As flood waters breached the city’s levy system, Greg and Glenda secured important documents under layers of plastic and blankets on the top shelf of a closet.
Leaving behind photos, negatives and their signed covenant, they walked through waist-high water to a nearby school, carrying with them only what they thought vital to survive. They took clothes, their driver’s licenses, some personal papers, medication, sanitizers, antiseptics and, in case of stomach problems, baking soda and antacids.
With them was Greg’s best friend Allen Smith, known as “Sarge.”
At the middle school that had been used as a shelter during Hurricane Betsy in 1965, they set up their own shelter for anyone who stayed behind during the storm. They found a ba rbeque to cook on and took food from a neighborhood grocery store with an officer’s permission.
Greg said there were more than 100 people the first day. With the meals Sarge cooked, and the food from the school vending machines, people had enough to eat, he said. Smith learned how to preserve the meat in the military, so they had meat the entire eight days in the shelter.
“We never really ran out of food,” Greg said. “We ran out of water one day. The water got real tight. The next day, that’s when the Coast Guard started dropping water to us.”
The school became a drop point for the Coast Guard, he said. They landed a helicopter on the roof and delivered supplies and airlifted some people out.
One day “the men sacrificed their drinking water so that the women could bathe. We were pretty self-sufficient,” Glenda said.
Officers tried to force people to evacuate the school. They wanted to take everyone to the Superdome, but most didn’t want to go, Greg said. News of the bad things happening there reached them through the radio.
When they tried to evacuate Glenda, she asked if she could go upstairs and get some of her belongings, including medications. “I came to evacuate you, not your stuff,” Glenda said she was told.
Eventually the couple convinced the authorities to let them stay.
But on the eighth day, the Coast Guard and Army came in a boat. Evacuation wasn’t optional this time. “They came with their guns drawn,” Greg said.