Submitted November 14, 2008

Behavior of people in general was horrible selfish animalistic

September 2005, I evacuated from my home in Beaumont because of Hurricane Rita. I boarded a school bus with several other people from all across my area. We rode in a caravan of school buses with 2,000 people and this is my personal experience that I went through during this time.

We departed the school parking area and lined up until all the school buses were ready to depart. The waiting time before we actually got on the road and were driving was about an hour. School buses are made for children but not for older adults because they are very cramped. We were only allowed to bring with us one bag that we had to carry onto the bus with us. That bag had to include food, clothing, and any medications we were taking. Since I did not have a television to listen to the news, I actually brought with me a carry on bag and a suitcase.

On my bus were half way house people who were dirty. Their providers did not supply them with any water or food for this long journey. One lady sat behind me and begged for my food. I had ate a little of my food and then gave the rest to the lady who was begging. There was also another woman on the bus who was schizophrenic. Because of a lack of water and food she was not able to take her medicine like she needed to. She got very anxious and at one point on our journey she started hollering and bagging on the windows repeatedly.

The traffic moved slowly and what normally took 30 minutes to drive, now took 5 hours to get to. We finally stopped after about 3 hours on the bus so we could unload and go to a public bathroom. I had brought a 2 liter frozen bottle of water with me for the journey and would only take sips to wet my mouth since we were not stopping all that often. Anyways, I got off to go to the bathroom and that was actually the nicest bathroom on the journey that we encountered. Our next stop was 2 ½ hours later where a church was supplying food and drink for people fleeing from the hurricane.

The bus driver told us to wait until we were given permission to get off the bus. There was a big white man and a tall skinny young black man who started up rioting on the bus. They kept insisting to be let off the bus and would not listen to the bus driver. The bus driver lost his religion and started cussing and told them to do whatever they wanted to do. Many of us remained on the bus doing what we were told to do.

People acted like animals during this time and raided the area where food and drink was being served. A young white girl who was standing behind a counter handing out food and drink to each person in line was suddenly pushed aside by some hateful young males who took a lot of the food and drink for themselves. They sure were not thinking of others who needed this substance to survive, only themselves. Finally through pure disgust, an adult came and closed and locked the doors and refused to give out any more food and drink because of these people who were rioting. Several older people on the bus I was on and myself were left out of getting any food or drink. To be honest with you, I had lost my appetite at this point in the journey and did not gain it back untill I got back home to my apartment 15 days later.

Because our stops were very few in the first part of the trip, the people from the half way houses began to pee and poop on the buses. The stench was horrible. Every time one of the people stood up it would stir up that nasty smell of old urine and feces. It was overwhelming and even spraying with Lysol did not stop the order.

Once again we boarded the buses and in caravan we took off. Our next stop was Lufkin, Texas but when we arrived there we were not allowed to stop as there was no place to house 2,000 people. We started our journey at 12 noon the day before and now it was well after dark and into the wee hours of the morning. Around 6 AM the following day we were in Lufkin and we had stopped by the side of some business. The only place to go to the bathroom was out in the back of this building. By this time I had to go and had no choice but to bare my behind in front of everyone. In the process I got my tennis shoe stuck in some deep mud.

Since I suffer with fibromyalgia and I had no food left to eat to take my medication, what I had taken had worn off and my legs were in severe pain. It felt so good to get off that bus and walk around a short while. While we were parked an elderly lady, in our caravan, was hit by a car while crossing the road trying to get to a fast food place. She died. Another lady went into labor and I think that they transported her to a hospital. In fact, several people ended up being transported to the hospital from severe trauma.

Once we started stopping in different towns, many of the people would unload off the buses and go into the stores and steal food and drink. The shop owners would call the police and eventually every town we came to the police would escort us out of town. As the journey progressed and we were escorted out of town, the police finally had us going back into the direction of the hurricane. Eventually we came to the town of San Augustine, Texas at the high school that was located there. They were going to serve us food and send us on our way but many of the people on the bus were disrespectful. They made sure they got plenty to eat and kept many of us from eating. They were selfish and animalistic in nature. When they finished eating their food they just deposited their garbage on the lawn which made the caretakers really upset at all of us and we were told to leave immediately.

At one of the road side stops we made, someone got on the microphone system to the buses asking for money for gas for the buses because the store would not accept their credit cards. Thinking this was one of the bus drivers in our group, I got on the microphone and told them that I could give them some money. I had a few dollars on me, not much but a little money and so I was willing to give of it to help the cost of fuel. Someone came and took my money but it was not a bus driver and so when I looked out the window of the bus that person who had gotten my money took it across the street and bought a watermelon to eat. I was totally disgusted with the people in this caravan.

Once we got into San Augustine, after being made to sit on the bus about 30 minutes, I got off the bus. I went to use the bathroom in the gym bathrooms. When I got to the entrance, a lady janitor was all upset. Here she was there trying to help people who were fleeing from the hurricane and these black young females spit in her face, push past her and did what they wanted to do with no regard to the needs of others.

At this point in my journey I am fully anxious and in severe pain so I decided to stay in San Augustine fully trusting that Yahweh would help me find my way back home again when it was safe. A lady offered me some fruit and a drink so I could take my medication. She gave me a pillow and blanket to sleep on the wooden floor of the gym.

