Even as they followed orders to abandon their stations before Hurricane Katrina slashed ashore, some of Jefferson Parish's pump operators asked why they couldn't stay.
Why couldn't some volunteers, possibly as many as 30 workers on the West Bank alone, ride out the hurricane in a parish building, they asked, or even hunker down inside pump stations while their colleagues evacuated 100 miles north, as dictated by the parish's "doomsday" plan?
"The question was raised, yes," said Jimmy Aragon, who oversees West Jefferson's 14 staffed pump stations and was among the last wave of 236 pump workers to evacuate Aug. 28, the night before Katrina's landfall. "But we were told that West Jefferson (Medical Center) was full. They were housing firefighters and policemen.
"But there wasn't a choice," he said. "Everybody was ordered to go. There was no choice. We couldn't have stayed if we wanted to."