Plus: Victims tell of hurricane horrors, Diana remembered, and more

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated September 03, 2005 06:00 AM
Credit: Eric Gay/AP

KATRINA’S WAKE: New Orleans plunged into chaos in the wake of Monday’s Hurricane Katrina. Armies of sick and hungry survivors left marooned were begging for help, which finally came Friday when a convoy of soldiers with food, water and medical supplies arrived. But the situation remained dire in the Big Easy where corpses rotted along flooded sidewalks, looters and snipers thwarted rescue efforts and victims remained stranded in many areas. “This is a national disgrace,” said New Orleans’s emergency operations chief Terry Ebbert. Thousands are believed dead. In a rare morning TV interview Thursday, President Bush, who toured the flooded areas Friday, told Good Morning America‘s Diane Sawyer: “I hope people don’t play politics during this period of time. This is a natural disaster, the likes of which our country has never seen before.” In addition to his tour on Friday, President Bush asked his father, former President George H.W. Bush, and former President Clinton to lead a money-raising campaign. “We need private funds, even though Congress and the president will do their part and come up with a lot of money,” Clinton told CNN.

EYEWITNESS TALES: Describing her terrifying ordeal, Katrina survivor Bonnie Lambert, 58, of Biloxi, Miss., tells PEOPLE, “I said, ‘Okay, if it’s my time, let’s just get it over with.'” As the waters rushed around her, “My deck saved me,” she says. “It’s built around a 650-year-old oak tree, and the tree acted like an anchor. If it weren’t for the tree, my house would have floated down the street. All the houses around me are washed away.” In uptown New Orleans, Betty Vonderhaar, 70, decided not to evacuate and instead huddled with her son Mike, 41, and grandson Matthew, 13. Water and wind streamed into their house. “And then things just got worse and worse,” she tells PEOPLE. “The winds got stronger and stronger. The walls shook. I mean the whole house was shaking. … And then it was over. It was so quiet. It felt like Twilight Zone quiet.”

ANISTON WATCH: At the wrap party for their film The Break Up – held at Chicago’s hip Bella Lounge Aug. 24 – Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn did little to squelch reports of how chummy they?ve become. As one onlooker tells PEOPLE, the two “got very cozy with each other. Very friendly and very, very comfortable ? The hand on the leg, the arm on the shoulder.” They left in separate vehicles at 10:30 p.m. and hooked up again at a Dwight Yoakam concert at the House of Blues. The New York Daily News reported that the pair “had their arms around each other. Then they were dancing. Then they were straight making out.” Meanwhile, a homeless man accused of breaking into Aniston’s Malibu home pleaded not guilty Monday to burglary and other charges, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office. David Hesterbey, 48, of Santa Barbara, Calif., is being held on $70,000 bail after allegedly vaulting a 9-foot fence and entering the actress’s rented house on the Pacific Coast Highway, prosecutors said. Aniston’s employees told investigators that Hesterbey said he was “looking for Jennifer,” according to authorities.

STEWART FREED: At 12:05 a.m. Thursday morning, Martha Stewart finally shed her irritating electronic ankle bracelet. With a smile on her face Wednesday, she said the prospect of getting rid of the device filled her with “nervous excitement,” the Associated Press reported. The monitoring device, allowing authorities to track her every move, had been Stewart’s cross to bear throughout more than five months of home confinement, including a three-week extension for violating an unspecified probation rule. (The New York Post reported that one purported violation was her attending a yoga class.) In one Internet chat with fans, the domestic diva said: “I hope none of you ever has to wear one.”

DIANA REMEMBERED: The death of Princess Diana – exactly eight years ago on Wednesday – was remembered by loyal fans who gathered outside her former home, London’s Kensington Palace. Not far across town, Britain’s royal family planned no special observances, with sons Prince William and Prince Harry “going about their business as normal,” according to a spokesman at Clarence House, Prince Charles’s official residence. Diana, who was 36, died in a Paris traffic-tunnel crash on Aug. 31, 1997, along with boyfriend Dodi Fayed and chauffeur Henri Paul.