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Oct. 6, 2005

Weathering the storm

by Eve Gleichman, Online Editor-in-Chief
"New Orleans is no more." Senior Carl Fortenberry recalls the words his mother spoke the morning of Aug. 28 when Hurricane Katrina, a category four storm, hit Algiers Point, New Orleans, washing away the only home he had known for the past 18 years. By the time Katrina struck, Fortenberry had already left behind his extended family, his friends and his life to drive with his mother to Little Rock, Arkansas. Now, he is a student at Blair struggling to begin a new life.

Fortenberry is one of approximately 70 New Orleans evacuees enrolled in MCPS, according to Kate Harrison, assistant director of MCPS Public Information.

Ten days after the fact, Fortenberry sits in the back of Kevin Shindel's fifth period NSL government class. From Little Rock, he drove to Silver Spring, and has since moved into an apartment on East West Highway. While the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) gets him situated in his apartment, Fortenberry's mother is searching for a job in New York City. She hopes to earn enough money to buy back land in New Orleans while it is still inexpensive and to move home in about a year.
Senior Carl Fortenberry adjusts to his new    classes at Blair after going to school in New Orleans his whole life. Zoe Norvell
Senior Carl Fortenberry adjusts to his new classes at Blair after going to school in New Orleans his whole life.


Although leaving everything behind was one of the toughest decisions Fortenberry made, he recognized the urgency of the situation. "People thought they would ride this one out," he says. "We knew we had to leave."

Leaving behind Algiers Point meant leaving behind a city that embraced eighteen years of Fortenberry's life. Now, he reminisces about the pieces of the city that he feels Silver Spring can never replace. "I miss everything," he says. "I miss the people, the food Oh my god, the food. I miss Bourbon Street. They always had something going on Bourbon Street."

Back home

In Algiers Point, phone lines are down, and flooding has destroyed mobile phone towers. In the midst of the chaos, Fortenberry cannot get in touch with his uncle, who decided to remain home, hoping to ride out the storm. Fortenberry's five-year-old twin god-sisters are missing, and his extended family back home is still reeling from the disaster. "My grandmother doesn't want to eat," Fortenberry says, staring at the floor. "My whole family is complaining about starving."

Fortenberry has just begun contacting his friends back home, anticipating the tragic news that has constantly plagued his last five weeks. "Three of my friends are gone for sure," he affirms, gazing across the room. "One was shot by a man who wanted something he had on. The other two drowned."

Too little, too late

Fortenberry commends both FEMA and MCPS for providing him with a safe place to live in a time of disarray, though he is amazed at FEMA's scrutiny with questionnaires issued to identify those who need housing the most. "They give you a hard time; if you make a single mistake, they won't let you through," he says of the survey. "I'm lucky I answered half the questions right."

While Fortenberry reiterates his appreciation for the work FEMA has done to house the thousands Katrina left homeless, he blames the Bush administration for its delayed reaction. "They took too long," he says. "Before you make long-term plans, you need to feed people."

Even with warnings in the days before the hurricane, many did not take the evacuation advisory seriously. "I really think people thought it would pass over us," Fortenberry says. "New Orleans never sleeps there were people partying on Bourbon Street right before the hurricane came."

In addition to his criticism of the government's response to victims of Katrina, Fortenberry suggests the city was lax in its evacuation efforts. "New Orleans wasn't trying to get people out," he says. "A lot of people were just stubborn, but some people just couldn't leave."

Just hours before Katrina hit, the sheriff of Algiers Point came on local television stations for his annual birthday appearance. Traditionally, people from the area would visit the sheriff on his birthday and hold festivities throughout the day. This time, though, his announcement was not one of celebration but of urgency. "No one come out to see me today," Fortenberry remembers the sheriff saying. "Get your families out of town."

A new life

Fortenberry estimates that another 10 to 12 months will pass before he can return to a fully restored New Orleans. He plans to begin a new life in the city where he grew up. Until then, this Blair senior is looking at months of support from his new school, his new neighborhood and his new friends. "Everyone has been great," he says of the Blair community. "Right now, you need people to comfort you, and that's what I've been getting here."



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  • yay! on October 6, 2005 at 5:18 PM
    way to go, Eve!

    awesome story, and congrats on getting it in Print!
  • Blazer (View Email) on October 6, 2005 at 10:09 PM
    good luck Fortenberry
    we are here for you
  • Jeff on October 6, 2005 at 11:13 PM
    "Class-five storm"
    hurricanes aren't labeled "classes", they are given categories. Katrina was a category 4 storm, not 5, when it made landfall.
  • da1nonlyhotchick on October 7, 2005 at 9:51 AM
    wow.....I feel really bad 4 him.....he's in a new place and he misses a lot of things like the stuff that use to go on in his neighborhood.....i mean i would feel the same way if i had 2 move away from mi original home thathas just been detroyed by a hurricane.......if the senoir that was invovled in the hurrican evacuation than im so sorri for the things u went through b/c of the hurricane....i hope for the best........
  • iliveinarizona (View Email) on October 8, 2005 at 8:00 PM
    this was really touching...it made me cry...good job!
  • Wonderful Story on October 10, 2005 at 6:38 PM
    Touching story, it warmed my heart so much. Extremely well written.
  • wendy greene (View Email) on October 11, 2005 at 11:54 AM
    terrific story, brought tears to my eyes. so well written, great details about a terrible tradgey.
  • emzachur (View Email) on October 12, 2005 at 9:39 AM
    Eve, This story is truly excellent. Great job.
  • Louis Wu (View Email) on October 24, 2005 at 1:36 PM
    Great story, but some basic fact checking would have been nice.

    As a resident of Algiers Point, let me state that there was absolutely no flooding in the area and that there was certainly no "washing away" of any homes.

    There was mild to moderate wind damage to homes in Algiers Point. A very few houses were destroyed by wind, but these properties were in bad shape anyway.

    Algiers Point is currently a fully functioning community with residents quickly resuming their pre-Katrina way of life.

    Perhaps the author meant the 9th Ward or New Orleans East or the many other areas where destruction as stated in the article actually did happen.

    Regards,
    Louis Wu

  • Eve Gleichman (View Email) on October 25, 2005 at 10:30 PM
    Thank you, Mr. Wu, for clarifying.

    After double-checking with Carl, he showed me a map of Algiers Point, pointing out his residence which he says about five minutes walking distance from the heart of New Orleans.

    He says his Parish was hit harder than most in New Orleans, and agrees that on the whole, Algiers Point was not faced with as much destruction as many other spots nearby to New Orleans.

    I appreciate the fact checking and I hope you continue to read Chips!

    Eve Gleichman
    Staff Writer
  • Tiffany w on January 28, 2006 at 11:08 PM
    Carl you know we all love you.. you are like a big brother to me and we have resect for each other...u know we held it down in kaluta's class...."ya hurd me"..lol
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