"ARE YOU HERE TO HELP US?"
All roads leading to the Lower Ninth Ward were blocked by fallen trees, power lines, collapsed buildings or high water except for Chartres Street, next to the Mississippi River levee. I drove through the debris toward the Industrial Canal until the water became too deep. I then waded through waist-deep water for four blocks and crossed the St. Claude Bridge where I had heard the water was engulfing homes.
The first thing I noticed was four women and three children clinging to the posts on their porch. They screamed for help as the floodwaters raged down the street between us. But there was nothing I could do. The waters were too deep and the current was too strong for me to reach them. The winds were still at hurricane force and they had been clinging to the porch, balancing on the rail in chest-deep water now for about five hours. They were panicked and were planning to use a log to float themselves to safety.
Because I could not help them, it disgusted me to shoot pictures. I made just a few frames, then begged them to stay put and hold on tight. When I returned less than an hour-and-a-half later with a rope and a boat, they were gone. The rescuers working the area said they never saw them. I reasoned that someone must have gotten to them but I remember how determined and scared they were. Finally, months later, a reporter and I tracked them down in Houston. They had been rescued and were all safe.