That morning guards open Zeitoun’s cell, handcuff him, and lead him down the hall without telling him what will happen. He’s led outside and into a white van, which drives him to the main prison office. Outside the office he sees Nasser, Todd and Ronnie in the hallway. Zeitoun looks at them, bewildered, and is led past them into a small room.
Much of Zeitoun’s movements in these weeks after his arrest are confusing, as no one tells him where he’s being sent, just as he’s never told why he’s there in the first place. It seems that it’s the same case for the other three men as well.
Two men who say they’re from the Department of Homeland Security greet Zeitoun and ask him what he does for a living, and why he hadn’t left the city in the storm. Zeitoun answers truthfully, and is struck by the men’s politeness. At the end they apologize for what he’s been through and ask what they can do for him. He asks them to call Kathy, and they say they will.
Like the women checking Zeitoun into the prison, and unlike most other authority figures, these men are suddenly cordial enough to make Zeitoun even more confused about why he’s been subjected to such arbitrary suffering.
Kathy is still beside herself, having gotten the call from the missionary only a few hours before, when she receives another call from a man from the Department of Homeland Security. The man tells her that Zeitoun is at Hunt prison and that they have no more interest in him. Kathy asks what he was in there for. The man says that “looting” is on his arrest sheet, but those charges will be dropped.
Having narrated Zeitoun’s experiences over the past few weeks, Eggers now returns to Kathy where we left her, at the first moment at which it seems like she has a hint for a way to find her husband (as well as some kind of proof that he’s alive and well). Zeitoun’s charge shows just how arbitrary and vague the crime of “looting” could be—and this applies to hundreds of others similarly arrested or demonized.
Kathy praises God and embraces Yuko. They make plans to get the kids out of school early, and Kathy immediately decides to leave that day for the prison. She calls Hunt to try to reach Zeitoun, but the woman says she has no record of that name. She says that they have no records of anyone who came because of the hurricane—those people are “FEMA’s.”
As with a number of other examples of post-Katrina bureaucracy, this anecdote shows the level of chaos in FEMA’s response to the hurricane, as well as the institutional lags that make any attempt to get through to a real human being so difficult.
Kathy almost collapses—she doesn’t have a number for the man from Homeland Security, and now she doesn’t know how to get back in touch. She decides she has to go in person and demand to see him or be told where he’s been taken. Yuko and Ahmaad are unsure: Kathy isn’t certain that Zeitoun is there, or if she’ll be allowed to visit, or where she would stay. Kathy begins to cry again, and Yuko and Ahmaad convince her to stay in Phoenix until she’s sure she can actually help her husband.
Just as Kathy had seemed to have a plan and a way of finding her husband, her attempts are thwarted once again. Although Kathy hates feeling helpless and out of control, she has to accept that it would be just as difficult for her to track down Zeitoun even if she were to fly straight to New Orleans and search for him on the ground.
Kathy calls a lawyer, Raleigh Ohlmeyer, who had helped some of Zeitoun’s workers with legal issues before and who deals with cases from traffic tickets to criminal defense. There’s no answer, so she leaves a message. Kathy calls Ahmad in Spain and cries that Zeitoun is alive. Ahmaad is thrilled, but grows somber when Kathy says he’s in prison. He tells Kathy she needs to go get him out. Zeitoun’s sister in Jableh calls soon after, and tells Kathy the same thing.
Kathy and Zeitoun’s broad web of contacts throughout New Orleans will hopefully be helpful as Kathy tries to find any way she can of tracking down her husband. Zeitoun’s family is more somber, knowing that his imprisonment prompts a number of new issues.
Raleigh calls Kathy back and tells him about Zeitoun, whom Raleigh has just seen in his canoe on the local news. Raleigh tells her that he’s been working with prisoners from a makeshift office in Baton Rouge. The system has broken down, he says, and while he promises to get Zeitoun released, he can’t guarantee when.
The local news is clearly lagging behind the latest updates, as it is only now—weeks after Zeitoun has been arrested—that the news of his rescue program has been aired. Raleigh explicitly acknowledges the breakdown of justice that Zeitoun has been experiencing first-hand.