Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Incomplete Surivor's Story
If you picked up a copy of this week's Seven Days, you may have noticed that there was a printing error. The press screwed up and omitted a page that included the first part of Peter Freyne's column, and the first page of Local Matters, our news column, this week written entirely by me.
Ordinarily, this would piss me off, but this week it's a particularly egregious error, because the page that got dropped contained the first part of a story about Fred Johnston and his family, who escaped from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Fred and his wife and daughter are living in Burlington now. Fred is working at the Body Art studio on Main Street — he's a tattoo artist.
I urge you to read this story online here. Fred and I spoke for nearly two hours in the Body Art stairwell. I have never been so moved by a story, and scrambled to include his whole account in this week's paper.
Here's a couple pieces of it, describing what Johnston did after he and his wife and daughter paddled half a mile in a boat to his mother's house, in New Orleans:
They had heard that they should go to the Superdome, 4 miles away, but decided to put it off as long as possible. Johnston paddled home to get a few things, including his three guns. "I don't like guns," he confides, "I just own them. That's what you need to survive in this world."
On the way back, he passed groups of people on porches who asked him to bring his boat their way. "But you might see 10 people on the porch," Johnston says. When he didn't stop, they swore at him. At one point, two young men asked for a ride. He ignored them. "Then they start talking about what they going to do to me to get my boat," he says, staring off into the distance.
Johnston says he picked up his rifle. "I made them see me load it," he says. "Made sure they heard me load it. Then they stopped talking."
Johnston started taking cigarettes, alcohol, food and medicine from nearby stores -- his mother had had invasive heart surgery just days earlier. What he didn't use, he bartered. "I hear on television, they were calling it looting," he says, "How are you going to say that these people who have nothing, they hardly have their lives, are looting . . . If I would have waited on the government, on any infrastructure in America, I would be dead on the roof somewhere."
There's a benefit for Johnston's family and the other 16 evacuees associated with the folks at the tattoo partlor on Sunday, from 2 pm - 2 am at 1/2 lounge in Burlington.
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Really powerful story. Great job as usual, Cathy. Thank you!
Posted by: NMO | Sep 22, 2005 12:07:28 AM
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