Katrina Survivor Asks “Can Everybody Swim?”

Bruce Snow

“Everything you’ve ever known is four feet deep in water. […] The sound of that water is so wild, yet the world is so quiet. There’s no cars, there’s no music … there’s nothing.” These are the words of Bruce Snow, a New Orleans native and Katrina survivor.

Snow recently wrote a book – “Can Everybody Swim?” – detailing his real life tale of survival in the aftermath of the natural disaster. The book is a must-read, and Central Arkansans have a chance to meet Snow and chat with him this Friday, July 22, during a book launching party at Creegen’s in Argenta with Et Alia Press.

If you had told Snow in August of 2005 that he would have to leave NOLA, he probably would have laughed. At that time he was simply a young man who was in the process of finishing up his history degree at the University of New Orleans. He was restless, doing his best to find work, and living in his childhood home with his family.

The first question he often hears, when people find out he survived the deadly hurricane, is, “Why didn’t you leave?”

Of course he knew a storm was coming, and he and his family did their best to prepare. But put simply, as he says, “We didn’t have the means, even between all of us, we didn’t have a whole lot to evacuate one.”

More than that, the corner house he lived in was more than a house, it was home, and he had never lived anywhere else.

Besides stocking up on bottled water, there wasn’t much he could do. So, he and his family waited it out. He remembers making the jump from his childhood home to a boat after the storm had passed. “We were hanging out in the attic sweating to death, and some people were coming by in a fishing boat and picking people up – just guys in the neighborhood picking people up off their roofs or out of their attics,” he remembers.

There were bizarre stories and even stranger events happening around him 24/7 as he and his family made their journey to the Superdome. A few stand out, and are the backbone of his book.

In particular he remembers the story of an elderly couple that traveled with him on one of the many boat rides he took along the way. “These two old folks spent the entire night standing on their kitchen table neck deep in water. And when the sun came out they started shouting,” he says.

His belief that he and his family would make it safely out of the situation as well as his love for history helped him through the journey. He didn’t sleep much, constantly on watch for his family members, wanting to make sure they were ok.

His constant watch gave him an interesting perspective, as he explains, “There’s no judgment in this story. I ran into lots of bad, good, and different people throughout the whole thing, and I just tried to be really fair to everybody I met. You have to give people slack for real because of the situation that we were all in. […] It felt really out of this world.”

When Snow finally finished his first draft, his wife Erin helped him type it up and send it out. Even though the rejection letters were plentiful, he finally did get published with a small publishing house in Arkansas.

And while Arkansas “took a little getting used to,” for the NOLA native, he’s made himself a home here. He drives the Trolley downtown and has enjoyed playing music with his band – Mutations of Thursday.

Nevertheless, Snow is extremely glad to be moving back to NOLA this fall. If you ask him why, he’ll likely smile before saying, “There’s no place like home.”

(Top photo by Lacey West)



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