- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 7, 2005


Rachal Watson is 19 years old and nine months pregnant. Her 1-year-old daughter is missing. So is her boyfriend. She paces the floor of a Houston motel, far from her former home in New Orleans, rubbing her belly while her worries run wild.

“I just can’t take it no more,” she says. “I really can’t. I have no momma and no daddy. That’s the only family I have.”

Her posting on the National Next of Kin Registry Web site (www.nokr.org): “I am safe in Houston hotel looking for baby girl.”

She is one of thousands looking for the ones they love in any way they can.

In the aftermath of Katrina, not much works, especially the phones. So desperate families try to reach the missing through television or the Internet.

Most pleas on the Web begin the same: “Where are you?” The only difference is the number of question marks.

Eleanor Sawyer of New Orleans writes, “I am staying at the Hirsch Coliseum in Shreveport, Louisiana and I am looking for my son Darrell Sawyer. …”

On another site, Patty Hein looks for her sister and brother-in-law, from Long Beach, Miss.

“Any info about where they lived, if it’s intact, any word, we are so worried,” she wrote.

On the Web site of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (www.missingkids.com), photographs have been posted of 20 Louisiana children whose parents are missing.

Some are toddlers. Others are teenagers. Most are in between — 8, 9, 10 years old. The youngest grin at the camera. The teenagers try hard not to look scared. Those in the middle just look bewildered.

On national television, relatives look directly into camera lenses and beg for information, or try to give it.

“Your mother and daddy are headed for the convention center,” said Bettie Perrier of New Orleans, as she headed for a bus. “We don’t know what we’ll do there.”

And then there is Miss Watson, who thought things couldn’t get much worse than having to live in the New Orleans Superdome without power, food or water. She dove under a National Guard truck when people in the surging crowd outside shot at rescue helicopters.

“I was so scared I forgot I was pregnant,” she said. “I landed on my stomach, like a baseball slide.”

Not long afterward, Miss Watson started having contractions. She was taken by ambulance to New Orleans’ airport.

“They wouldn’t let my baby or my boyfriend on the ambulance. They said I had to get on by myself.”

As Tuesday wore on, she got a little bit of news about her boyfriend. There was a James Green, born in 1988, registered by the Red Cross at a San Antonio shelter. Babies weren’t being registered by name, she was told.

The charity that flew her to Houston, the Paul Alan Caldwell Foundation, sent someone to walk through the shelter, looking for James Green.

Yesterday, volunteers from the foundation found Mr. Green. He had given Miss Watson’s daughter, Te-Erika, to an older woman at the Superdome. She, in turn, had ended up at another shelter in Houston. Volunteers found the woman and picked up the baby.

She was reunited with her mother yesterday.

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