NEW ORLEANS — Standing on the worn front porch of his modest home in flooded New Orleans, the old man refused to go.
Like the other holdouts in a city nearly emptied by Hurricane Katrina, Chan Chun Nin, 75, had no running water. He had no electricity. And the medicine supply for his 70-year-old wife, Mie, was dwindling. Still, he would not move.
Do me a favor, said a state trooper: “Write your address and your name down on a piece of paper and put it in your pocket. Because when you die, we’re going to need to know who we’re picking up.”
And so Louisiana Trooper Mike Wolfe and a dozen other police officers turned around and walked down the street, continuing a frustrating search in hopes of persuading somebody, anybody, to leave this devastated city.
With the filthy Superdome refugee camp now a memory and after countless storm survivors were plucked off rooftops, the evacuation effort here has come to this: Small bands of police, many from out of state, going door to door and pleading with the die-hards to leave.
New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin has ordered law officers and the military to evacuate the remaining 5,000 to 10,000 people in the city, using force if necessary. But there have been no reports thus far of forced evacuations.
Walking away from everything
On normally bustling and noisy streets, the only sound Wednesday came from lumbering military trucks, helicopters flying overhead and the banging on doors by Wolfe and a group of police officers who came from Illinois to help.
Rifles in their hands, the officers moved carefully, almost as if they were looking for some enemy and not frightened and confused people who only want to protect what little they have.
“How do you walk away from everything you know?” wondered Jeff Chudwin, the police chief in the Chicago suburb of Olympia Fields. “This is their lives. And they’re leaving everything. There’s nothing left.”
Chudwin and his 12 colleagues saw one man Wednesday peeking out from a second-floor window of his tattered New Orleans home. Three officers entered the home, and the man said he had just returned to pick up some belongings.
And there was the 87-year-old woman whom the officers found Wednesday and gently persuaded to leave town. She was so weak, she needed help to climb the steps into their truck. She left behind her two dogs and carried her cash box with her.
'They're gonna die here'
Perhaps the most intriguing exchange the officers had Wednesday was with Nin, who accepted a bottle of water from the men but flatly refused to go.
“Sir, listen to me,” Wolfe pleaded. “It’s time to go.”
But Nin instructed them three times to go away, saying they did not understand the Bible. His wife appeared to want to go — when one officer asked if she wanted help, she said yes — but her husband led her back into the house.
“Do you want your wife to die?” asked Wolfe.
“We together,” said Nin. “I know my wife. No talk. Go away, go away. No talk.”
The officers wished him luck and walked away.
One said, “They’re gonna die here.”
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