Why wait it out in New Orleans? Residents tell of life in Uptown after Katrina

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 9, 2005

NATCHEZ &045; The U.S. Army patrol stopped two men walking casually down the street.

The soldiers had automatic weapons and demanded to know who the men were and why they were out on the street. One man told the patrol they were out taking pictures. Where’s your camera? They asked.

The scene has been played out numerous times in Najef and Kabul, but it’s new to Nashville Avenue in uptown New Orleans.

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But the locals like it.

&uot;They’re stopping everybody, everyone in the area,&uot; Rick Tusson said. &uot;It’s great, I feel much safer.&uot;

Tusson spoke over the phone from his home in New Orleans where he and his partner, Barry Bossier, have been holed up since Hurricane Katrina blew through.

Why in the world would these two stay when a Category 5 hurricane was bearing down on New Orleans?

Tusson said concern over their rental properties combined with the (relatively) high ground upon which their brick home rested eased his concerns. Bossier said the &uot;whole production&uot; of evacuating and the city’s history of near misses contributed.

&uot;As it got closer, we realized the intensity and severity of it and questioned our decision,&uot; Bossier said. &uot;But, you make a decision and at some point you’ve got to stick with it.&uot;

The storm was bad: They watched a magnolia tree in the back yard get pulled out of the ground and smash into one of their cars &045; the one with the full tank of gas, of course &045; but it didn’t bring the torrential rains a direct hit would have.

By lunchtime Monday, it was over and the city was dry and they thought they had made it through. They went to look around, but &uot;we stayed really close.&uot;

Trees were down and the power was out, but the city wasn’t flooded. Yet.

&uot;We own a rental on Carondolet and General Pershing. Tuesday, it had no water; we walked in the back yard and everything,&uot; Tusson said. &uot;We went over on Wednesday morning, and it was up to the door handle on the basement of the duplex.&uot;

The looting had started Monday night; Tusson and Bossier recalled walking down Magazine Street seeing all of the shop window broken, clothes caught on the shards and in the street. They said they weren’t overly scared, although Tusson said he wore his .38 special in a shoulder holster and saw doctors walking to and from hospitals with shotguns.

Oh, and the airboats on Napoleon Avenue.

&uot;Not Mardi Gras floats. Airboats,&uot; Tusson emphasized.

With the arrival of the National Guard en masse uptown on Saturday, Tusson and Bossier began to see order returning to the streets. They’re glad they waited for their arrival.

&uot;The storm didn’t demolish our home, the last thing we wanted to do was leave the day of the storm and let the looters take everything,&uot; Tusson said. &uot;The only way out of town was the Mississippi River Bridge at Tchoupitoulas Street and the news was showing that they were ripping people out of their cars and raping women at gunpoint.&uot;

Far better to stay home and help rescue pets care for the senior citizens who stuck it out.

Now that things are safe, Bossier and Tusson left Wednesday for some much-needed R&R in Alabama. They said they’d return when the power comes on to meet the adjusters.

Asked about the future of New Orleans, Tusson didn’t have to think long.

&uot;New Orleans has made it through a civil war. I think the city will come back and come back much stronger.&uot;