Anderson also reflects on using his wits in prison, where he grilled cheese sandwiches by ironing them inside brown paper bags. In Louisiana State Penitentiary, Anderson lived with his father for the first time and realized, “My daddy got a little care about me.”
Seeing dead bodies had been commonplace for Anderson. But when his beloved Miss Mary and her grandchildren are stabbed to death during Katrina, Anderson says, "It put chills in my body . . . . I ain’t never seen anyone murdered that open her heart to you like Miss Mary."
Anderson's memoir illuminates a man’s life that is tested by
floodwaters and then given new meaning by his rescue efforts.
His voice and cadence lend immediacy to his riveting story.
When author and award-winning jounalist, Susan Orlins, met
Anderson he was selling Street Sense, Washington, DC’s newspaper
that is written and sold by homeless vendors. For 18 months they
met weekly. He talked, she typed. She asked questions, he answered.
Anderson’s memoir is the result.
For Gerald Anderson, a brewing storm meant an opportunity to
break into cars, stores, and homes. He would then buy drugs and
inevitably land in jail. From age 15 to 37, this cycle was all he knew.
But when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and the levees broke,
Anderson's focus shifted, and he called upon skills he had learned
in prison to tend to those who were trapped.
Using a boat they found at an evacuated house in the Garden District,
Anderson and his homeboys battled chin-high floodwaters to rescue victims, in some cases their bodies: a woman in labor, an old man without legs, an addict with a bullet in his chest. He and his friends looked after families and elderly in the projects “just like if we was protecting the President’s house.”
Copyright ©2015 Susan Orlins and Gerald Anderson.
"Still Standing" photo and Gerald's headshot by Lily Thneah. Video of Gerald and Susan by Bonnie Rich.