As one of the most devastating storms to ever hit the country, Hurricane Katrina changed the lives of thousands of New Orleans residents, who relocated to various areas to start new lives from scratch. For R&B songstress Euricka, Katrina became a giant obstacle on the way to releasing her new album The Takeover. The singer currently lives in Houston, Texas with her family while finding new life on the Echo Vista Records roster.
Now, as the nation marks the one-year anniversary of the storm, Euricka shares her experience battling Katrina and FEMA, facing a hostile military, reconnecting with family and fans and finally getting the chance introduce herself to the masses.
AllHipHop Alternatives: How has life changed for you and your family since the hurricane?
Euricka: Ive learned to do without and not to take everything so serious. And all that bling-bling stuff and all that, Ive learned to just know that that sure aint got nothing to do with life. Nothing. Because when you get everything taken away from you in a blink of an eye, you start really appreciating the little things, like the birds chirping in the morning and knowing that your lights are on and knowing that you can take a bath. Knowing that you have running water to flush your toilet. You know that kind of stuff, that little stuff. That stuff people take for granted.
AHHA: Its been a little more than a year since Katrina hit New Orleans, have you gone back to see what was done and if things can be fixed?
Euricka: Yeah. Weve been back so many times. And theres like this car pool that sends people from New Orleans back and forth for $90 each way. So we do that when we can. But right now, were back in Houston because we have no way of staying in the houses that we were in in New Orleans because theyre all demolished. And were just, right now, just going back and forth with FEMA with finances with getting our home completed and renovated. So its the same story that everybody else has and its sad, but we dealing with it.
AHHA: Describe the amount of damage that was caused to your home.
Euricka: Its about 15 of us living together. So all together all of our homes were underwater, but where I live, in these apartments on the lake, I was on the third floor. So I was spared from water coming in my apartment, but the roof caved in where I was and I was the one that stayed in the area where I lived. Everybody else went to a hotel like around the French Quarter area. Yeah, I was the knucklehead [laughs] so I got trapped for like a week.
And eventually, I got enough nerve to just leave the house because I had ran out of stuff to eat. I was afraid that the vandals were going to come by because they were raping people and killing people and all that kind of mess. So I thought it was best for me to leave the house. And my family was afraid for me so they, you know, encouraged me to leave because they were already in Houston here. And I got a boat ride from literally swimming to the area where the boats met you because they wouldnt come to you. So when I got to the area, from the water to the boat area, they eventually took us to the bridge, where they dropped us off at.
AHHA: You were one of many people who was stranded waiting for help, but when help arrived they passed you over saying rescuing folks was not their first priority." How did that, as well as the false promises of rescue make you feel?
Euricka: I really felt like I was stuck. I was so scared. I cant believe the military wont help us. They told us we had to swim in the water and get to the rescue boats from there. They would not take us themselves. You had to swim to the boats. If anybody can vouch for this who was in New Orleans stuck there like I was, you had to swim to wherever the rescue boats were. They werent coming to you.
And I think another reason why they couldnt necessarily come to you (was) because the power lines and stuff . The water was so high, they didnt know if they were gonna go over dead bodies or if they were going over cars or whatever and it would have ruined the boats. So we had to swim in that infested water with the bodies and all of that, the fecal matter or whatever because afterwards a lot of ladies and a lot people who were in that water they got like this kind of fungus on their legs.
And I was telling my sister weeks after I had got rescued. Im like I got these ringworms or something on my legs. I wonder where that was from because I wasnt playing in no dirt or nothing.
And my sister said Girl, you got that stuff everybody get who was walking in that water. I said Lord, have mercy. So I went to the doctor and from there I had to get treated for months for that.
And FEMA has not paid me yet. I spent so much money getting treated for that. FEMA hasnt given me nothing. Ive been practically living off of my momma and them from what FEMA been giving them.
AHHA: Is the fungus gone now?
Euricka: Oh yea. Honey, Ive got beautiful legs. [Laughs] I just put up the money and my family put up the money themselves. Thats fine because it was like a little fungus. And a lot of women will vouch for this and a lot of people that waded in that water that they got this fungus. It was treatable, but FEMA not paying for nothing. Thats what I wanted to say for that. Medical expenses, FEMA not even paying for anything you went through with that. They still giving you the runaround with getting your money for that. So I just threw my hands up.
My sister was asking me yesterday, Euricka, you really need to find a way to get your money from FEMA. Im like Im not going to worry about it. I hope this album sells tremendously, you know what Im saying. Because I cant keep running behind FEMA and stressing myself out. Its ridiculous.
AHHA: How long was it before you were finally rescued?
Euricka: It took me about four days to realize that nobody was going to rescue me. So by then the fifth day I walked in the water and I got to the boat. The [people on the] boat gave me a can of vienna sausages. I shared that with me and my dog. From there, they dropped us off on the bridge. And from there it was 20 hours. So Id say five days, six days I was in New Orleans before I got to Baton Rouge, where a friend of ours picked me up and drove me to Houston to reunite with my family.
