On Aug. 30, the group tried to rent a bus, but the plan fizzled.
"We heard FEMA confiscated the buses for their own use," he said.
The streets were becoming more dangerous, with looters roaming around. "We could hear gunshots in the distance," [Clarkston MI resident Michael McCarthy] noted.
While other parts of the city were flooded from broken levees, McCarthy's group was not affected.
Nonetheless, on Thursday, Sept. 1, the hotel closed.
"The staff gave us a bottle of water, encouraged us to go to the convention center, and wished us luck" he said.
About 50 hotel guests, including the 12 from Michigan, left together "for safety reasons," McCarthy said.
As they were walking, a police officer advised them not to go to the convention center. Then another officer steered them toward a ferryboat loading dock, across from a police command building.
Hearing hot meals were being served over a bridge, the group was headed that way when they spotted thugs wielding golf clubs.
"The locals said, 'They're letting the white people out,' " McCarthy recalled. "I felt very, very bad."
The group wasn't all white, he reports. "We had people from Holland, Brazil, Turkey, Chile and Australia, and several African-Americans."
As McCarthy's group crossed the bridge, a police officer fired a shot over their heads. The group turned back and stayed overnight on the loading dock. McCarthy stuffed his credit cards in his sock. He learned later there had been a riot of some kind near the bridge.
The situation felt "very primal," he said. If they had to go to the bathroom, the people did so outdoors, he said.
On Friday [Sep. 2], the group was taken by bus to a staging area in Jefferson Parish, about 30 miles outside of New Orleans. From the bus, McCarthy saw "all these poor, desperate people trying to get out of the city," he said.
At the staging area, the group found itself part of a crowd of 15,000.
"I never have seen such filth in my life," McCarthy said of the debris. He avoided the two portable toilets.
But McCarthy noticed a flurry of activity at this location.
"Helicopters were landing every 10 to 20 seconds, taking people out and bringing supplies in," he said.
The bedraggled group was given military meals and water, and at nightfall two buses came to give them rides.
"One of the parishes had heard about our plight and had donated the buses," he said. "People thought we were getting preferential treatment and we may have been."
McCarthy could hear shots being fired as the buses pulled away. "People in the camp had weapons," he said. "We all ducked down, but nobody was hurt."
The group - referred to in the local press as the "stranded tourists" - was taken to Alexandria, La., where they found a hotel around noon on Saturday.
On Sunday at 6 a.m., the group flew out of the state, landing in Detroit around 8:30 a.m.
Looking back, McCarthy stresses the tourists had it "a lot better" than the locals did.
"Those poor people sat in deplorable conditions surrounded by rotting corpses and violent looters."
..."FEMA, New Orleans and the state are all partially to blame. There is enough blame to go around..."