Caption: Terry was eventually evacuated onto this highway ramp
Terry was eventually evacuated onto this highway ramp 

Hurricane Katrina - Drowning Inside a Locked Cell

From: Jamie Dell'Apa
Length: 03:16

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Terry's cell at Orleans Parish Prison became a drowning cage as the flood waters from Hurricane Katrina rose almost to the ceiling. As his drowned cellmate floats near him and inmates are screaming, Terry tells us his thoughts as he faces his own ignoble, inhumane death. These thoughts are what continue to haunt him (and perhaps us) in this Katrina remembrance.

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The Primal Fear of
Drowning 

Terry could have been any tourist in my neighborhood - arrested on a public drunk charge in the French Quarter.  Tragically, his arrest was just before Hurricane Katrina.  

After Katrina passed but before the water from the broken levees seeped into the jail, Orleans Parish Prison staff locked the inmates into their cells then turned off the water and power for the lights.  In his first floor cell, Terry's sleep was broken by screaming.  As he put his foot down to investigate, his shoe filled with water.  Then the fetid flood waters slowly rose to Terry's ankles, knees, waist and his chest.  What started as an inconvenient administrative arrest was evolving into the primal fear of death by drowning.     

Unaware of how high the water would rise, Terry and the other inmates climbed their cell bars.  Some panicked at their imminent drownings.  Some called for their mothers.  Some drowned.  

      In this piece, Terry tells us his thoughts as he contemplates his own death.  Thoughts that have stayed with him to this day.  Perhaps the same final thoughts shared by so many New Orleanians who trusted the construction of the levees and their homes more than the perils of evacuation.  Thoughts so many of us contemplated as we witnessed the drowning of an American city just five years ago.  


Produced by WWOZ show host and French Quarter resident, Jamie Dell'Apa 

Piece Description

The Primal Fear of
Drowning 

Terry could have been any tourist in my neighborhood - arrested on a public drunk charge in the French Quarter.  Tragically, his arrest was just before Hurricane Katrina.  

After Katrina passed but before the water from the broken levees seeped into the jail, Orleans Parish Prison staff locked the inmates into their cells then turned off the water and power for the lights.  In his first floor cell, Terry's sleep was broken by screaming.  As he put his foot down to investigate, his shoe filled with water.  Then the fetid flood waters slowly rose to Terry's ankles, knees, waist and his chest.  What started as an inconvenient administrative arrest was evolving into the primal fear of death by drowning.     

Unaware of how high the water would rise, Terry and the other inmates climbed their cell bars.  Some panicked at their imminent drownings.  Some called for their mothers.  Some drowned.  

      In this piece, Terry tells us his thoughts as he contemplates his own death.  Thoughts that have stayed with him to this day.  Perhaps the same final thoughts shared by so many New Orleanians who trusted the construction of the levees and their homes more than the perils of evacuation.  Thoughts so many of us contemplated as we witnessed the drowning of an American city just five years ago.  


Produced by WWOZ show host and French Quarter resident, Jamie Dell'Apa 

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Gripping account

That's one of the more harrowing Katrina stories I've heard.

Broadcast History

None

Transcript

Hurricane Katrina Remembrance
Drowning At Orleans Parish Prison
Duration 00:03:16

Jamie Dell'Apa as narrator:

The crime of public drunkenness does not require a sobriety test to justify the arrest. In practice , you don't even need to be drinking. It works out to an automatic go-to-jail sentence applicable to anyone. Including my friend Terry who was unlucky enough to be arrested just before Hurricane Katrina

Terry:

Public drunk in the town where most of the bars stay open 24/7 and there are drive-through daiquiri shops?

Jamie Dell'Apa as narrator:

But instead of spending the night in the drunk tank and then seeing a judge, Katrina intervened.

Terry:

And all the sudden the hurricane passed and the building was shaking. I was on the ground floor and you could actually feel the building shaking. And it's made of concrete and steel so the hurricane was powerful, you know....
Read the full transcript

Timing and Cues

Intro: "The crime of public drunkeness does not require a roadside sobriety test."

Outro: "I'm Jamie Dell'Apa"

Intro and Outro

INTRO:

Five years ago... Katrina was more than a bad hurricane with property damages and isolated deaths. Katrina also triggered the primal fear of drowning. Of chaos. Of being trapped in a flooding lawless city. Or a house. Or locked in a jail cell. It was those thoughts that stay with us ... and Terry:

OUTRO:

With inmate's records destroyed in the flood, even misdemeanor offenders such as Terry were inter-mixed into the prison population at various high security prisons. After months of harsh treatment, his status was cleared up when his mother-in-law tracked him down and he was released. Terry now works in a French Quarter restaurant situated below New Orleans' radio station, WWOZ.

Related Website

http://www.aclu.org/prisoners-rights/abandoned-and-abused