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Hurricane Season

Son finally finds some peace of mind

By Christy Oglesby
CNN

(CNN) -- Robert Green has finally found his mother's corpse. The 73-year-old matriarch was just a few feet from the crumpled New Orleans Lower 9th Ward rooftop where he left the body to flee Hurricane Katrina's flood.

He and his brother David Green, with the help of relatives, recovered Joyce Green exactly four months after they lost her.

David Green had grown weary of waiting for state officials to recover and identify bodies. So he left his home in Nashville, Tennessee, and rallied family members to do the deed himself.

"He just said, 'To hell with it.'" Robert Green recalled. "He just decided to come down here. We stopped at Wal-Mart and bought shovels, hammers, picks and everything else. We were going to dig for my mother's body."

The state of Louisiana ended house-to-house searches for the dead on October 3. Gov. Kathleen Blanco said she doesn't know who made that decision or who selected the date.

David Green said he's shocked by her lack of knowledge about a critical development in the city's recovery.

"That is the part that disturbs me more than anything else, because, see, we counted on the system to help us," David Green said. "I put my trust in the system. We made the phone calls. We sat around and waited until today. And you -- you just get to a point where, it's enough. The system's not in place. It's not working."

A rapidly rising flood ripped houses in Joyce Green's neighborhood of their moorings in the hot darkness before dawn on August 29, 2005.

As the houses floated by and crashed into other homes and massive oaks, Green's family scrambled from rooftop to rooftop, dragging her Parkinson's-weakened frame with them. But after falling several times into the flood, she died during the night.

Robert Green fled the roof with survivors hours later.

"I told every policeman I saw. I told every National Guard I saw. I told the Red Cross in Nashville. I told FEMA. I told Red Cross countless times. I even went as far as getting the satellite pictures and showing them the exact house, which I put in their hands, showing 1617 Tennessee. This is where my mother's body is."

On December 29, his family went back and got her themselves. They plan to bury her on January 14.

"We had to come out here because they didn't do their job," Robert Green said. "We had to come out her because Blanco didn't do her job. We had to come out here and find my mother's body. ... I politely and eagerly walked to where her body laid. I didn't have to climb anywhere. I didn't have to move anything. All that's left of my mother is her clothes, her skull and her skeleton. Now they could have come and did the same thing just as easily as I did."

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