Memphians tell story of return from New Orleans - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Memphians tell story of return from New Orleans

While thousands of Katrina evacuees seek refuge in the Mid-South, some are just glad to be home.

On vacation in New Orleans, nine Memphis men were not sure they would ever make it back home alive.

Four of those men, Jason Weeks, Jim Bland, Michael McCallum and Nick Trobaugh shared their story of survival, grit and miracles with Action News 5.

The group was supposed to be celebrating Jason Weeks' bachelor party in New Orleans, but Katrina had other plans.

They knew they could not leave Saturday night after trains shut down and then the storm raged into New Orleans early Monday morning. "There was no rhyme or reason. You would see objects fly through and they would go fly down the streets faster than you could watch it," said McCallum.

By Tuesday morning, they saw a devastating view from the roof of their hotel: flood water on the streets, thrashed property and no police presence. "The military was not there. Nobody was there it was just free reign on everything in the city," said Weeks.

With flights canceled, no transportation and no help on the way, the group decided to make a move. "We made makeshift backpacks out of our suitcases and walking sticks out of the shower curtain rods to push things floating in the water or anybody that might try to do us harm," said McCallum.

They trudged through soupy black water to dry land. The men said if it wasn't for maps and a cell phone, they would not have made it. They text messaged a relative to find out which roads were open.

Nick Trobaugh said the group heard about a bus heading to a shelter. "There was probably at least 75 people trying to get in that bus and somehow all 9 of us got in. It was a miracle," he said.

However, they soon learned the shelter was packed. Then, officers in Jefferson Parish turned them away with guns in hand.

Finally, they paid a man to drive them to safety 50 miles away in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. "It was a tight ride, but it was the best thing that probably happened to us in those last three days," said Trobaugh.

A relative picked them up in Baton Rouge and now they're home in Memphis.

The men are grateful, but they said there are so many others who need help now.

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