Podcast Season 2: Hunger & Resilience

S2: Episode 21 - Eric

Episode Information

[Intro Music]

Narrator:  Welcome to Hunger and Resilience, narrative histories about the complexity and experiences of hunger. A traveling exhibition and weekly podcast edited and hosted by Michael Nye, supported by the San Antonio Food Bank, Eric Cooper, executive director. We are grateful for the honesty and eloquence of every voice. Episode 21, Eric.

Eric:  To be honest with you, I’ve never been hungry, you know, far as that, I didn’t have anything to eat. But during Hurricane Katrina, I really experienced what hunger and being homeless is really, really about it. Really, it really teaches you not to take anything for granted. The night of the hurricane, the rain and the wind was so intense and so strong. The house was really shaking. Like you shake salt and pepper shaker man, actually. And, um, after we heard that the levies had broke on the radio, the water began to rise even faster and to come underneath the floorboards of our house. That’s when fear really gripped our hearts. I had a ladder for me and my family to try to get up on top of the roof of our house. My father and my brother was able to climb the ladder, but my mom couldn’t because she was a little overweight in my house.

I had an extra set of tires for my car and I had some plywood, and I began to kneel the plywood and tie the plywood around the tires to try to build a raft to get my mom to higher ground. I would’ve give you an estimate count for as like close to 85 to 90 people on top of the roof that were stranded with us. I’m a leader, I think, in my heart, and I believe, and I know in my heart that I’m a leader. And every day we had to get in a, in a canoe that would manage to find and, um, go from store to store to try to find some food, to bring back to the roof, to make sure everyone at least had something to put on their stomach other than starving. I felt forgotten after the third day when the food got really, really, really low.

The, the, the, the, the scraps that we had got really, really low. And it really got to me. We made sure that the children ate first, foremost of all, and then the women would have the next pickings. And then what was left after the women, I mean, it went in that order each and every day. And then the men, we would take the scraps and, you know, try to make the best of it and make sure something was on our stomach. Each day before I would go out, I would pray and I would ask God for the, the guidance. And then I would go to my family and let them know how much I love them. It’s like I’m going in, in, in, in, in battle, and there’s no guarantee that I’m gonna come back. If there was this guy that had this small grocery store, maybe three blocks from my house, and we didn’t see him up on the roof at all.

Nobody heard from him or saw him or nothing to that nature. So when we kicked his door in and you can see the chair that was kicked over and he had hung himself more than anything that happened, that really affected me for as like, even now, when I would sleep at night, I would wake up. ’cause I would see that incident in my mind. You know, my dream. And I wake up in the cold sweats at times. We was up there for four days, almost five days, and the helicopters began to fly over us, and they started getting lower. So everybody was like, yeah, they’re coming, they’re coming, they’re coming. And, uh, the, the, I mean, the wings of the helicopter man was so powerful and to, it was just flying, you know, blowing everything around. It felt like they were angels coming to rescue us and bring us to heaven.

I mean, had they had white or something on, man, I’d thought they was angels. Man, I’m serious. It, it is a feeling. You can’t, I can’t really put into words. When we got to New Orleans International Airport, the, um, military guy was passing out the military food. And when I first stuck my fork inside the food, actually I was trembling. I was so happy and so excited that adrenaline was pumping so fast that I was actually getting some food. I felt like one of those people in one of those third world countries, man, how, you know, hunger and to really get some real food, man, it, I felt exhilarated. I felt, I felt excited. I felt like I just wanted to dance and jump and just, I can’t explain it. I mean, I was just so happy. I was just so happy.

[Outro Music]

Host:Eric said, never in my life did I think I would experience hunger. Never in my life, but I did. Listening to others is a way of stepping out of our own life into the lives of others places where empathy and understanding begin. There is so much wisdom and care and Eric’s voice. Thank you, Eric, for sharing your dramatic story, for being courageous when those around you needed help. May something in Eric’s story stay with you. I’m Michael Nye. You can go to my website, michaelnye.org/podcastfor photographs and transcripts. Thank you so much for listening.