In this corner of the old Fischer Projects, they will never forget the swollen drainage ditches, the mounds of tree branches and debris, the relentless mosquitoes, and the heat and darkness of cramped old apartments that no longer had electricity. They will never forget the mounting desperation as their neighborhood ran out of food and water. The toilets wouldn’t flush. There was nowhere to refill prescriptions. The only breaks in the silence were the occasional echoes of gunfire and shattering glass. Hurricane Katrina had turned them into prisoners of a drowning city. “We all thought we were going to die,” Lavinette said. While the memories of their misery are vivid, so are their memories of the lanky young man who saved them: Jabbar Gibson.
These days, he’s better known as Inmate No. 29770-034 at the Federal Correctional Institution in Pollock, Louisiana. Gibson has been there since 2010 for gun and drug possession, locked away from his people and the Fischer, which has since been razed and rebuilt into a sprawling development of small, pastel-colored homes built on the same sun-baked dirt of the West Bank of the Mississippi. Tucked deep in the piney woods of central Louisiana, the prison is a medium-security facility of about 1,600 inmates. Among them are the brother of notorious New York crime boss John Gotti and one of the co-founders of the Black Mafia Family drug trafficking organization.
Gibson relished the idea that anyone on the outside still remembers him as something more than a low-level drug pusher from New Orleans. “Being called a hero was cool,” Gibson told BuzzFeed News during a May interview at the prison. “I’ve missed out on a lot being up in here.”