FRONTLINE conducted this phone interview in mid-November 2005. The photos on this page were taken by Kennard Jackley and his wife.
Did you consider evacuating?
No. My wife went to Dallas with my dog and I kept the cat, Miss Kitty. She turned out to be a good girl. She went underneath the bed and came back out like nothing happened.
Did your career as a Merchant Marine influence your decision to stay?
I tell you what, and this is no kidding: I've been in storms in the North Atlantic and in the Pacific, and of course you're floating on top of the water then, but this one had me baffled. It was the worst storm you're ever going to see. I was in a typhoon in the Pacific that killed 690 in the Philippines. And we were in it for four days. After the fourth day we got out of it, but all of the paint off the ship was gone. It looked like it had been sandblasted off the entire ship.
Were you never frightened? How far did the water get up to in your house?
I still had about 8 feet of air up there. I wasn't worried about the house, though, because the guy I bought the house from in '72 was a police captain in the crime lab in New Orleans, and he put rebarb and wires in every brick downstairs and then poured cement in every concrete block. So I wasn't worried about the house leaving. …
"But She's Still Standing"
What did you do about communication?
I had a battery operated radio. … [My neighbor] Bubby Seagraves's telephone worked, believe it or not. I never even thought about communicating, really. Then a man from the [Department of] Wildlife and Fisheries showed up. I told him to call my wife. He called her up about midnight and just said, "He's alive." I never thought about dying.
How long before water and power were restored?
I went two days without running water, and my power was restored in two months. But I had a small generator so I never completely lost power. But it wasn't enough to keep my refrigerator going, so my food started to thaw. That's why I had to barbeque so much. It was four or five days after the storm before I could get food. My neighbor, a crabber named Seagraves, came walking down the street -- barefooted, as crabbers are -- and he had transportation, so we went out to Sam's, and I bought me a big generator. But I tell you, if it wasn't for the Red Cross, I don't know what I would've done.
Was anyone in the area killed, hurt?
There's about six people died. They were further down the road, toward Highway 11. Those people stayed. I think they found six bodies.
How many houses were lost in your neighborhood?
At least four on the other side. You can see them floating down behind my house. I think there were about six of them right across from me. It was terrible. I couldn't believe it to tell you the truth. A guy in that two-story house … his name is Tom. Two dogs, his truck and his car, all of it went down. I don't know how he got out of there. I saw him a day and a half after, with one of his dogs.
"Come and Get It"
How long was it before your wife and Maggie, your dog, returned?
She returned a month later from Dallas. I wanted to get everything cleaned out because of the debris, or she couldn't have even driven up into the driveway.
What was the damage to your house?
Well, what happened was I called Sears and they came out. We got a new water heater and A/C and siding and roof. It was about maybe $30,000. My wife's beauty shop down there, it took a lot of time and effort to build that thing. It's a total loss. We lost everything down there. I don't know how that stuff got out of there! It just floated away like it was nothing. When the water level came up, it just floated the truck away.
In the days after the hurricane, were you aware of what was happening in the city and at the Superdome?
I had a battery-operated television and I had enough batteries to keep it going, so I knew what was going on outside, but I really had no idea what was going on downtown.
Any thoughts on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina?
I sure wish everybody could have made it out OK. Something like this is just unbelievable, and I'm going to try do whatever I can in the future to help the Red Cross because they sure helped me.
Will you wait out future hurricanes?
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