The Philadelphia Inquirer
August 31, 2005

The old shed, Daniel Weber said, the one behind his house. That’s where he thinks he will find his wife’s body. That’s where he thinks the floodwaters sparked by Hurricane Katrina took her Monday after snatching her from his grip.

“Her shirt came off. I couldn’t pull her up. The water was rushing so fast,” a sobbing Weber, 52, said yesterday. “It’s not right. It’s not right.”

Rosetta Marrero, Weber’s wife of 23 years, is one of the many people presumed dead after Katrina battered the Gulf Coast.

The combination of rain, storm surge, and multiple breaches in the levee system that had kept New Orleans dry overwhelmed areas of the city yesterday. It was unclear how many remained stranded. Thousands remained unaccounted for last night.

Especially hard hit was the Lower Ninth Ward, one of the city’s poorest areas. The rising waters chased many residents to their attics and then the roofs.

Weber and his 44-year-old wife lived in the Lower Ninth Ward. He was trying to pull her to the roof when he lost her. A while back, she had suffered a stroke and her legs were weak, he said.

On Monday, he said, he heard a loud boom, which he believes was the sound of an unsecured barge breaking through the levee near his home. Five minutes later, he said, the water was gushing through their door.

“I said, ‘Baby, we have got to get out of here,’ ” he recalled.

‘She’s gone now’

He punched out a window and climbed outside. Then he reached for his wife. He pulled her onto the roof, and then the water pulled her away.

He floated by himself for 14 hours awaiting rescue, clutching a piece of wood and wondering why he should not let go.

“She’s gone now,” he said, looking at his cut and bandaged hands. “That’s just not fair.”

Katrina showed little mercy to the city.

The storm took Weber’s wife, his home, and his belongings.

It robbed his neighbors of shelter and their most cherished possessions.

It left 9-year-old Leanna Wallace with cuts on her neck, after she scraped it on a ceiling as water rose in her home.

“We had to put our heads like this,” she said, tilting her head to the left. “Somebody had to come rescue us with a boat.”

Seeking ‘heartbeats’

Nearby, Iontha Jack, 43, stumbled down the street, glassy-eyed, apparently dazed. She wore only a black T-shirt that reached to her knees. She nervously tugged at it, pulling it lower. “I’m alive, so you all are going to see some leg,” she said.

Jack and her brother-in-law did not evacuate because they did not think that the storm “could be that bad.”

But it was.

Soaking wet, they sought safety from the dark waters, going to their attic. That’s where Jack lost most of her clothes.

“I said, ‘Brother-in-law, I am sorry, but the jeans have got to go,’ ” she said.

The pair floated together, praying until Jack was able to reach a beam in the attic. But her brother-in-law was not as lucky. His foot got caught and he was unable to stay afloat. He drowned.

Jack was one of about 1,500 rescued yesterday by boats of the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Jack got their attention by screaming. Others banged on roofs or signaled with flashlights.

“We are looking for live people at this point, live people and heartbeats,” Sgt. Rachel Zechenelly said.

Those rescued were sometimes stunned, sometimes sad, sometimes slightly annoyed. An 80-year-old had to be forcibly pulled from her roof, angry that rescuers would not go into her home to find her purse.

“They’re very hungry and very thirsty,” Zechenelly said. “That would make an angel impatient.”

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