Kid turns out to be a real white knight

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first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe top 10 theme park moments of 2019 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! The young man’s face has been on their minds often since they returned home to Calabasas from their World War II reunion trip to hell, say Dave Hengstler and his wife, Nancy Fancher-Hengstler. Who knows what would have happened if they hadn’t been standing on that New Orleans street corner with a few other stranded couples when the young man came running up? “The water was rising. We had nowhere to go and nobody to help us,” Nancy said. “Then this kid shows up out of nowhere like a white knight.” He told them there was a couple in a pickup truck willing to drive them three blocks to some tour buses that were evacuating people to Baton Rouge. “We didn’t even know the buses were there, and even if we had, we would have never made it through the rising water in time to get on them,” Dave said. “That pickup truck ride saved us. I sat on the tailgate, my feet dangling in the water.” Dave, 76, and Nancy, 65, were in New Orleans to attend a reunion of Dave’s buddies from the honor guard assigned to Gen. Douglas MacArthur at the American Embassy in Tokyo at the end of World War II. About the same time they got word that the reunion had been canceled because of Hurricane Katrina’s impending arrival, they also had to evacuate the time-share apartment where they were staying. “The owners said the mayor had ordered a mandatory evacuation of the city, and we had to get out,” Dave said. “Only the hotels were exempt.” With Dave carrying their one, heavy suitcase, the couple walked miles from hotel to hotel, looking for a room. “We were starting to panic,” Nancy said. “We couldn’t get out of the city, and we had no place to stay. Finally, we found a room at a Quality Inn on the 10th floor.” And that’s where Dave and Nancy, huddled on the floor, rode out the worst of Katrina. “After the hurricane, we went outside and walked around Bourbon Street surveying the damage, which didn’t look too bad,” Dave said. “We had a drink at the Fairmont and went back to our room, thinking we’d leave in the morning. “Tuesday morning, there was water two feet deep in the lobby. Wednesday morning, it was four feet.” Rather than stay in their dark, hot hotel room with no water or electricity, Dave and Nancy spent that day and night on the roof of the hotel. “The hotel management told people Wednesday they should start thinking about getting to the Superdome because the water was getting higher and higher,” Nancy said. Slogging through foul, knee-high water, they made their way to high ground on a dry street corner before deciding to head for the Superdome. “We’re walking there with a few other couples we had met when we see people walking the other way,” Dave said. “I asked them why they were not getting on the buses. They said I was crazy: There weren’t any buses; don’t waste your time. “So we went back to that street corner wondering what to do next. Then this kid comes running up.” At the waiting tour buses, there was a lot of pushing and shoving, but Dave and Nancy managed to get two seats. “I sat in the back with a little boy on my lap, while Dave sat up front,” Nancy said. “On our way out of town, the bus stopped to pick up some hospital patients standing on the side of a road. “They had to evacuate the hospital, and a few of them were still hooked up to their IVs and medical equipment.” As Nancy sat on that bus with a little boy on her lap, the horrible destruction from Katrina finally hit her as she looked out the windows. “It was shocking, utterly shocking,” she said. The patients were dropped off at a hospital on the Louisiana State University campus, and the bus driver took Dave and Nancy to the Baton Rouge airport about 30 miles away. “We looked like a couple of bums when he dropped us off,” Nancy said. “We were put on stand-by for a 6 a.m. flight to Dallas. At noon Thursday, we arrived at LAX with nothing but the clothes on our back. “But we didn’t care. We were home.” There were nearly 30 messages waiting for them on their answering machine when Dave and Nancy walked in the front door of their Calabasas home, but they went right past the phone to the showers. “We can still hardly sleep at night without thinking about what would have happened to us if that kid hadn’t found that pickup truck to take us to the buses. We had no place to go or stay that night. “I just wish we had gotten his name to thank him now,” Nancy said. Dennis McCarthy’s column appears Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. Dennis McCarthy, (818) 713-3749 [email protected]last_img

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