Reporter's Notebook:New Orleanians' Struggle for Survival

Adam Housley
Tuesday Afternoon, Sept. 6:

He just wouldn't leave. Joe Green seemed adamant about getting back into his rowboat and maneuvering back down Elysian Fields Avenue to his home filled with 6 feet of stale, polluted, murky floodwater.

As we stood on an off-ramp of the 610 freeway, which was being used for a boat launch, Joe told me, "I can't leave my neighbor. He's 73 and won't come out."

The water in his home, his neighborhood, was a cesspool of garbage and junk and bodies and sewage. As a gust of stench filled my nose, I asked him how he could live in such horrific conditions.

Joe replied, "It's not so bad."

I knew his response wasn't heartfelt. There was a reason why Joe wouldn't leave.

He asked to use my cell phone, and somehow our call got through. On the other end was Joe's wife, Sadie. She was alive and well, living in a shelter in Houston. With that, Joe changed. His eyes welled up and he seemed satisfied.

I asked him if knowing his wife wouldn't come home to an empty house, and knowing she was alive and well made his decision different.

He let out a deep breath of relief and replied, "Yes."

With that, he got back into his canoe, told me thanks and goodbye, and headed down the street, intent on convincing his neighbor to leave.

Tuesday Morning, Sept. 6:

The constant hum of helicopters echoes through flooded neighborhoods as they drop down to inspect homes that might still house people too stubborn, or too weak, to escape.

As they hover into position, the spray from polluted waters peppers rescuers and their boats.

The volunteers have come from all over. We have met some from Arizona, California, Arkansas and Texas. Throughout the day, we traverse through waters that stink of sewage. There are obstacles of every type.

At the off-ramp where we report today, water remains five to six feet deep. I see tires, garbage, oil, toys and diapers floating in it. And in some cases, I see bodies.

A rescuer says they don't have time to recover the dead right now, so the bodies that are found floating are tied to the tops of street signs, only six inches or so above flood level.

Some people still refuse to leave their two-story homes, the lower levels of which are filled with this cesspool called the flood.

I have seen dogs swim to their deaths.

At night, we drive with our guards and crew to each new location, and throughout this city I once knew well, there is darkness and an eeriness I have never felt in my homeland. People lurk in blackened streets, soldiers march with M-16s drawn, fires are the only lights that glow in the blackness, homes creak from the weight of the floodwater, and somewhere in the distance a dog howls.

This cannot be real, this cannot continue for long, but much to the disappointment of so many, we are now into our eighth day.

Sunday, Sept. 4:

Sharon Cullington's daughter had gone to New Orleans for the same reason so many others flocked to the Big Easy.

Now, her mother sat on a plane headed for Houston, thousands of miles from their Australian home.

As we take off, Cullington answers her cell phone when the airlines say you shouldn't. It's good news. Her 22-year-old, "is likely on a bus headed for Baton Rouge. Thank God she's alive." Her story is one of the few bright spots.

Once we land, the first stop is the nearest supercenter grocery store. We stock up on everything that can withstand a week in a car without refrigeration.

We also find hurricane stories.

A Baptist family, leading a church volunteer group, is loading a basket full of diapers and baby supplies. When they hear we are headed for New Orleans, they say "God bless, we're just trying to do anything we can to help."

After loading up, we quickly get onto Interstate 10. Headed east into Louisiana, we pass semi after semi, loaded with generators, water, even car carriers with border patrol vehicles meant to help law enforcement. In the westbound are buses, likely heading to Houston or Dallas, even San Antonio.

I have made this trip to New Orleans many times before, and signs of Katrina are already very clear.

Adam Housley joined FOX News Channel in 2001 as a Los Angeles-based correspondent. He is currently reporting on the Hurricane Katrina disaster from New Orleans.

Adam Housley joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in 2001 and currently serves as a Los Angeles-based senior correspondent.