The next morning, Nasser tells Zeitoun that he’s ready to be evacuated. They paddle to the post-office parking lot, where an orange helicopter is lying in the distance. As they get closer, however, they realize that the helicopter had crashed, though there’s no smoke, and no one around.
Nasser seems to have assumed that there is a successful, ongoing rescue operation, yet here, it again appears that this is not the case—further disasters have plagued the already misguided efforts.
They return to Claiborne, where Zeitoun decides not to tell Kathy about the helicopter. He asks her if she’s put the kids in school yet, but Kathy says it hasn’t been easy. Besides, she’s been more concerned about convincing Zeitoun to leave. Mayor Nagin has just ordered a forced evacuation of everyone left, as officials are concerned about the risk of typhoid fever or cholera. Kathy reminds him that part of the city was built over landfills containing arsenic and lead, so these chemicals could be in the water. Zeitoun tells her he’ll be careful, but not that he’s thinking of leaving too—he is still mainly concerned about looking after his properties and the dogs.
Again, Zeitoun has to pick and choose what he tells his wife, balancing a desire to share with her what he’s experiencing, and a reluctance to make her worry even more. Now Kathy has a number of other things to worry about, which bear only indirect relation to the storm itself—Katrina has exposed a number of underlying issues related to the city of New Orleans itself, as it seems that the natural disaster reveals all the human corruption, injustice, and ineptness that was previously able to be ignored.
After setting out alone, Zeitoun comes across a small military boat carrying a soldier and a man with a camera. They wave Zeitoun down and a reporter interviews Zeitoun about what he’s doing still in the city. Afterward he hopes that one of his siblings might see him and admire his good works: the siblings have always been competitive, measuring themselves against each other and against Mohammed. Zeitoun feels that God has called him to do this, and he hopes his siblings can see him serving God.
Even as authorities are struggling to enter the city in order to evacuate and assist people, other groups, like the media, are having less trouble navigating the city for their own more selfish purposes. Zeitoun’s motivations are, as usual, complex. He’s genuinely concerned about those left behind in the city, but there’s also an element of seeking validation or glory in his actions, even if that validation is only from his family or God.
At Claiborne, Zeitoun sees a blue-and-white motorboat tied to the porch. A man is inside when Zeitoun walks in, and the man apologizes. He says his name is Ronnie, and he’d passed by the house one day looking for a working telephone, which would allow him to call his brother, a helicopter pilot. Zeitoun can’t think of a reason to make Ronnie leave, so he doesn’t. He goes upstairs to find Nasser, who agrees that Ronnie seems nice enough.
This man is most likely the source of the unknown voice that answered the phone on Claiborne when Kathy called—the man she assumed was a burglar. Others might have chased out this intruder, but Zeitoun and Nasser don’t have that kind of suspicious or frightened reaction.
The water in the bathroom still works, and Zeitoun feels like his shower is a miracle. He calls his brother in Spain again, and Ahmad again tries to convince him to leave, telling him about media reports warning of wild lawlessness. Zeitoun tells him he needs to get off the phone to call Kathy. When he hangs up, Nasser calls to him that more men are here, asking if they need water. Suddenly, a group of armed men break down the door and race inside.
The small gift of a shower contrasts with Ahmad’s claims about lawlessness and wild, marauding gangs, though the tone of the media makes it understandable that he would think that way. The sudden interruption of armed forces into Zeitoun’s life of quiet care and responsibility marks a turning point in the book, as Zeitoun’s human tragedy of injustice and prejudice really begins.