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Jordan Fiegel

"WWL First News" Producer & Sports Writer
Weekdays 6am-10am

Twitter: @jgfiegel
Email: jordan@wwl.com

Jordan: The kindness of strangers meant everything in Katrina's wake

It was Monday evening, and all of us were sitting out on the emergency room ramp, relaxing, listening to one of my mom's co-workers play the guitar. The street was flooded, but I had expected that. The area around Lindy Boggs Medical Center (Mercy Hospital) would do that.

We were enjoying ourselves. As the evening went on, though, my eyes kept returning to that water line, slowly, inexorably creeping ever higher. That's when I first realized that maybe things were worse than I had thought. Maybe the adults were shielding my little sister and I. They were all busy working, so maybe they didn't fully know how bad it was. I don't know. But that ever-rising water told me this was something different.

My mother was a medical technologist at Lindy Boggs, and it was her time to work during any tropical storms or hurricanes in 2005. My father worked (and still works) for the Times Picayune, and he was at Howard Avenue during the storm. My little sister, myself (16 at the time), and our dog went with my mom that Sunday.

I slept on a cot and managed to stay asleep through the worst of the storming. There wasn't much to do that Monday but read, hang out, and look at the damage Katrina had caused. Word went out that afternoon that they were shutting the generators off due to flooding, so I hurriedly took a freezing cold shower one last time.

After watching the water keep rising that evening, I went to bed wondering what the next would bring. I found out when I was woken abruptly by my mom, saying we had to move all our stuff up to higher floors because they weren't sure how high the water would rise.

So while she and her coworkers frantically worked with the rest of the hospital, I began trekking the possessions and pets of all the lab workers up several flights of stairs covered in wet, broken glass. After finally finishing, it became another waiting game. How long would we be here?

In the meantime, we actually managed to have another decent night unwinding. The Bunsen burners in the lab still worked, so we cooked up some ground beef someone had brought and made tacos. Some back-up batteries hadn't been drained, and one of my mom's co-workers hooked up a portable DVD player so my sister could watch movies.

Conditions inside the hospital weren't optimal, to say the least. We had no running water, so waste had nowhere to go; and having hundreds of people who couldn't bathe in that August heat wasn't great either.

The next day brought rescue, however. We found out that evacuation would begin later that day and began preparing. The biggest problem? We would only be allowed to take one bag with us, and it humans only. Pets would have to stay.

As our turn on the boats moved closer, I had to tie our dog's leash to a chair in some room, give her a giant bowl of food and water, and leave her. I can hear her barks as I walked down the hallway to this day. While I was certain I would never see her again, I did have a small hope.

One doctor, James Riopelle, refused to leave, choosing to remain behind and keep everyone's pets alive. He stayed and did just that, and eventually he was rescued along with all the animals. I later found out that he was originally supposed to euthanize the pets, but he refused.

I would find all that out later, though. Our turn had come. All the lab workers stuck together, so we would at least have each other. I honestly forget how exactly it happened, but I ended up on a different boat than my sister and mother (who made sure we were all going to the same place and would be in sight of each other).

One of the most surreal parts of my experience was going down Canal Street in a boat. After a series of boat (and airboat) rides down the flooded streets, we eventually were dropped off on the interstate and found ourselves in the mass of humanity at I-10 and Causeway.

We had no idea how long we would be out there, and this is when I reached my lowest point. At least before, we were sheltered inside and had the hope of rescue on the foreseeable future. But out there? We just didn't know what was next.

After hours of waiting with the rest of the hospital employees, word spread like wildfire throughout our group. Buses. We were getting buses and getting the hell out of there. They arrived a little while later, and I sank into that school bus seat with such relief.

We made a brief stop at the airport while they figured out where to take us and eventually settled on Lafayette and the Cajun Dome. Our caravan arrived there in the early hours of Thursday morning. My family said our goodbyes to the rest of my mom's co-workers and got a taxi.

Our hopes of finding a hotel with rooms were quickly dashed, so we settled on Waffle House and a hot meal. The kind employees let us charge our phones and just take our time. Washing my face and brushing my teeth in that bathroom was one of the greatest feelings of my life.

A few phone calls to some relatives in St. Francisville later, and we further relief was on the way. We experienced the kindness of random strangers during our wait. Some people gave my sister a stuffed animal. One nice older man offered to let us shower and nap at his home nearby.

Our relatives booked it to us, though; and later that morning, I enjoyed a long, hot shower. We found out my dad had also safely made it out of the city and was in Baton Rouge. Over the next week, I was finally able to contact friends who hadn't heard from me since Tuesday morning and let them know I had finally gotten out.

It was an ordeal, but I know I was one of the lucky ones. I had it so much easier than many who were there when Katrina struck.
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Bobby: Saints starters showed improvement, but still concerns

The Saints lost to the New England Patriots 26-24, falling to 0-2 in the preseason. The Black and Gold had jumped out to a solid 21-0 lead but faltered down the stretch, getting outscored 26-3 the rest of the way (just writing that made me cringe, but hey, it's the preseason).

Bobby Hebert had plenty to praise and plenty to lament with the Saints performance.

He was satisfied with the first stringers. The offense, which struggled without Drew Brees under center against the Ravens, looked smooth early on, rushing out to a 15-0 lead with Brees in the game. The defense also started strong, stifling New Englang early on.

"When do you ever see Tom Brady and the Patriots go three and out three times? Bottom line, the Patriots got stuffed trying to run the football."

The Saints starters had a great game, though things got shakier with the back-ups. One of Bobby's criticisms was with the pass-rush – or lack thereof – and that wasn't just confined to the back-ups.

"We still don't have a sack. We still don't have a sack...so that's discouraging. If you're trying to be a champion, you're trying to wreak havoc in the backfield."

One thing to keep in mind is that the Saints experimented with the new point after rules. Instead of kicking the PAT from the 15 yard line, the Saints opted to go for two points from the 2 yard line after each of their touchdowns.

"I can't see Coach Payton doing that in a game."

Had the Saints not done that and kicked the extra point instead, they would have won 27-26.

Hebert wasn't completely happy with the penalties, but it was an improvement over last week's league high 16 penalties.

"In the first half 5 penalties 62 yards. Only 3 penalties for 26 yards in the second half, though."

8 penalties is still a lot, but it's a lot better than 16.

Bobby liked what he saw from all four QBs, who went 25-37 for 373 yards, with 3 touchdowns and no interceptions.

Bobby singled out Khiry Robinson and Mark Ingram, but he wasn't impressed with the running game overall. There were a couple good runs and several good catches from the running backs, but the Saints ended with a mere 55 rushing yards on 20 carries for a paltry 2.8 yards per carry.

Gotta do better than that.

The Saints lost another one; but, as Hebert said, the final score doesn't really matter in the preseason. There was a lot to like in this one, and there's plenty to improve upon. Let's see what the Saints fix for their next game.
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