hey, he said get the story out...well, okay

From the nola.com board. I added a bit of white space, but the rest is his.

Name: Robert LeBlanc
Email: rlrenrec@aol.com
Subject: My Hurricane Story -- The Positive Stories Must Get Out

Please help me to get this story out. We need to get the truth out and these people helped. Jeff Rau, a family and now personal friend to whom I will forever be linked, and I were volunteering with a boat and pulling people out of the water on Wednesday. I have a first-hand experience of what we encountered. In my opinion, everything that is going on in the media is a complete bastardization of what is really happening. The result is that good people are dying and losing family members. I have my own set of opinions about welfare and people working to improve thier own lot instead of looking for handouts, but what is occurring now is well beyond those borders. These people need help and need to get out. We can sort out all of the social and political issues later, but human beings with any sense of compassion would agree that the travesty that is going on here in New Orleans needs to end and people's lives need to be saved and families need to be put back together.

Now.I will tell you that I would probably disagree with most of the people that still need to be saved on political, social, and cultural values. However, it must be noted that these people love thier friends and families like I do, desire to live like I do, and care for their respective communities (I was even amazed at the site of seemingly young and poor black people caring for sickly and seemingly well-to-do white people and tourists still needing evacuation from New Orleans' downtown area) the same way I care for mine.Eight people in particular who stood out during our rescue and whose stories deserve to be told:

1.) We were in motor boats all day ferrying people back and forth approximately a mile and a half each way (from Carrolton down Airline Hwy to the Causeway overpass). Early in the day, we witnessed a black man in a boat with no motor paddling with a piece of lumber. He rescued people in the boat and paddled them to safety (a mile and a half). He then, amidst all of the boats with motors, turned around and paddled back out across the mile and a half stretch to do his part in getting more people out. He refused to give up or occupy any of the motored boat resources because he did not want to slow us down in our efforts. I saw him at about 5:00 p.m., paddling away from the rescue point back out into the neighborhoods with about a half mile until he got to the neighborhood, just two hours before nightfall. I am sure that his trip took at least an hour and a half each trip, and he was going back to get more people knowing that he'd run out of daylight. He did all of this with a two-by-four.

2.) One of the groups that we rescued were 50 people standing on the bridge that crosses over Airline Hwy just before getting to Carrolton Ave going toward downtown. Most of these people had been there, with no food, water, or anyplace to go since Monday morning (we got to them Wed afternoon) and surrounded by 10 feet of water all around them. There was one guy who had been there since the beginning, organizing people and helping more people to get to the bridge safely as more water rose on Wednesday morning. He did not leave the bridge until everyone got off safely, even deferring to people who had gotten to the bridge Wed a.m. and, although inconvenienced by loss of power and weather damage, did have the luxury of some food and some water as late as Tuesday evening. This guy waited on the bridge until dusk, and was one of the last boats out that night. He could have easily not made it out that night and been stranded on the bridge alone.

3.) The third story may be the most compelling. I will not mince words. This was in a really rough neighborhood and we came across five seemingly unsavory characters. One had scars from what seemed to be gunshot wounds. We found these guys at a two-story recreational complex, one of the only two-story buildings in the neighborhood. They broke into the center and tried to rustle as many people as possible from the neighborhood into the center. These guys stayed outside in the center all day, getting everyone out of the rec center onto boats. We approached them at approximately 6:30 p.m., obviously one of the last trips of the day, and they sent us further into the neighborhood to get more people out of homes and off rooftops instead of getting on themselves. This at the risk of their not getting out and having to stay in the water for an undetermined (you have to understand the uncertainly that all of the people in these accounts faced without having any info on the rescue efforts, how far or deep the flooding was, or where to go if they want to swim or walk out) amount of time. These five guys were on the last boat out of the neighborhood at sundown. They were incredibly grateful, mentioned numerous times 'God is going to bless y'all for this'.

When we got them to the dock, they offered us an Allen Iverson jersey off of one of their backs as a gesture of gratitude, which was literally probably the most valuable possession among them all. Obviously, we declined, but I remain tremendously impacted by this gesture.I don't know what to do with all of this, but I think we need to get this story out. Some of what is being portrayed among the media is happening and is terrible, but it is among a very small group of people, not the majority. They make it seem like New Orleans has somehow taken the atmosphere of the mobs in Mogadishu portrayed in the book and movie "Black Hawk Down," which is making volunteers (including us) more hesitant and rescue attempts more difficult. As a result, people are dying. My family has been volunteering at the shelters here in Houma and can count on one hand the number of people among thousands who have not said "Thank You." or "God Bless You." Their lives shattered and families torn apart, gracious just to have us serve them beans and rice.

