Survivor Stories From Baton Rouge

By: Beth Shayne
By: Beth Shayne

It's a city bursting at its seams: too many people, too many donations, and far, far too many desperate stories of loss and struggle.

We begin our story at a shelter at Southern University where we began our travels in Baton Rouge.

"We stayed in the attic Monday, Mary Richardson says, "all day Tuesday, me and my six grandchildren."

Inside, we met Mary and two of her six grandchildren. Their New Orleans home flooded to the roof. They walked a pipe in the attic to survive. No food, no water, and now five days at the shelter and no answers either

"Missing my son," she says. "Four grandchildren and my daughter."

Life inside this shelter is comparatively good. Its director admits they have no privacy certainly, but there are beds, about 400 of them, and three meals a day.

Red Cross Shelter Manager Ralph Perotta explains, "We have a capacity and when we reach it, nowhere to put 'em."

And so, people are everywhere. Our next stop was the River Center, where nearly 4,000 people were staying when we arrived.

Otis Dantzler says he and his family waited out the storm on the highway when they couldn't get in to the Superdome.

"Me and my wife slept on concrete in the rain, nothing to eat, nothing to drink," Dantzler says. "I walked through five foot of water with my granddaughter on my back."

He speaks of bodies floating in the streets, of a New Orleans that will never be the same.

Part of the shelter's role now is to put lives together again. There are places to get ID, trauma services, and of course, the ongoing search for loved ones.

Our cameras weren't allowed inside the River Center, but we can tell you conditions are not ideal. These people stay in part because they have no where else to go, in part because they can't imagine doing anything else.


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