Meet the last man on the last bus out of New Orleans

McClatchy NewspapersAugust 31, 2008 

Roger Klotzbier finishes a cigarette before boarding the last government assisted evacuation bus as New Orleans, Louisiana residents prepare to flee the projected path of Hurricane Gustav, Sunday, August 31, 2008. Klotzbier was the last citizen that the Army National Guard processed to be evacuated. (Tom Pennington/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT)

TOM PENNINGTON / FORT WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM / MCT

NEW ORLEANS — Roger Klotzbier rushed through the bus terminal in downtown New Orleans, escorted by one Louisiana National Guard soldier as a half dozen others looked on.

By then, after two days of frantic activity ushering thousands of people out of town, Klotzbier was the last passenger on the last bus of the day.

And he almost didn't come.

As a veteran of many Florida hurricanes — Klotzbier, 31 years old, had no plans to leave. Only after his 7-year-old daughter implored him to leave did he agree to do so.

"I wouldn't be leaving if my kid didn't tell me to leave," he said. His daughter had called him from Florida. "She told me, 'Daddy, please leave.' "

He had been staying near downtown New Orleans and a police officer gave him a ride to the bus station. Climbing aboard the bus, he had no idea where it was going, and no idea when it would bring him back.

"Not a clue," he said.

"I figure I'm going out of town for a few days, and will have a cold beer," he said. Then he'll come back to New Orleans and will likely have plenty of work as an electrician.

The last bus left at 6:28 p.m. By then, the bus station was deserted. Lt. Col. LaDenna Piper of the Louisiana National Guard, who coordinated the massive evacuation effort, said they helped 17,268 people leave, by bus, train, ambulance, and plane. They went to shelters in states around the South.

There were eight people on the final bus. It was headed toward Alexandria, La.

"No Louisiana citizen left behind — that was our motto today," said Lt. Col. Greg Parker, also of the National Guard. "As long as they came and needed a ride, we gave them one."

McClatchy Newspapers 2008

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