As the Superdome descended into violence and chaos in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Lynette Lewis’ labor pains began.
Amid the misery of thousands of people who had lost nearly everything, and without medication for Lewis, little Rochelle was born at a triage center in the adjacent New Orleans Arena.
She would spend her first days of life there and then aboard a bus in search of shelter. Rejected by some shelters already full in Texas, her family ended up in northeastern Oklahoma at Camp Gruber, a remote National Guard training site with some 1,450 evacuees.
“I want everybody to see a survivor,” Roman Coats said Sunday, proudly holding his newborn daughter at the shelter.
He and his wife and sons, ages 2 and 4, had fled their New Orleans home as it filled with water after the hurricane hit. They made it a neighbor’s house, climbed into the attic and punched a hole in the roof, where for the next nine hours they waited until help arrived and took them to the Superdome.
As other evacuees at the Oklahoma shelter recalled the stench, violence and suicides inside the Superdome, Coats held up his little girl like a prize fighter with a trophy as her mother rested in a nearby barracks.
“I’m a proud father,” he said. “I’m happy to be alive.”
Coats said he had considered naming the girl Katrina — but thought better of it.