ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


Home  ChickenBones Store (Books, DVDs, Music, and more)    


People are trying to say that we stayed an extra day because we wanted to be rioting

and we wanted to do this, but we had no resources to get out, and we had no way to leave.



CDs by Charmaine Neville


It's About Time   Manichalfwitz  /  Up Up Up  /


*   *   *   *   *



Transcript of Charmaine Neville's Story

from Video by WAFB, Baton Rouge

Sunday, Sep. 11, 2005

I was in my house when everything first started.  I was in my house, yes, I live in the Bywater Area of the Ninth Ward of New Orleans.  When the hurricane came, it blew all the left side of my house, the North side of my house.  And the water was coming in my house in torrents.  I had my neighbor, an elderly man who is my neighbor, and myself, in the house.  And with our dogs and cats and we were trying to stay out of the water, but the water was coming in too fast.  So we ended up having to leave the house.

We left the house and we went up on the roof of a school.  I took a crowbar and I burst the door open on the roof of the school to help people, to get them up onto the roof of the school.  Later on we found a flat boat.  And we went around in the neighborhood in a flatboat getting people out of their houses and bringing them to the school.  (Crying.)  We found all the food that we could and then we fed people.  

But then things started getting really bad.  By the second day, the people that were there that we were feeding and everything, we had no more food, no water. We had nothing.  And other people were coming into our neighborhood.  

We were watching the helicopters go across the bridge and airlift other people out, and they would hover over us and tell us “hi!”; but that would be all.  They wouldn't drop us any food, any water, or nothing.  Alligators were eating people.  They had all kinds of stuff in the water.  They had babies floating in the water.  We had to walk over hundreds of bodies of dead people.

People that we tried to save from the hospices, from the hospitals and from the old folks homes.   

I tried to get the police to help us, but I realized we rescued a lot of police officers in the flat boat from the Fifth District police station.  The boat. The guy that was driving the boat, he rescued a lot of them and brought them to different places where they could be saved.  We understood that the police couldn't help us.  But we could not understand why the National Guard and them couldn't help us, because we kept seeing them.  But they never would stop and help us.

Finally it got to be too much.  I just took all of the people that I could.  I helped two old women in  wheelchairs with no legs, that I rolled them from down in that Ninth Ward to the French Quarters, and I went back and I got more people.  There were groups of us, you know, there was about 24 of us.  And we kept going back and forth and rescuing whoever we could get and bringing them to the French Quarters because we heard that there were phones at the French Quarters.  And there wasn't any water.  And they were right there was phones, but we couldn't get through. 

I found some police officers.  I told them that a lot of us women had been raped down there by guys who had come (audio deleted) [not] from the neighborhood where we were that were helping us to save people, but other men.

And they came and they started raping women and (audio deleted) they started killing.  And I don't know who these people...I'm not going to tell you that I know who they were, because I don't.   

But what I want people to understand is that if we had not been left down there like the animals that they were treating us like, all of those things wouldn't have happened.  

People are trying to say that we stayed an extra day because we wanted to be rioting and we wanted to do this, but we had no resources to get out, and we had no way to leave.  When they gave the evacuation order, if we could've left, we would have left.  There are still thousands and thousands of people trapped in the homes in the downtown area--when we finally did get--in the Ninth Ward, and not just in my neighborhood, but in other neighborhoods of the ninth ward there are a lot of people who are still trapped down there.  Old people.  Young people.  Babies.  Pregnant women.  I mean nobody's helping them.

And I want people to realize that we did not stay in the city so that we could steal and loot and commit crimes.  

A lot of those young men lost their minds because the helicopters would fly over us and they wouldn't stop.  We'd do SOS on the flashlights, we'd do everything.  And it came to a point.  It really did come to a point where these young men were really so frustrated that they did start shooting.  They weren't trying to hit the helicopters.  Maybe they weren't seeing.  Maybe if they heard this gunfire they will stop then.  But that didn't help us.  Nothing like that helped us.

Finally, I got to Canal Street with all of my people that I had saved from back there.  There was a whole group of us.  I--I don't want them arresting nobody else--I broke the window in an RTA bus.  I never learned how to drive a bus in my life.  I got in that bus.  I loaded all those people in wheelchairs and then everything else into that bus and (sobbing) and we drove (crying)  and we drove.             

And millions of people was trying to get me to help, for them to get on the bus (crying, crying, crying).

posted 14 September 2005

*   *   *   *   *

Neville: My Soul is New Orleans
Singer Charmaine says city, music will come back

Charmaine Neville, a singer, is a member of one of New Orleans' great musical families. Her father, Charles Neville, performs with uncles Aaron, Art and Cyril in the Neville Brothers band. She estimates the musicians in her family number well over 100. In New Orleans, she said, every neighborhood and every family has musicians.

Many of the city's musicians were out of town when Katrina hit, Neville said. She, however, had recently returned from a tour.

What's more, she added, she could not afford to leave when residents were told to evacuate. Many others in New Orleans, home to thousands of poor residents, were in the same boat.

"It wasn't that I wanted to ride out the storm, believe me," Neville said. "Two days before the storm hit, I had spent every penny I had saved getting a new roof put on my house. I didn't have any money. I didn't have a car.

"When they said the storm was coming, I barricaded myself in the house and prayed. Many people in my neighborhood stayed because they didn't have resources. We did not stay because we wanted to be looters or martyrs. We stayed because we had to."

