This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2005, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Beverly Pugh survived Hurricane Katrina by heading for higher ground, first at her mother-in-law's, then at what would become the most wretched of sanctuaries, the New Orleans Convention Center.
Late Saturday, she found herself in Utah, the terror of the past six days eased a bit by the promise of refuge and a huge rainbow adorning the Wasatch Range.
"It doesn't matter where we are," Pugh said, "so long as all of that is over."
She was among 152 people who touched down at Salt Lake City International Airport in a JetBlue airliner after a three-hour flight from New Orleans. There were about 10 children, 40 or so elderly people, 15 who used wheelchairs, and the rest fairly healthy adults. Two passengers were sent by ambulance to hospitals.
Most boarded buses for their last ride of the day, this time to the Army National Guard's Camp Williams, where food, showers, clean clothes and warm beds awaited them.
Pugh stopped for a moment at the Air National Guard's airstrip to talk about the week she had endured.
"It was awful," she said. "I lost everything. I thought I was going to lose myself."
Then she found herself at the convention center where, for four days, "babies were crying, people were dying. We had some water and food, but it was unbearable," she said. "It took too long, too long for them to come get us."
Worst of all, she has not seen her sons, ages 20 and 22, since the hurricane hit Monday. She thought she saw her "baby boy" on television, being airlifted from a freeway near the projects where her family lived.
Her first priority is to find her sons. But Pugh, 40, couldn't say if she will ever return to New Orleans. The restaurant where she worked is "under 5 feet of water," she said. "There ain't nothing back there now."
Safe and dry. Once at Camp Williams, the exhausted evacuees trudged off the UTA buses carrying plastic grocery bags with what was left of their belongings. One woman wore her housecoat and slippers. Diana Dindy brought her dog, a cockapoo named Angel.
"I smuggled Angel from New Orleans," she said. "I feel safe now. I can go to sleep tonight."
"I am about to take me a shower," proclaimed Marcel Anderson, who arrived with his girlfriend and wearing a Marriott Hotel bathrobe over his shirt and pants.
Counselors quizzed the arrivals about health problems or any special accommodations they would require. They asked them whether they had drunk contaminated water or come in contact with sewage or dead animals. Once through all that, they were photographed and issued temporary IDs.
People were divided into groups as to their life situations: Singles, couples, the elderly, families and so on. At the end of a row of bleachers was a sign that read "Kids" and crayons and coloring books.
There were fruit snacks, trail mix, crackers, apples, bananas. Coolers contained 600 Subway sandwiches, as many bags of chips and 700 bottles of water.
"No one should go to bed hungry tonight," said Ron Morris, the state fire marshal coordinating the processing. LDS Church Charities donated personal hygiene kits with a towel, toothbrush, comb and other items. Today, new sets of clothes will be delivered.
Morris said the main goal was to get people comfortable and settled as quickly as possible, and to make sure no one suffers in silence.
"We have plenty of certified counselors tonight if someone is struggling," he said.
They were welcomed by social workers backed by on-call specialists in crisis counseling, geriatric care and children's mental health.
Maureen Womack, director of the Davis County Behavioral Health director, said earlier that the first 24 hours will be spent "addressing the here and now."
She anticipates most of the people will be exhausted, in shock and psychologically numb. Over the next weeks and months, anger, despair and depression will take hold, she said, then the people likely will regain a sense of control.
Grief could last for years, Womack said. "It depends on the individual. There is no prescription for normal."
"Family, kinship and roots are very critical," she said. "We will work first toward reuniting people with their families in other parts of the country."
The Rev. Joseph Rooney, a Catholic priest from Payson and Eureka, will offer to celebrate Mass today. The Rev. France Davis of Calvary Baptist Church will lead a Baptist service.
A violent thunder storm started a handful of small fires in and around Camp Williams an hour or so the evacuees started arriving. Col. Scot Olson said the fires were quickly brought under control.
"Yeah, we were hopping there for a while."
Little information The exodus to Utah is to continue for days. Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. has offered to take in some 2,000 evacuees, and as many as 300 were expected to arrive late Saturday and early today. As many as 300 per day may be coming over the next five days, Camp Williams personnel said.
Air National Guard Brig. Gen. Bruce Frandsen said Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) personnel in New Orleans had chosen the travelers somewhat haphazardly, asking how many were in a given group and then telling them to board the plane.
"Some were told they were going to Texas. When one gentleman exited the plane, he looked around and said, 'This doesn't look like Houston, but it will do,' " Frandsen said. "One of the women was 100 years old and insisted on walking off the plane herself."
Later Saturday, about 50 people were loaded onto a Utah Air National Guard KC-135 tanker at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, a frenzy of commercial and military planes and helicopters, police cars and ambulances.
Again, their destination was kept a secret.
National Guard officials asked reporters not to identify their news organization or tell the people where the plane was headed. Officials explained that some on earlier flights complained loudly when told where they were going.
The passengers strapped themselves into uncomfortable jump seats, fanning themselves in the humid air as personnel handed out bottled water and then cups of water when the bottles ran out.
None of the refugees appeared to have obvious medical problems but were "pretty worn out," said Tribune photographer Danny Chan La.
"It feels pretty good to be getting out," said Charlene Price, who boarded the plane with her 1-year-old son, Malik, and her mother. The family had become separated from Charlene's sister, whose whereabouts were unknown.
They were aboard one of three Utah Air National Guard KC-135s, the first of carrying 16 members of the Utah Air National Guard's 19th Special Forces group who will remain in New Orleans indefinitely to provide security and humanitarian aid.
Several of the guardsmen have spent time in the Mideast, but said they felt particularly patriotic about this assignment.
"It's the first time I've been called up to help my fellow Americans," said Sgt. Major Gary Johnson.
Tribune reporter Kathy Stephenson and photographer Danny Chan La contributed to this report.