New Orleans couple now safe in Tulsa talk about their ordeal

Saturday, September 3rd 2005, 9:50 pm
By: News On 6

It's not the first hurricane John and Joan McCleary have lived through on the Gulf Coast, but it's definitely the worst. They lived in complete darkness with no power, running water, or groceries for almost a week.

Now, after a dramatic helicopter rescue, they made it to Tulsa. News on 6 reporter Joshua Brakhage has their story of survival.

John and Joan McCleary were prepared for Hurricane Katrina, prepared for everything except to leave. John: "Well, my wife's a good planner." Joan: "Yeah, I'm the planner." John: "And she plans for a hurricane." John is diabetic and just had surgery to remove cancer the day before the hurricane hit. The McClearys stocked their New Orleans apartment with frozen cooked food, non-perishables and bottled water. They ate the food from their freezer as it thawed, and even shared with the 171 other people stranded in their apartment complex.

They had weathered the storm - no problem. The flooding afterward forced them out. Joan: "Some of the people got on the roof and waved flags until finally a helicopter saw that we were people and they wrote down how many people were isolated."

They waded through waist high water to get to the helicopter, with Joan carrying a suitcase full of medicine above her head. After a stop at an Air Force base in San Antonio, they're in Tulsa with daughter and son-in-law Mary Jo and John Speaker. They made it out with just the clothes on their backs. Their shoes had to be thrown away, after walking in the contaminated water. Joan: "So we've got Mary Jo's bedroom slippers on." John: "They're a little small but they feel good."

At the Red Cross shelter in Tulsa, they're looking for help with new clothes and prescriptions. The McClearys planned to move to Tulsa next year, but Katrina sped up that timeline. Joan: "But we survived, and we're just blessed from that point that we're here. John: "We're survivors."

Survivors anxious to begin new lives in Tulsa.

Just last year, the McClearys traded in their home on the Gulf Coast near Biloxi for that apartment in New Orleans. They say it's likely the hurricane completely destroyed that home.