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Evacuees find safety, generosity at Baptist church’s shelter

BATON ROUGE, La. (BP)–Rose Keeting saw firsthand the violence brought about by Hurricane Katrina.

The 91-year-old Keeting stayed in the New Orleans Convention Center for two days after the hurricane hit and was about 10 feet from a group of people when a man came up and demanded a bottle of water from a woman in the group.

The woman refused. She had only one bottle of water and nothing else, and she wasn’t going to give it up without a fight.

The man pulled out a gun and shot the woman in the head. He then took her bottle of water, drank it and threw the bottle down at her dead body before walking away.

Keeting said she was overwhelmed by the kindness of the people at Istrouma Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, where she went after her time at the convention center. The volunteers there fed and clothed her -– but, most importantly to Keeting, they provided her with a sense of security that she hadn’t found elsewhere.

Another evacuee, Robert Manuel, 72, whose first shelter out of New Orleans also was Istrouma Baptist, said he had to make the toughest decision of his life while trapped in the attic of his home as the floodwaters from Hurricane Katrina rose.

Manuel, his wife, his daughter and his five grandchildren were running out of time. The water was rising in the attic, and the three adults knew it would be impossible for them to save all five children if the water continued its ascent.

So, they decided which children they could hold safely and which ones would have to die.

Fortunately for the Manuels, the situation didn’t come to that. The water stopped about six inches from the top of the attic, and they escaped to the roof by kicking out a vent and climbing through.

A flat-bottom boat rescued them and carried them to the Franklin Street Bridge, where they stayed for an entire day in the sun without any water before a helicopter carried them to safety.

They ended up at Istrouma Baptist where the family received food, shelter and clothing. Manuel said they were overcome by the church’s generosity.
Edited by Tim Ellsworth from reporting by Morris Abernathy.

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