. All of us worked to clear out the two inundated rooms. My father, Carol, and Susan made a six-foot high stack of drawers, clothing, and supplies in the center of the kitchen. Phil, Steve, and I moved the living room furniture into Susan and Phil's room. Then we put pots, pans, ice chests, and garbage cans in the stream of water. When the larger containers were half full, we would dump them out the back door. We dumped the pots and pans in the sink. We did not stop until the rain eased and the worst of the storm had passed. By the time we were done, we were all covered with a mixture of water, attic insulation, and sweat.

Story of An Hour (Kish)

Fear and sadness weighing down every square inch of my body. The foldout chair bed bruising my side, though I am too numb with worry to feel it. The weatherman talking endlessing on the screen in front of me. Peaceful snores of my family making me envious that I can't rest too. "Please, God, make the storm turn! Please oh please! My dad's there! I plead in my head. I want to watch something happy to take my mind off things, but I don't go get the remote. I lie motionless, curled up as tightly as possible with a blanket pulled over myself.

My ears are straining for a clue of some sort from the weatherman's useless repetition about the storm turning. It has turned slightly. I'm pleased, but I want it to turn more. "Please make it turn, God. Please!" As upset as I am, I force myself not to cry.

If I just prayer harder ... maybe it won't come? It can't possibly hit New Oreans. I remember briefly my drivers education teacher pushing the fact that just because all of us "stupid" teenagers think we are invincible, thinking doesn't make it so. This realization crashes down on me. Just because nothing like this has ever happened to me doesn't mean it won't.

"The wind has definitely picked up a lot within the past hour, and the rain, as you can see, is really pouring!" shouts a silly weatherman standing in the middle of the storm, stumbling in the strong winds. I pull my blanket tightly around me and try to go to sleep again. Sleep won't come. I look at the television again, trying to forget the impersonal stuffy smell of the hotel room, only to see another weatherman standing in the middle of the storm, stumbling in the strong winds. I can't understand him, and I decide I don't want to.

I think back to earlier in the evening, almost starving in our car, stuck in the most traffic I've ever seen in my life. I remember how good those Krystal burgers tasted after not eating for so long. I look down my arm, rubbed raw from where I had written my name, address, and phone number in a desperate attenpt to scare my parents into leaving. It didn't work on my dad.

I remember arguing with him to come with us, and comforting my teary-eyed little brother when he didn't. I didn't cry at all. I think proudly. I stayed calm and reassuring when my little brother and mom needed it most.

I drift off into an uneasy sleep, hoping tomorrow will bring better news.

Adeem Nachabe, Jessica Cohn-Phillips, and Amelia Kish were students at Metairie Park Country Day School. This article was originally published in the Louisiana Folklore Miscellany, Volume 16-17 in 2008.