Houston Welcomes Survivors
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JIM LEHRER: Now, as the evacuations from Louisiana continue, Saul Gonzalez of KCET-Los Angeles reports on how Houston’s newest arrivals are coping.
SAUL GONZALEZ: This was the scene outside Houston’s Astrodome this afternoon: Newly arrived hurricane refugees from Louisiana receiving emergency medical assistance from paramedics and doctors. These people are just some of the tens of thousands of hurricane victims who have fled to Texas, seeking help and a safe haven.
As they arrive, the refugees are desperate and confused, not sure of their final destination as authorities redirect them to other Texas cities.
SAUL GONZALEZ: Do you know where you are going to end up?
IVY CURTIS: We don’t know — we don’t know what is going on.
SHIRLEY MARTIN: This is how we live.
SAUL GONZALEZ: Nobody told you anything.?
IVY CURTIS: No. They just told to us come here.
SAUL GONZALEZ: Come here — to this parking lot in Houston?
SHIRLEY MARTIN: Actually, I think it was supposed to be the Astrodome.
SAUL GONZALEZ: That where you are now.
SHIRLEY MARTIN: Well, they say it is full capacity so I think they are trying to get another -
IVY CURTIS: They’re supposed to be trying to get more buses around because it’s supposed to be full here –
SAUL GONZALEZ: Many here have stories of a long and miserable bus ride from Louisiana.
BRIAN HARRIS: Got a lot of sick people on the bus, you know, people sick, they are aggravated – they ain’t had nothin’ to eat – I got a mother on there, she ain’t had nothin’ to eat all night. She’s a diabetic — the lady been walking in all that sloppy water in New Orleans, you know, that came from sewers and stuff. And she got cuts on her feet, you know. Just ain’t nothing being done.
SAUL GONZALEZ: Those who aren’t sick or recovering from their journey are looking for missing loved ones — friends and family members who they were separated from in either the hurricane or the chaos of the evacuation.
Karen Baily is searching for her son, mother-in-law, and a close friend. She says she simply wants to receive word that they are okay.
SAUL GONZALEZ: How did you get separated?
KAREN BAILY: Well, they stay in the Slidell area so when we evacuated, we evacuated at different times. And we all got out, we all got separated. So we have no idea where Darryl is, we don’t know if he’s with his wife. And we haven’t heard from anyone since last Saturday.
SAUL GONZALEZ: Joy Armond has been separated from the most vulnerable member of her family, her new son Isadore.
JOY ARMOND: My baby’s missing. He was last seen at University Hospital Level 3 nursery.
SAUL GONZALEZ: How did you get separated from your baby?
JOY ARMOND: Well, because I had him prematurely I went in and had him at six months and he have to gain weight to come home. I’m just devastated right now. I don’t know where he is. I’m hurt, put it like that, I miss him.
SAUL GONZALEZ: Yet even as newcomers from the disaster zone try to find food, shelter and loved ones in Houston, other refugees who have come to the city are already thinking about how to rebuild their lives. They will have very little to start with.
SHELLY ANDERSON: Well, I mean, we thought we’d be going home so we just brought a couple of changes of clothes. And, I mean, eventually we have to get some supplies to, you know, eat and wash, do laundry, so.
SAUL GONZALEZ: But everything that’s in the back of this truck is –
SHELLY ANDERSON: That’s what we have.
SAUL GONZALEZ: — everything that you own right now.
SHELLY ANDERSON: That’s right; that is it.
SAUL GONZALEZ: Shelly Anderson and her two daughters have called the disaster relief shelter on the outskirts of Houston home for the last week. In the days ahead she hopes to open the door on a new life in a new city.
SHELLY ANDERSON: Yesterday we went to the library, got online, applied for — I’m a nurse — so I applied for a temporary Texas license, you know, going to start planning for tomorrow so we can live for the next, I don’t know how long.
SAUL GONZALEZ: And planning for that tomorrow involves a job and a roof over your head.
SHELLY ANDERSON: A job, yeah. And I’m blessed that I can be able to get one as soon as, you know, a license comes in. And you know, then into school once we find out where we are going to stay, you know. And probably relocate and not go back.
SAUL GONZALEZ: Not go back to Louisiana?
SHELLY ANDERSON: No, no. Not to New Orleans.
SAUL GONZALEZ: Three parking spaces away, refugee Daniel Robinson, a proud man, is trying to deal with guilt and anxiety as he faces uncertain days ahead.
DANIEL ROBINSON: I got five kids with me. We don’t have nowhere to go.
SAUL GONZALEZ: That is a lot of responsibility for you.
DANIEL ROBINSON: And I’m not doing nothing sitting around. As a man in the house, I’m not even providing for my family, you know. And that’s what is really hurting me the most.
SAUL GONZALEZ: Feeling that powerless.
DANIEL ROBINSON: Helpless, this is — gave us a wake-up call because we lost everything we had, we owned. And we can’t go back to it — we have nothing to go back to. It’s just sad, man, sad.
SAUL GONZALEZ: For thousands of hurricane refugees in Texas, the long, harrowing trip from Louisiana is probably nothing compared to the journey they have ahead of them.