Wed, Sep 07, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Heartrending tales of the dead begin to emerge


They died on flooded city streets in the Big Easy and in country homes in Mississippi.

One survived seven months of combat in Iraq only to die near his childhood home. An 80-year-old woman died sitting in a bedroom chair when a tree crashed through the roof. One man was killed when he went out to his car to charge his cellphone during the storm.

A woman known only as "Vera" was struck by a car after the hurricane hit, according to her husband.

Most of the dead from Hurricane Katrina don't have names yet. Many will never be identified because their bodies decomposed in the floodwaters and heat before they were found.

For some, a few details are emerging from relatives who want them remembered:

Jewelry shop owner David "Kip" Logan, 49, liked to play golf and hunt and attended a Baptist church. His last act was to tell his wife to run as a tree cracked and fell on the porch of his Laurel, Mississippi, home, collapsing an awning on top of him.

Deborah Logan suffered two broken vertebrae and broken fingers, but stayed with her husband as neighbors pulled him from the wreckage, dug a damaged car out of the debris and drove him to the hospital.

"I held his head in my hands the whole way," Deborah Logan said.

For some reason, 43-year-old Vicky Thaggard wrote a letter to her preacher four months ago describing how she wanted her funeral carried out. She died when a tree fell on her car in Leake County, Mississippi.

"Different people think you know before you die," said Kay Cain, her niece. "I don't know ... Why else would she leave a letter like that?"

Whenever Merry Thompson went out for a drive, she was accompanied by a 1m tall stuffed toy, Sylvester the cat. It was a tribute to her late father, who was named Sylvester, and it was guaranteed to draw stares from drivers around Eagle Lake, Mississippi.

The 43-year-old died when a tree fell on her mobile home.

"She's crazy -- not looney bin crazy -- but she just had a lot of personality," her son, Nick Thompson, said. "She's very outgoing and warm."

Josh Russell had spent a tour in Iraq, then switched to the National Guard from the Marine Corps so he could spend more time at home. The 27-year-old was killed when the Humvee he was riding in hit debris on a highway in Pearl River County, Mississippi.

Russell was nervous about being called into action, sent into the teeth of the hurricane, said his widow, Jamie Russell.

"He didn't want to go, because he knew it was going to be a bad storm. But he went, because that was his duty," she said.

These are just a few of the dead whose names are known and whose stories are being told. But there are sure to be thousands more in months ahead.

Many, like the man whose body was on a wooden cart on New Orleans' Rampart Street near downtown may simply be buried in anonymous pauper's graves. The elderly man was wrapped in a child's bedsheet decorated with the cartoon characters Batman, Robin and the Riddler. He had one shoe on, one off.

Identifying the dead will be a daunting task, made even more desperate because many will likely be bloated and decomposed by the time they're taken away. Officials said they would try to locate dental records, but urged family members to bring in photos, fingerprints or even a toothbrush or provide DNA samples.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has warned the nation to prepare for the worst as bodies believed to be in houses and in floodwaters are recovered.

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