If anything, these eight people's stories deserve to be told, so that people across the world will know what they really did in the midst of this devastation. So that it will not be assumed that they were looting hospitals, they were shooting at helicopters. It must be known that they, like many other people that we encountered, sacrificed themselves during all of this to help other people in more dire straits than their own.It is also important to know that this account is coming from someone who is politically conservative, believes in capitalism and free enterprise, and is traditionally against many of the opinions and stances of activists like Michael Moore and other liberals on most of the hot-topic political issues of the day. Believe me, I am not the political activist. This transcends politics. This is about humanity and helping mankind.

We need to get these people out. Save their lives. We can sort out all of the political and social issues later. People need to know the truth of what is going on at the ground level so that they know that New Orleans and the people stranded there are, despite being panicked and desperate, gracious people and they deserve the chance to live. They need all of our help, as well.This is an accurate account of things. Jeffery Rau would probably tell the same exact stories.

Regards, Robert LeBlanc985.876.9172


  1. Anonymous8:09 PM

    OK, good stories to hear, and I'm glad to hear of people Not Being Complete Rat Bastards, but why is this dude harping on (hell, mentioning at all) his "set of opinions about welfare and people working to improve thier own lot instead of looking for handouts."

    I mean, in the space of the article, he mentions this, like, FOUR TIMES. WTF? What does this shit have to to do with anything?

    And he was "amazed at the site [sic] of seemingly young and poor black people caring for sickly and seemingly well-to-do white people and tourists"? Ummm, why? The implication seems to be that he wouldn't have been amazed at the reverse?

    So, again, good stories, glad to read 'em, but this guy's tone kind of chaps my ass.

  2. yeah, I had some major eye rolling ("hey look! wow. . . they're...people too!")

    But coming from a guy like that it seems somehow less talking to the choir. And his basic point--get out good news--seems worthwhile. I keep reading lines like "if it's chaos out there well, just let them shoot each other" Bleargh.

  3. here's what I have to do.


    Reading/watching/listening to


    News. NOW.

  4. Anonymous10:39 PM

    You know the more I think about this macho response the angrier I get.

    This was in some tagboard or another....

    The National Guard has been called into NOLA, and the governor of Louisiana had this to say:
    "They have M-16's and they're locked and loaded. These troops know how to shoot and kill, and they are more than willing to do so, and I expect they will."

    That's in reference to AMERICAN CITIZENS, who have been stranded and displaced by a natural disaster and then locked up in a sports stadium with NO FOOD, NO TOILETS, NO MEDICAL CARE, and NO SHOWERS for THREE DAYS, while everybody who had more than $20 to their name got the hell out of dodge.

  5. I'm with Candy on this. If I ignore the messenger and focus on the message, this information makes me feel better. But it's damned hard to ignore the weird bias of this messenger. Nevertheless, thanks for posting this, Kate. I've been getting fed up with all the footage of looters, angry black men screaming at the cameras. I knew that couldn't be the whole story.

    I have to stop watching/reading the news, too. Ever see the movie Scanners? That's what's going to happen to my head.

  6. I think in this case the messenger is actually important.

    The guy is in there doing what he can AND in the middle of that, he's taking the time to admit that a lifetime's belief (the poor are lazy and selfish) is wrong.

  7. Regardless, thanks Kate for posting something possitive.

  8. That guy is like so many--surprised that blacks are as human as they are. . .


    It's telling on more levels than one.

    I never had any doubt there are amazing stories of heroism going on right now.

  9. Anonymous7:04 PM

    Well, how many of you have taken time away from your computers and gone to that devistated city and walked up to your arm pits in filthy water, bloating corpses, and poisonous snakes to help these people?

    I do not think he meant to state that any one person down there is more important than any other. He stated the things he did as a defence agianst attacks.

    I want to be there, I want to help, but given the fact I have a new born infant and cannot get medically approved for rescue work, I cannot go. Instead I sit here and hope to the deities above that these people can live through this and make a new life for themselve.

    I do not think this is a race issue, I do not think this is a political issue, I do not think this is an econimic issue. this is a HUMAN LIFE issue!

    Forget the petty crap of how people state things, forget that people will never be able to say something that everyone agrees with! This is a HUMAN LIFE issue.

    We are one of the, if not the, richest country in this world. We are Americans, and this should not bring us to our knees. This should not cause us to fight amoungst ourselves. We should band together and offer our homes, food and friendship to these people. They are our friends, our relitives, and our nieghbors!

    Can we, just for a moment, forget race, creed, nationality, and economic statis, and band together to save lives?

    Please I beg of you, stop fighting and name calling and work together as a nation to save the lives of so many fellow Americans!

    I am not Anonymous...My name is Kati Dalton and I am an American!

  10. no, it wasn't his message that annoyed people...it was the underlying attitude--or rather his previous attitude that shows with the surprise at discovering that these people were actually *people* That can rub the wrong you way.

    No one would ever, ever, ever condemn his actions or his true and most important message. And I sure as **heck** wouldn't condemn the man himself. (That doesn't stop me from rolling my eyes a tiny bit. But I do that with my family members too.)

    And Kati, your message is great too. Thanks for not staying anonymous!

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