NEW ORLEANS—It appeared on the horizon of Julia Street, just blocks from the Superdome, moving like a slow, steel praying mantis.
Riding in a small truck known as a manlift was Alvin Galpion, 27, who deposited an elderly woman with a walker at a Louisiana National Guard checkpoint. From there, it was just a few blocks to the dome, where buses were picking up people and taking them from the city.
Galpion, an unemployed father of three, borrowed the manlift Thursday morning from the city's convention center. The truck, which has an expandable arm, is normally used to elevate workers to wash high windows and fix power lines.
Though at a turtle's pace, he used it to slowly ferry elderly and handicapped people from the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center 10 blocks to the checkpoint at Julia Street and O'Keefe Avenue.
"I would only hope somebody does the same for my family," he said, choking back tears.
It was unclear whether any of the people he ferried made it onto the buses. Still, Galpion emerged as something of a hero in a whirlwind of chaos. As looters roamed and cops passed by, he inched along, calling out to people some 12 feet below.
By midafternoon, Galpion had ferried close to 20 people, he said.
Galpion, a resident of the city's Ninth Ward, said his house was overcome by floodwaters. He'd been separated from his wife and three young children by rescuers, and he eventually ended up at the convention center.
"I haven't seen them," he said, again tearing up.
Galpion, two tattooed teardrops dripping from his left eye, tattoos snaking up his arm, wearing baggy pants and a visor, learned to maneuver the manlift while working for a construction company.
While at the convention center earlier in the week, he began helping relief workers. To spare the many children there a grisly scene, he used a convention center golf cart to move two bodies of people who had died to the back of the building.
"I was born Catholic but ... after this, I'm going to give my life to Christ," he cried on the bumpy ride back to the convention center.
By Thursday, the situation even more dire, he asked to borrow the manlift and began his one-man effort moving the handicapped and elderly. The process was slow—and several police officers pointed guns at him until he explained what he was doing.
Then they sat back and marveled.
"He's incredible. It's guys like him who make our job easier," said National Guard Pvt. Brandon Behlar, 19, who helped receive the refugees at the checkpoint.
(Ovalle reports for The Miami Herald.)
(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
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