Eggers and Zeitoun

Dave Eggers at the Q&A following a screening of the movie Away We Go in Brookline, Mass., in May 2009
Dave Eggers at the Q&A following a screening of the movie Away We Go in Brookline, Mass., in May 2009. (kittell/Flickr)

When Katrina hit New Orleans, Zeitoun stayed in the city — his wife and children having safely fled — to care for his business and properties. He paddled down flooded streets in a canoe, helping stranded survivors and feeding abandoned dogs — until he was arrested on suspicion of looting and held without explanation in a makeshift prison. His wife, Kathy, suddenly stopped receiving calls from him.

Here's an excerpt from the show in which Eggers and Zeitoun describe what happened when he was arrested.

Zeitoun vividly recalled the moment:

Five military guys jump on us like a big fish, or some kind of criminal, I don't know what the guys were thinking.... All of them jump on us very roughly. We don't have weapons, we have nothing, only have t-shirts and shorts. They hand-cuff us very roughly, and they have a van, a white van, parked on the side. And we stay in the van for a half hour almost. One of the guys in the van, I say "What's happening." He says "I don't know. I'm from Indiana. We're doing our job."

Eggers described what happened next:

Once they gathered all of what they had on them — Nasser, [Zeitoun's] friend from Syria, had his life savings on him, because a lot of people who were in the city after the storm kept all of their belongings, what was most precious to them, close, for fear that it might get washed away or stolen. So there was cash on these men, and there were some computer jump drives, and camera discs, you know, things that when they laid them all out on a table, it seemed to the law enforcement officers to indicate that there was something larger happening here, that there might be some vast conspiracy. And that's when words like Taliban and Al Qaeda started getting thrown around to the men.

You can listen to the full hour here. You can also read excerpts from the book here and here. Tell us what you think.

This program aired on July 31, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.


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