Maine man arms self with pistol, bicycles to safety
Morning Sentinel Online September 7, 2005
FAIRFIELD, Maine --Mike Stanford armed himself with a .45-caliber handgun and rode his bicycle through the filthy flooded streets of New Orleans last week before finding safety 175 miles away and flying to Maine.
Stanford, who graduated from Lawrence High School in 2003, worked as a cook at the Royal Sonesta Hotel on Bourbon Street. He had studied cooking at the French Culinary Institute in New York City and had lived in New Orleans since January.
After Hurricane Katrina hit, New Orleans turned into a city of filth, death, looters and lawlessness, Stanford, 21, told a class at Lawrence High on Tuesday.
By last Wednesday, as the nation got its first good look at the devastation across the region and the sewers backed up into the city streets of the city, Stanford decided to pack up and get out.
He strapped on a backpack, took his handgun and he and a friend pedaled their bikes through sewage-soiled water, two feet deep in places. He soon lost track of his friend and after not being able to locate him continued alone toward the interstate in 100-degree heat.
He rode until the bike would ride no more, then hitched a ride north toward Memphis, Tenn. "I told one guy I'd pay him $100 to take me anywhere but here," Stanford recalled. "It was hell on earth."
When cellular phone service was restored outside of Jackson, Miss., he got out of the car and got rid of the gun, he said. He called his parents, Carrington and Valerie Stanford of Clinton, and they booked him a flight home.
He landed Thursday in Manchester, N.H., where his parents were waiting.
"I think I had a lot of post-traumatic stress disorder," he said. "I had a lot of trauma; the night I got back I didn't sleep at all."
Stanford said he won't forget the hurricane. He and his roommate were in their first-floor apartment when it hit, sending water into the building and ripping the roof off.
The day after, the streets were like a war zone, he said.
"(Last) Tuesday night, I saw a couple of looters right across the street -- cops shot three looters," he said. "There was absolutely no law; they were looting gun shops and shot at helicopters."
Stanford said he plans to head to Dallas in a couple of months to get a job.
Homeowners stand guard
Katrina survivors stay to protect property from looters.
Published Tuesday, September 6, 2005 Columbia Daily Tribune
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - When night fell, Charlie Hackett climbed the steps to his boarded-up window, took down the plywood, grabbed his 12-gauge shotgun and waited.
He waited for looters and troublemakers, for anyone thinking his neighborhood had been abandoned like so many others across the city.
Two doors down, John Carolan did the same on his screened-in porch, pistol by his side.
They are not about to give up their homes to the lawlessness that has engulfed New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
"We kind of together decided we would defend what we have here and we would stay up and defend the neighborhood," said Hackett, an Army veteran with a snow-white beard and a business installing custom kitchens.
"I don’t want to kill anybody," he said, "but I’d sure like to scare ’em."
With generators giving them power, food to last for weeks and several guns each for protection, the men are two of a scattered community holed up across the residential streets of the city’s Garden District, a lush neighborhood with many antebellum mansions.
The streets, where towering live oaks once offered cool shade, are now often impassable because of huge fallen branches and downed power lines. Lovely porches framed in wrought iron lay smashed. Many of the homes appear only slightly damaged or even untouched.
But the neighborhoods are stunningly empty and so quiet they sound like a forest.
It is a short drive but a world away from the city’s downtown, where tens of thousands of hungry, thirsty and increasingly angry people waited in misery at the Superdome and the New Orleans Convention Center before evacuations finally began.
Here, Carolan started his nightly watch by lighting a big fire in his barbecue pit.
Hackett turned his lights on and jammed a 15-foot wooden brace against the front door so that no one could break through.
The night is "black, black, black," Hackett said. "It reminds me of when I was in Vietnam; it reminds me of Dac To."
They have not had a problem staying awake. Each night there are gunshots in the distance, sometimes people walking through, an occasional car driving by.
"Last night, I had to draw down on some people," Carolan said. A car with what sounded like a crowd of drunken, partying kids came through and stopped.
"I had to come out with a flashlight in one hand, pistol in the other," he said, crossing his arms like an X. "I said: ‘Who are you? Do you live here? What are you doing here?’ They said, ‘We’re leaving.’ "
Hackett, who in his 50s, lives alone, with his two cats and a bunch of neighbor’s pets that he is caring for.
Carolan, 46, is keeping watch with his brother, wife, son and 3-year-old granddaughter.
In the first few days, they were especially fearful.
Looters smashed windows and ransacked a discount store and a drugstore a few streets over. Three men came to Carolan’s house, asking about his generator and brandishing a machete.
He showed them his gun, and they left. "It was pandemonium for a couple of nights. We just felt that when they got done with the stores, they’d come to the homes," Hackett said. "When it’s not easy pickings, they’ll go somewhere else."
Things have gotten quieter, the men said, but not quiet.
"What do you say I’m a survivor," John Carolan said with a laugh, thinking of the reality TV show. "Hey, give me the million bucks now."
How long can Carolan and the others hold out? Hackett has enough gas and food for a month. Carolan said they have weeks’ worth of food and bug repellent, and he will siphon gas from left-behind cars to keep his electricity going.
"Everything we have is in our homes. With the lawlessness in this town, are you going to walk away from everything you built?" Carolan said.
"A lot of people think we’re stupid. They say, ‘Why did you stay?’ I say, ‘Why didn’t you stay?’ "