MORE FROM AFTER THE FLOOD
TAPE OF BILL O'REILLY: If you're poor, you're powerless. Not only in America, but everywhere on earth. If you don't have enough money to protect yourself from danger, danger's gonna find you. The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina should be taught in every American school, if you don't get educated, if you don't develop a skill and force yourself to work hard, you'll most
likely be poor, and sooner or later you'll be standing on a symbolic rooftop waiting for help. Chances are, that help will not be quick in coming.
ASHLEY NELSON: That's what he said?
ALEX BLUMBERG: Yeah.
ASHLEY NELSON: Basically saying if you're rich, you live, if you're poor, you die. And I didn't have no idea that it was a crime to be poor, and the punishment was death.
ALEX BLUMBERG: What was the first that you heard about the hurricane and what preparations did you make?
ASHLEY NELSON: When I heard about the hurricane, it was Saturday, and you know it's supposed to come that Sunday night. So when I heard about it, I went over to my grandmother's house, and my whole family was over there and I'm like, um, y'all come on -- I'm just so amped up -- I'm like, "y'all come on, let's go rent a car, we gotta evacuate, there's a hurricane coming!" And everybody looked at me stupid, they're like, "all right, you gonna go rent a car because we have that kind of money to go out of town, and we got that kind of money to do that kind of stuff, like being sarcastic about it and I’m like, "Man, I forgot, we poor." I promise you, that's what I thought in my head. I forgot we were poor.
ALEX BLUMBERG: and were there people who were able to get out who had a car?
ASHLEY NELSON: yes. Cause I remember, I remember that day, I was standing outside and a lot of people running from their house to their car, from their house to their car, just throwing stuff, just throwing stuff, trying to hurry up, and get out before the (?) gets too hectic. That was a handful of people and everyone else was just sitting there watching, watching how people leave and then they gotta stay. Cause I know that's what I'm thinking when I see people leaving, I'm like, "they're leaving and I gotta stay." And there's not even an option, I have to stay.
ALEX BLUMBERG: Ashley rode out the storm at her father's house in Jefferson Parish, across the river in New Orleans where the rest of her family lives. There wasn't too much flooding there, so the next morning they went and found all the scrap wood they could, blown down branches, old benches, and started a fire to cook the little bit of meat they'd been able to buy at the store before the storm came. They figured that would hold them until rescuers got there, but then one day passed and no one came, and then two days, they had no TV, they didn't know what was going on.
ASHLEY NELSON: I thought, just like my daddy, I thought like my dad, "somebody would come to help us." Nobody came to help us. No Red Cross trucks, no nothing. I mean, at least they could have dropped us some water. You know what it's like to not have water? You get a taste in your mouth that's just, aw, it's horrible. Your mouth all dry and you can't even think right. You start getting delusional and hallucinating about things.
ALEX BLUMBERG: Did you actually have hallucinations?
ASHLEY NELSON: Yeah!
ALEX BLUMBERG: What did you hallucinate?
ASHLEY NELSON: Water bottles. More water bottles. Big Kentwood gallon jugs. I'm serious. I went crazy. I mean, I would just sit down and rock and think, "is the world going to turn to hell and we all gonna burn?" I mean, I just started going crazy. Really crazy.
ALEX BLUMBERG: did it make you realize, "oh, so this is what it feels like, this is what it feels like to be starving."
ASHLEY NELSON: I thought that when I was in Jefferson Parish, I thought, I was like, "man, I'm starving!" That's what I was like to myself, "man, I'm starving!" You know how your stomach growls? Like, when you starving, you get cramps in your stomach and it feels like your stomach just bent in into your back. I mean the best bet is for you to lean forward.
ALEX BLUMBERG: How scared were you?
ASHLEY NELSON: I thought I was gonna die. I mean, I look at it like this, now. 9-11 was bad cause it was terrorists, you know, it's no surprise people hate the United States. It's no big surprise. I mean, but New Orleans was worse, because it was our own government who betrayed us. They betrayed us. They betrayed us. Like, they left us there to die. And then you hear George Bush telling the FEMA man, "you're doing a good job," -- what do you mean by that? What do you mean by that? Because I mean, people are dying, so you telling him he's doing a good job, what you're saying, like, that's good that people are dying? I never understood that and I really wish I can meet him to ask him, "what do you mean by that? 'He's
doing a good job.'"
IRA GLASS: 18-year-old Ashley Nelson talking with Alex Blumberg, two days after that the head of FEMA, "the FEMA man," Michael Brown, who President Bush said was doing such a good job, was removed from all duties relating to Hurricane Katrina.