Emily Williams stood in the sunlight outside the D.C. Armory yesterday with a new life to start -- a life in Washington.
The 37-year-old New Orleans nursing assistant and her husband began looking for work and an apartment, and Williams enrolled her daughter and niece in a D.C. public school.
"I think they start tomorrow," Williams said, a look of wonder on her face. She said she felt lucky to be in the District and not in some cities in Texas and Louisiana that have been overwhelmed by Hurricane Katrina evacuees.
Wayne Mancuso, 44, another of the 295 storm survivors who were airlifted to Washington and bused to the armory this week, said he was planning to stay for no more than 10 days -- long enough to hook up with an old friend and do some sightseeing. Then he will probably head back to his father's house outside New Orleans, which he said was not damaged by the hurricane.
Yesterday, he hopped aboard an Orange Line train to Eastern Market, where he picked up a map of the city.
One day after their arrival in the nation's capital, those displaced by Katrina had a range of attitudes about their new address, with some seeing Washington as a place to put down roots and others considering it a short diversion.
By yesterday evening, the number of people staying at the armory had dropped to 250, said Vince Morris, a spokesman for D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D).
Some people left after reuniting with family members or friends in the area or after making arrangements to travel elsewhere. In about a dozen cases, individuals or families were matched with area residents who were strangers but who had volunteered to provide housing and had been screened, officials with the D.C. Emergency Management Agency said.
For those who remained at the armory, American Red Cross volunteers and city employees worked throughout the day to treat patients, enroll children in school, provide mental health counseling and help the evacuees get wherever they needed to go.
Christopher Harrison, a Red Cross family services worker, said most of the shelter's residents were individuals or fragments of families -- a pair of brothers missing other siblings, parents without some of their children.
As the evacuees went through the intake process, in which workers assessed what services should be provided, Harrison heard stories of people who had lost everything they owned.
"The biggest need is going to be a home and a life to go back to," he said.
There was drama outside the armory as several area residents with relatives from the Gulf Coast stopped by to find out whether their family members were inside.
Colleen Wilson, 48, of Greenbelt left with tears in her eyes. She had hoped to walk through the armory on the chance that she might see her missing aunt, Charlene Harvey, but officials turned her down and said there was not yet a complete list of those staying in the shelter.
She said she had been told by workers that some evacuees were so tired they were delirious and that they needed some privacy.
"But if they're delirious, how would they know if their name is being called? I need to have her see my face," Wilson said.
Brian B. Hubbard, director of operations for the city's Emergency Management Agency, took down the name of her aunt and other relatives in a black notebook and promised to follow up.
Others showing up at the armory said they were evacuees who had made it to the District on their own and needed services. Red Cross officials said they were entitled to the same help as those who were airlifted, but they referred them to the organization's downtown office on E Street NW rather than admitting them to the armory.
City officials estimate that their support of storm victims will cost $6 million. Williams has sent a letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency seeking reimbursement.
There was no way to tally the many donations and offers of help from strangers.
Red Cross officials were not accepting donations of used clothing at the armory. But that did not stop Gary Pratt, a National Gallery of Art official who lives in Fort Washington, from distributing pressed and dry-cleaned dresses and suits to evacuees outside.
"My wife said, 'Take everything you aren't wearing and bring it,' " Pratt said.
Elsewhere in the parking lot, a tall man in an elegant sport shirt handed evacuee Diane Green, 44, an envelope, then walked away.
"One hundred dollars!" Green exclaimed, breathless. "God bless you!" she called after the man.
"He already has," the man replied.
Green marveled at the kindness of the people she has met in Washington. In New Orleans, she said, she had a drug habit that landed her in prison. She had tried to quit but couldn't seem to escape the demons. Then came the storm, which forced her to leave her native city for the first time in her life. She wept in terror Tuesday at the plane ride, her first, and didn't know where she was going.
But yesterday, in addition to the envelope with the $100, a man offered her a job selling newspapers. She told him she could start today.
"New Orleans, that's the end of that chapter of my life," she said. "This is the beginning of a new one: D.C."
It was also a new chapter for Benjamin Camp, a bricklayer's apprentice from New Orleans who had never seen a big-league baseball game. Last night, he threw the ceremonial first pitch at the Nationals' game against the Florida Marlins at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium. He was one of several storm survivors at the game and was chosen randomly for the honor.
Camp, 20, who was wearing a donated Nationals jersey and cap, smiled as he imagined his upcoming pitch. "Just a screwball with a little curveball, with a little knuckle at the end," he said. The ball, when actually thrown, was high but over the plate.
His father, Clinton Camp, 51, who also arrived on Tuesday's airlift, praised the city's generosity. After just one day in the District, he was hoping to bring his wife, daughter and three grandchildren from Houston, where they are staying temporarily. The elder Camp said that the agent for a Nationals player had agreed to fly the five relatives to Washington.
"We've been treated well since the day we got here," he said. "People have opened up their hearts."
Staff writers Hamil R. Harris and Allan Lengel contributed to this report.