When I had packed my things for the journey, I had packed some of my crafting supplies so I would have something to do while I was away. I am so thankful I had done this as it served a good purpose. During my stay for 15 days, I made a total of 9 checkbook covers with peoples names on them. People were coming up to me wanting me to make them one and I enjoyed doing this very much.

My first actual night was spent in San Augustine, Texas in a gym. I slept on a hard wood floor with a blanket and a pillow. I went to get up during the night to use the bathroom and almost fell several times from dizziness. They sent a medic to check on me and they would not take me to the hospital because they had no room for me. They told me I was only having a panic attack or it was anxiety.

There was one young black female who had a young baby boy. This lady would hold her baby in her arms while she let men have sex with her in front of everyone. I eventually became friends with the young female and befriended her because I knew she must have come from a background of neglect and indifference. She turned out to be very sweet but her child cried almost all the time and got on all of our nerves.

While I was in San Augustine, I stayed for several days in the gym. Well the janitors got fed up with the horrible behavior of many of the people who would take their female products and put them in the toilet instead of the garbage bag like they were told to do. The toilets got all backed up. The head janitor got so upset with all of us that he said that they would no longer clean the bathroom, would there be some volunteers to clean the bathrooms. Immediately several of us got up right away to go clean and I was one of the first ones to report for duty.

When I went into the bathroom we had very dim light to work with. Our light was that of flashlight. When I went into the bathroom, I chose to clean the 3 stalls. When I went to clean the stalls, mind you this is the women’s bathroom, there was feces on the stall walls, on the walls, and on the toilet seats. You would think that it was 2 year olds that use these toilets instead of adults. By the time I got to the third stall I was ready to vomit. My stomach was churning and I had to pray for help not to vomit. What I did was to breathed out of my mouth and keep praying throughout the rest of the ordeal.

We finally finished cleaning the nasty bathrooms and then some young female went into the bathroom and she discarded her feminine product into the toilet. One of the ladies who helped me clean the bathrooms came to me and reported to me what this female had done. So I went to the head janitor who promptly told the female to remove what she put into the toilet.

The first morning after the hurricane hit, we were brought a half a peanut butter sandwich and a carton of milk. That was all that was available for us to eat. Eventually the military brought us water in cans and self heating meals. At first the self heating meals were okay but after eating a couple of them, they seem to have a chemical that caused the stomach to be upset and then cause diarrhea. I could not eat those meals after the first couple of them as they were horrible.

One day I went to the grocery store with some people I became friends with. We were in line to get into the store. They were only allowing a few people in at a time because of rioting and stealing. I had gotten out of line for some reason and when I went to get back into the line with my friends, this lady started yelling at me to get to the back of the line. I told her I was with these people who were standing in front of her. She told me she didn’t care and to get to the blankety, blank back of the line. Well I just ignored her and when the man went to open the door this lady who yelled at me, pushed right past the people in front of her and past the man controlling the door and went into the store.

Well after several days the government came in to screen us for the ,000 that they gave to each family to survive on. We all took a number and then took our turns to go in and fill out information about where we lived and who we were and how many were in our group. After that ordeal, then we had to prepare to be moved to another location. I was moved to a community place which was a roller skating rink. At first I slept on a box spring which was far better than the wooden floor I had slept on. Then the military brought us some cots to sleep on but I had trouble sleeping on the cot so I went back to the box spring. Eventually some of the people who were at the community room left and that left me to be able to get a mattress to put on the box spring and the rest of my sleeping time was excellent.

We had chores to do while in the community room and I chose to do the bathrooms each day. We also took turns to cook meals and we actually got to eat real food which was sooooo good. We had a place to take a shower and clean up so we were well taken care of. However, the town counsel wanted us out of there and they started to harass us. Some man came in and told us that we would have to leave and that they were sending transportation to get us. It had all of us shook up pretty badly. So we got the television network to come and interview us. When it was my turn I just told it like it was. I said that they were prejudice and did not want us there because the owner was black and we were poor and had no place to go. The television interview worked great and we were left alone from then on out. I spent the rest of my time in the community room and Yahweh did provide me with a ride back home.

My return home was a happy time for me. The apartment building where I lived at smelled horrible and our apartments were rank as well. I took some fragrant floor cleaner and poured it straight on the dried blood from the meat that defrosted while I was gone to lessen the horrible smell. Even though the smell was bad, I was so thankful to be back home where I could sleep in my own bed and take a bath once again.

The whole ordeal of evacuating left me with nightmares as did the rest of the people in my apartment building that went out by school buses. After that last experience we had, and now to think we may have to evacuate once again for hurricane Ike, we have all agreed that we refuse to get on the school buses again to leave if an evacuation is mandated. One of the people who evacuated like I did in 2005 told me it was worse than a nightmare.

The behavior of people in general was horrible, selfish, and animalistic. I cannot believe people can act this way in extreme conditions such as this. I wonder what will they do if Marshal Law is called?

The caravan that I was in ended up being caught in the track of the hurricane and it is a true amazement to me how that they survived that storm. They were eventually placed with inmates at a prison system. While they were there in the prison system, the inmates were deliberately flashing them with their nude bodies. Some people were so full of anxiety that it took them weeks to recover after they came back home.

Some of the bus drivers were so tired during this caravan trip that they almost ran into the back end of the other buses. Our bus driver actually nodded off several times. One lady bus driver actually fell asleep and almost ran into another bus. A trip to Lufkin, Texas that normally takes 2 ½ hours to drive actually took 18 hours.

Candace M.

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