College Prep English
31 March 2015
Change of Perspective
As German Hernandez spoke about the Hurricane Katrina, just by listening to his voice anyone can notice that remembering this event made him sorrowful. He remembers those long and threatening days very well. He is a strict, hard, but caring and a very outgoing person. When the Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast of the United States, he was in a Louisiana state prison. He and his brother Alejandro, were in the same prison but they were kept apart in the prison. On August 23rd 2005 German was laying down on the bed in his cell. He recalled he was relaxed, thinking when he and his brother would get out of jail to reunite with their family again.
Every prisoner was doing their own thing. Some were just walking around, talking, others negotiating, and some were also just laying down in their cells. Everyone thought it was just another depressing day in prison as usual. Outside, it was just raining hard, it was pretty normal so they did not suspect anything serious would happen. German started to notice officers juggling around, taking calls and talking to each other with a nervous look on their faces.
After a while, many police officers suddenly arrived and told everyone to get up and line up. They handcuffed the prisoners and kept them lined up. He heard the officers saying something about a dreadful storm approaching. He did not know much English at that time, but he could figure out what some words meant. He knew that if the officers were acting that way all of a sudden, the storm must be serious and dangerous. He was suddenly a little worried and wondering where they would take them. He also said he was not overly scared or nervous because he knew he needed to be calm and aware of what was happening. He wished to talk to his brother or at least just see him. He remembered the officers also being calm but quick. They revised and made sure they didn’t forget anyone and that everything was in order.
The prisoners were not acting nervous or scared either. They were acting normal and they were doing what they were told without causing trouble. The officers walked them out of the prison and buses were arriving quickly. The prisoners were going to be transported to another prison far and safe from that location. He was amazed by the strength of the wind. Everyone seemed to have a hard time standing since Mother Nature kept pushing them around with its mighty winds. The prisoners were not wearing anything except their prison uniforms. The harsh chilly winds kept hitting German’s skin like knives. He said to feel as if he was crawling through needles. He was a little desperate by then and hoped to get on a bus as soon as possible. All of the prisoners’ clothes, money, etc. stayed at that prison. They desperately stepped on the buses and once again the officers made sure everything was in order.
The rain and wind kept gaining strength every minute. Looking out the window German kept on wondering where they were going to be relocated and if they were going to be safe there. He did not catch sight of his brother when they were taken out of the prison. He prayed that he was alright and already on a bus. “I sure did not want anything bad to happen to my brother, and I did not want to die without seeing him and the rest of my family again. But I was sure we were going to be alright because I am always faithful and I knew that if I prayed and believed in God and our Lady of Guadalupe, they were not going to abandon us,” murmured German enthusiastically.
German said that after what seemed like centuries went by, they arrived at another prison called something like “Tensas.” He did not remember well the name of that prison because of how distracted he was watching and feeling the awfully cold air and rain. Every place they had passed was dark and the rain did not stop pouring anywhere. They stepped off the buses a little relieved and officers led them in the jail in with other prisoners that were already in that prison. One of the prisoners, he said, was forced to enter the prison because he kept yelling at the officers and refusing to go inside. German could remember him yelling “Please, I need to see my family!” and the rest he could not remember. That prisoner was kept apart from everyone else and German felt empathy for him.
For just a few minutes he was able to finally see and talk to his brother. They were both standing up still handcuffed. They talked about the storm and how crazy it was that out of nowhere all that just happened, but it wasn’t over yet. They never expected any of that to happen. “It is crazy that you can just think you are fine and safe. You never think or know what bad could happen in the future. And then suddenly something just takes place without you even noticing or expecting it. That’s why you should enjoy life and be good to yourself and others; because anything could happen to you and the ones you love anytime,” he expressed with a serious tone. The officers were still moving around taking calls and making sure everything was in place. No body panicked or made a big deal of this storm. Of course, because they were now safe. At least that is what they thought.
