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Just a Little While to Stay Here

Michael Tisserand is — or was — the editor of Gambit Weekly, New Orleans' alternative weekly. He's filing a weekly journal for the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies about life as an evacuee in southern Louisiana. To read the complete installment, go to atlanta.creativeloafing.com.

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Lafayette, La. — She just stares at me, the Iowan volunteer. Silver and green Mardi Gras beads drape around her neck. She pushes a blank form across the table.

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"It's been a long day," she says.

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Sitting next to her, another volunteer quickly smiles. "Welcome," she says. "You came to the right place."

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I tell them both it's OK, that I'm from New Orleans. I want to spend the night here at the Cajundome, one of a westward line of stadiums from Baton Rouge into Texas that have become homes for thousands of evacuees. Some of these shelters have been given their own ZIP codes.

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I look at the form. Name, address, any phone numbers. The smiling volunteer asks me three questions, all medical.

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Do you have a cough? Do you have diarrhea? Do you have any open sores?

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I have my driver's license with my New Orleans address, but nobody needs to see it. The smiling woman goes to the walkie-talkie. She calls for a runner to bring me inside. Silence.

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"Where are all the volunteers?" asks the Iowan.

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"They're dropping like flies," says the smiling woman.

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Michael Tisserand



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