*   *   *   *   *

Charmaine Neville Stands by Story

of Rapes, Alligator Attacks during Katrina

By Donna Britt

As famed New Orleans singer Charmaine Neville prepares to take the stage on opening day of the 2006 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival Friday, she stands by her chilling account of rapes, alligator attacks, and stealing a city bus to rescue herself and others from the horrors of Hurricane Katrina.

On September 2, 2005, just hours after Neville says she drove out the city on a stolen city bus packed with people from her beloved city of New Orleans, the singer shocked many by showing up at the newsroom of WAFB-TV in Baton Rouge.  

Visibly shaking, dirt in her hair, wearing a dirty shirt, and crying, Neville spoke with Archbishop Alfred Hughes, who happened to be in the station's newsroom at the time.  Hughes heads up the Catholic Archdiocese in South Louisiana.

As a news camera rolled, Neville told Bishop Hughes she and others had just been through a living hell.   "Alligators were eating people, they had all kinds of stuff in the water," Neville said.  "They had babies floating in the water.  We had to walk over hundreds of bodies of dead people," she said. 

Minutes later, Neville told the same story during a live interview broadcast during WAFB-TV's continuous coverage of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.

Neville, who is set to perform at Jazz Fest Friday afternoon, performed at an outdoor concert in Lafayette earlier this month.   After that concert, she again spoke with WAFB 9NEWS, and said she stands by the harrowing story she told eight months earlier.  

"I have had people come up to me and say, did that really happen?"   Neville said, when asked that question, she often replies, "I'm glad you weren't there, but had you been there, you would know."

Neville says, while trying to head to higher ground after the levees broke, she was raped.  "I'm not going to say that it has changed me, because one person hurt me, not everybody, but one person," Neville said during the interview earlier this month.   "I'm not mad at him, I forgive him," the singer said.  "I don't know what made him do what he did.  He didn't just do it to me.  He did it to other women.  I know that he will be caught.  And he'll get what he deserves."

Dr. Louis Cataldie, the coroner in charge of recovering the bodies of Hurricane Katrina victims, says, of the 1,296 victims recovered so far, none showed evidence of alligator bites.  It is, of course, possible the people Neville says she saw eaten alive were never found.   He also says, while recovering more than a thousand coffins in St. Bernard Parish, he saw several alligators, but they never attacked.

Neville says her most haunting memory of Hurricane Katrina is not the rapes and not the alligators she insists were eating humans alive near her home.   She says her most haunting memory was being behind the wheel of a stolen bus, packed with people, and having to pass by others who were pleading to get onboard.   "Driving that bus and seeing all those people with their arms up saying take me, take me!"   "I can't get that out of my head.   I'm being honest here.  I could not fit any more people on the bus."

Neville is now rebuilding her home where it stood in the Bywater Neighborhood of the Ninth Ward.   After performing at Jazz Fest, she plans to spend the summer performing in Europe.   And, she plans to pick back up a dream she had before Katrina devastated New Orleans.  A dream of opening a business called Charmaine Neville's Just Desserts, which would serve dessert such as 3-crust deep apple pie, a treasured family recipe.   As far as coffee, she says, the restaurant would only serve coffees from the state she loves and cherishes:  Louisiana.—Wafb

*   *   *   *   *

Charmaine Neville (born 31 March) is a member of a famous New Orleans music family which includes the Neville Brothers. The daughter of Charles Neville, she is currently the leader and lead singer of the Charmaine Neville Band, a jazz/funk band based in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Ms. Neville was in international news due to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when the failure of the Federal levees swamped the city of New Orleans with up to 18 feet (5.5 m) of water in some locations. Her tale of survival, rape, and eventual escape via a commandeered transit bus were widely reported in the South Louisiana press.—Answers

*   *   *   *   *

The Katrina Papers a Journal of Trauma and Recovery

By Jerry W. Ward, Jr.

The Katrina Papers is not your average memoir. It is a fusion of many kinds of writing, including intellectual autobiography, personal narrative, political/cultural analysis, spiritual journal, literary history, and poetry. Though it is the record of one man's experience of Hurricane Katrina, it is a record that is fully a part of his life and work as a scholar, political activist, and professor.  The Katrina Papers provides space not only for the traumatic events but also for ruminations on authors such as Richard Wright and theorists like Deleuze and Guattarri. The result is a complex though thoroughly accessible book. The struggle with form—the search for a medium proper to the complex social, personal, and political ramifications of an event unprecedented in this scholar's life and in American social history—lies at the very heart of The Katrina Papers. It depicts an enigmatic and multi-stranded world view which takes the local as its nexus for understanding the global.  It resists the temptation to simplify or clarify when simplification and clarification are not possible. Ward's narrative is, at times, very direct, but he always refuses to simplify the complex emotional and spiritual volatility of the process and the historical moment that he is witnessing. The end result is an honesty that is both pedagogical and inspiring.—Hank Lazer

The Katrina Papers, by Jerry W. Ward, Jr. $18.95

*   *   *   *   *

Ancient African Nations

*   *   *   *   *

If you like this page consider making a donation

online through PayPal

*   *   *   *   *

Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


*   *   *   *   *

The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

*   *   *   *   *

The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

*   *   *   *   *

*   *   *   *   *






update 20 April 2010



Home  Katrina New Orleans Flood Index   Katrina Survivor Stories Table