It was very dark and horrifying looking outside. Even if they were far from the other prison, it still seemed as if the hurricane was about to hit that location. They were safe and out of the hurricane’s way. The day was ending but the storm was still active and strong, and becoming even stronger. Before sleeping my uncle prayed for all those out there that were in danger and that have already being victims of the horrid hurricane. He also prayed that he and his brother could wake up to a new day. It did not matter where they were as long as they were alright he was satisfied with that. He went to sleep after a stressful trip on the floor with the many other prisoners that were transported to their new prison. Some, he says, did not sleep at all worrying about the hurricane.
On August 24, a Wednesday, at 11 a.m. the storm had strengthened, become more organized, and been given a name. It was now tropical storm Katrina. Its strongest winds are blowing at about 40 miles an hour (65 kilometers an hour). After waking up on the 24th, German thought it was all just a nightmare. Sadly, after glancing at the darkness outside and hearing the rapid wind and hard rain, he knew it all really did happen. The hurricane was not over, it was not going to end that quick and easy. It had just begun its destruction. (Hurricane Katrina, The Essential Time Line 1) He recalled seeing the TV on, and seeing places that were flooded already. He said it was awful seeing bodies floating in the dirty water running through the streets. The news reported those were residents who refused to leave their home even if they were offered help.
As Hurricane Katrina began pounding New Orleans, the sheriff's department abandoned hundreds of inmates imprisoned in the city’s jail. Prisoners were abandoned in their cells without food or water for days as floodwaters rose toward the ceiling. Inmates in Templeman III, one of several buildings in the Orleans Parish Prison compound, reported that as of Monday, August 29, there were no correctional officers in the building, which held more than 600 inmates. These inmates, including some who were locked in ground-floor cells, were not evacuated until Thursday, September 1, four days after flood waters in the jail had reached chest-level. (New Orleans 1). Lucky German and the inmates who were in the same jail as him, were not left in prison.
On a Thursday, August 25 2005 at 5 p.m. Katrina had continued to strengthen and was now a hurricane. Its strongest winds were about 75 miles an hour (120 kilometers an hour), making it a Category One hurricane. The storm's top winds were 80 miles an hour (130 kilometers an hour). Falling trees killed two people. (Hurricane Katrina, The Essential Time Line 1) When my uncle saw drowned people on TV, their bodies floating, he felt devastated and he prayed once again for the families of those unfortunate people. Experts estimate that Katrina caused more than $100 billion in damage. (Hurricane Katrina, NOLA 1)
Katrina pummeled huge parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, but the desperation was most concentrated in New Orleans. Before the storm, the city’s population was mostly black, about 67 percent, moreover, nearly 30 percent of its people lived in poverty. Katrina exacerbated these conditions, and left many of New Orleans’s poorest citizens even more vulnerable than they had ever been before the storm (Hurricane Katrina, History 1).
In all, Hurricane Katrina killed nearly 2,000 people and affected some 90,000 square miles of the United States. Hundreds of thousands of evacuees scattered far and wide. Today, after years of recovery and rebuilding efforts, people along the Gulf Coast have made great strides in returning to life as usual even as they continue to rebuild. (Hurricane Katrina, History 1) German said desperately that it seemed like those days went by so slow. He worried and felt awful for people that were hit by the hurricane. It seemed as if it was never going to end. He had no idea that a simple storm could turn into a killing machine. Those were the worst days of his life. The prison and the hurricane made him feel like he was in hell.
German said he’s never experienced this type of event in his life. Nothing has ever compared to what he felt during those depressing days. The hurricane lasted about 6 days and it sure did tremendous damage. When he was in jail during those days, he prayed and thanked God for another day of life. Finally, when it was all over, he felt relieved that they made it through that rough hurricane. He has the images of the disasters tattooed in his memories. Now that he is home with his family, he declares he enjoys and appreciates life much more. He does his best to help and love his family every day of his life. He works hard and tries to make every day count. He knows that anything can happen at any time; so he lives life at its fullest and tells me to do