Brett Mohar

Previously: Back at the projects, we distributed food boxes that the military had dropped, and we told everyone what the helicopter medics had told us: that in less than 10 hours, Katrina would hit straight on and when it did hit, we had to get down. I led prayers on the balcony for all the families, which ended when a friend’s grandma started having a seizure. From my prison days, I knew to roll her onto her side, and I sat on her with all 240 pounds so she couldn’t move.

We were awake when the hurricane hit. Everything was nice and quiet, so quiet you knew something was about to happen. And then thunder and big, big lightning, like BOOM! And wind blowing, windows shaking like you never thought you’d see.

I ran floor to floor in the projects, telling people, “Get down! Get down and pray!”

Some folks was nervous, some screaming, “We aint gonna make it!”

I said, “We gonna make it. Just stay down! You gotta use the bathroom? Well, you can’t move!”

Being flat out, face down for several hours . . . honestly, it was hard to do.

We stayed face down till daylight. Well, it was daytime, but not exactly light. You could come up but you couldn’t go out. We was on the balcony, scared.

The wind was speeding like a racecar. And spinning. You ever seen rain spin?

Cars, vans, and families with trailers on the interstate were all jammed up, not moving. When I saw other people starting to move, I wanted to go out, see what was goin’ on.

I told my homeboys, “I want to go out right now. We got nothing to lose. We got a boat, we got some strong men, we oughta go now!”

They said they were tired, and I couldn’t move the boat by myself. But when something happens, you’re going to push your body—and your buddies—to do it. I had faith I could make a way for us to survive and to get supplies everyone in the projects needed.

I made folks stay put rather than evacuate. Now I had to make a way to get everything they needed. Finally, I got a few guys to come with me.

When we got downtown, the water was far worse than it was uptown by the projects. Sewers were blocked and waves were spilling over the sides of the boat. Oddly, there was gushing from some of the hydrants that were not yet under water.

My buddies were scared. They didn’t know what they would find in the floodwaters. A few weeks earlier, there had been a big ol’ snake in the neighborhood. Now, my homeboys were afraid there would be snakes or gators in that putrid water.

There could also be giant nutria rats that look like armadillos in the floodwaters. To me, those nutria rats looked like humans, and if you threw something at them, they wouldn’t move!

But I wasn’t scared. The only thing I was scared of was frogs—they look at you with them big ol’ eyes and go ribbit. My friends once put one on my shoulder and cracked up laughing when I squealed and ran away, all 240 pounds of me.

We didn’t find life in the floodwater, though–only puffed up bodies of people and their pets.

To be continued . . .