Arthur Smith, stout and gray-haired and something like the mayor of this African American neighborhood of Biloxi, recalls stepping outside to evacuate just as the wind raised a ruckus. "The water was up to my top step," he says in that baritone voice of his. "I was raised up down here, and I know it was time to go."
So he grabbed Dyran, his wife, and they ran to their little pickup truck. They hadn't driven a block before the water was four feet high. They got out, and in the distance through the rain they spotted the school bus. As Smith -- a transplanted Philadelphian -- is a Biloxi school bus driver, they considered this a good sign.
"I pulled her inside the bus," says 70-year-old Smith. "Yes, he did," she agrees.
Then that surge rose. Within 20 minutes Arthur and Dyran, who would not give her age but is younger than Arthur, were sitting up on the seats and the water was up to their necks. Outside was a terrible howl. Dyran dialed her two grown children back in Philadelphia.
"I told them: 'We're on the bus and the water is rising.' "
Then the phone connection was cut.
Dyran prepared to die. Not Arthur. He dived under the water and opened the door to the bus. Then he came back for his wife.
"I told him I couldn't swim and I was going to die."
Grab my hand, he replied.
He pulled her under that dark water and took her up to the roof, where they rode out Hurricane Katrina, watching cars and houses float by.
"Arthur saved my life," she says.
Arthur smiled and reached for her hand. "Oh, she's my girl. She ain't going nowhere without me."
-- Michael Powell