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Norman Douse

Norman Douse, 54, a Sheetrock finisher from New Orleans, said he didn't want to be interviewed by another reporter. He had already been accosted by a TV crew, to which he had haltingly told his story as airplanes headed into Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport kept drowning him out.

Slightly hard of hearing, Douse had no trouble saying to the next reporter, "No more. There's nothing more to talk about."

But Douse, with a weak leg that requires he walk slowly with a cane, smiled politely and stayed where he was, answering more questions.

He said he had been stuck in the Corpus Christi School gym near his house for nine days with his brother, but they had the foresight to send the rest of his family -- his nephews, nieces, his mother and siblings -- away days before Katrina arrived.

When the Coast Guard came to rescue him, his brother George Douse, 61, remained. "He stayed behind after I got out."

Douse said he then boarded a tow truck and left by air on Tuesday for Washington.

He has not been able to contact his family, and he doesn't know where his brother is. "I believe they rescued him," he said, brightening at the suggestion that speaking to reporters might help reunite him with his family.

His house was under as much as 2 feet of water, and nearly 5 feet of water sat outside. At one point, the water had subsided to just about 6 inches, but it quickly rose again, he said.

Douse rationed what water supply he had saved for himself. "I had some water I put in the freezer two days before the storm. I drank that until the Coast Guard came."

For a while, he didn't think the situation would require an evacuation. "We decided to just go," he said when the rescuers came. "It just looked it it wasn't going to get better."

Douse hopes to return home to salvage what he can, as soon as he can. "My whole roof is gone -- all the slates. No telling what I'm going back to."

But he's clearly going back. "It's my home."


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Photos and text by April Chan
Published  Sept. 16, 2005

Banner graphic by April Chan, incorporating photo from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Newsline Web content edited by Chris Harvey; Capital News Service stories edited by Adrianne Flynn and Tony Barbieri.  

Copyright 2005 University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism

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