AHHA: How did you survive during all this time before you got rescued?
Euricka: Honey, some things Im going to leave to keep in the book. Thats all Im going to say. Some things Im leaving for the book because it was horrible. Like I said, I didnt have running water. I couldnt use the toilet, you understand. It was survival of the fittest. And some things you had no other way to do but the way you had to do it.
AHHA: What were some of the things you saw while you were stranded?
Euricka: What really stuck out in my mind was when we all got together at the bridge, a lot of people started seeing people they knew. And me being a singer from New Orleans, a lot of people knew me already. And they were like Euricka. Euricka. Oh, thats Euricka. And Im like Yea, girl thats me. I got stuck too. [Laughs]
And one of my fans...the girl didnt have no shoes on her feet...The water had came in so fast she was saying that she didnt have time to get no shoes or nothing. The water just crashed into her house. And it was an apartment. She was on the third floor, she told me...And what stuck out in my mind is that she didnt have no shoes and guess what else? You could tell she was in shock She had said she had witnessed her cousin drowning right next to her. They were all swimming together and the cousin drowned. And this girl was just so happy to see somebody she knew to tell her story. Im not saying she was happy, but you know how youre just talking and getting everything out. And she hadnt even realized it. It hadnt even stuck to her yet that her cousin was dead. She had just witnessed a death, a drowning. And obviously she had seen other bodies in the water like everybody else getting out of the places,
I saw the Army people when we were getting on of the buses and stuff, it was like we were prisoners. They had bazookas in our faces and at us screaming real loud. And I understand that you know when youre in the Army youre used to screaming at people and stuff like that, but it was too much. At first I thought maybe we did do something wrong. Maybe it was our fault because they were screaming and had guns in our faces. Im talking about children. People holding their two-year-olds in their arms and they got guns pointed at us. You had the dogs, the bomb dogs and all of that. And they didnt have no ambulances there. They didnt have no water for us, no food. We were just on this bridge, sitting there waiting on buses for like 20 hours. Nothing. No FEMA was there. No Red Cross. No nobody. And this was four or five days later.
AHHA: Looking back on it, did you expect the rescuers to react to you that?
Euricka: When I was in my house by myself, Im thinking Okay, Its time for me to be rescued. I need to go where these people are rescuing people. People are telling me word of mouth, people on the street and people are riding and over are saying Go this way. They got food. They got supplies. They got everything.
When I get there, I wished I would have stayed home, do you understand what Im saying. Im thinking that Im going to gloryland. Im going to the promised land, where they got food, where they got water. They didnt have nothing! Im sitting in the hot sun on the bridge and then in the dark with cockroaches crawling on me with no lights. New Orleans the city was pitch black at night. You couldnt see nothing but the lights from the buses when they came.
And then all we heard was the helicopters. And them helicopters was close by and that was scary too because all you heard was that helicopter every 10 minutes dropping off more people. It was like Why are they bringing all these people here and they dont have no food, no water, no nothing?' It was like chaos. It was like the end of the world.
AHHA: What drove to carry on and survive?
Euricka: What I want to say is you know what stuck with me and what made me say Im going to make it out of this? When I finally got to Houston, I got with my family. And we didnt have nothing. I mean the house was empty because somebody put us in an empty house. It was a real estate person. He said we could just live in that house for right now. It was empty. And the first thing we needed was water.
I was like We aint got no water here. And Ive always been the type of person that wanted to help my family out. So what I did was I walked to the church and all I did, I begged them with tears in my eyes. I said All I want is some water for my family. And those people was so nice. They gave us air mattresses. Pillows. Blankets. Used clothes. We didnt even have no clothes. We didnt have nothing to wear. I had the shoes I had on my feet in the water. I was wearing raggedy shoes. Nothing. And I was happy too. People was giving us their used underwear to wear. Do you hear me? And I was happy to have that. People was giving us their used pots and pans. Honey, I didnt have no attitude. I took it and and we cooked with it and ate with them.
And then I had to deal with looking at my family, all of us. All of us was going through something. It was almost like we were all zombies, walking around. You know when youre in shock?...It was almost surreal. We was looking around the house like What just happened to us? Did something just happen to us? Do you understand?
Oh my God For Christmas, I stayed in my room and I just cried... And for Christmas we had three poinsettias by the chimney. The three poinsettias and we had our presents around the poinsettias. We had about four presents, four gifts.
And we had Christmas in that house, in that empty house which is still empty, you hear me. You know whats the most blessings. I got a record deal, honey. Im so happy. Im so happy to have a record deal. You just dont know. I know some people be out here doing everything to mess up their deal. Partying and buying Cristal and all that, but Im just that believed in me enough to give me a deal.