Thursday, September 15, 2005

7:04 pm
Morgan City. Our plan is to sweet-talk our way passed the check point into Algiers. However, we’re expecting to have to camp outside Algiers. We’re disappointed.
7:30 pm
45 minutes from New Orleans on hwy 90. We’re a little over an hour behind one of the other trucks. We just spotted our first sign of military presence.
9 pm
One hour and counting in the check point line to Algiers. One of our vehicles made it through the checkpoint far ahead of us. Military police are walking up and down the line of cars.


Our arrival
After nearly three hours in the checkpoint line outside of New Orleans, the two lanes turned into one and it was time to roll down our windows to talk with military personnel. We were instructed by the folks in our caravan who got in an hour or so prior about how to get through. We rolled down the windows and handed all of our drivers’ licenses over and said we were part of an emergency medical team from California, that people were expecting us in Algiers, and that a truck full of people from our group already got through and another one was a ways behind us. Quickly we were waved to move forward. I couldn’t believe it, we got in!

We drove through New Orleans, it was dark and difficult to see details around us. We did see lots of abandoned cars along the road and on the bridge. Most signs and lamp posts are bent at deep angles. Roof tops blown off, shingles everywhere, billboards blown-out, trees down, debris everywhere. Streetlights in parts of the city are on, while other areas are totally dark. No life, except stray dogs and cop cars. Really desolate. The feeling was something like what i feel in a funeral home -morbid, eerie, quiet, and empty.

We descended from the West Bank Expressway on the General Degaulle exit and within minutes we pulled up to Malik’s house. It was 10:30pm. People greeted us from the porch with shouts as we drew near. We jumped out of the truck after a 57 hour, 2200 mile car ride and walked across the street to the house. Before we got there, a private security vehicle came toward us from down the street and the folks on the porch yelled for us to come through the gate and into the yard quickly. We didn’t understand what was happening and scuttled nervously into the yard. The car stopped in front of the house and the guys in the car drew their guns on us and didn’t say anything. We were on the street past curfew, see. The folks on the porch didn’t seem a bit phased. One African-American woman yelled, “Don’t worry, there’s only four black people left here.” Our group is mostly white, with two Asian-Americans. There are a lot more white people than black people already at Malik’s.

Mostly everyone was extremely friendly. People were everywhere. The long hallway from the front door to the kitchen was lined with supplies. Malik was asleep. Marenka and i both did a little massage. Our third vehicle made it to the house around 12:30am. We set up tents in the front and back yards and several people slept uncovered on the porch. One guy who arrived days before us, named Blank, slept on the kitchen floor on a couple of couch cushions with the light shining on him all night. He says he can sleep anywhere.

Around 1:15am one of our members went to the truck to have a private telephone conversation. A bunch of us saw her run to the truck and knew that she wasn’t clear about the severity of the curfew. We were very concerned and after 15 minutes i tried calling her phone, but she didn’t answer. I ran to the truck and told her that i wished she would come back because it wasn’t safe to be there. She said she’d be another two minutes, so i told her to duck if she sees another car coming down the road. I ran back to the house and an few minutes later a humvee came down the road with a moving search light. We were so scared for her. After they turned a corner, she ran back and realized how bad that situation could have been. She had ducked. After supposedly firing a warning shot, they can shoot you if you’re out after curfew.

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