|Posted on Saturday, September 03, 2005 - 09:50 am: |
I realize that there doesn't seem to be a general topic for the hurricane and it's aftermath. So here it is, if anyone wants to post here. I'll start with a link to a blog from NO:
For riveting first hand coverage of what's going on in NO. (thanks to Ray Feist on sff.net BB)
|Posted on Saturday, September 03, 2005 - 03:49 pm: |
Red Cross ordered not to enter New Orleans
Just to give you a sense of how badly FEMA has f*cked up
|Posted on Saturday, September 03, 2005 - 08:37 pm: |
Would appreciate it if anyone would post news on photographer Patti Perret (THE FACES OF FANTASY) who lives on Gallier Street -- or let her know that I'm trying to get in touch.
|Posted on Saturday, September 03, 2005 - 09:50 pm: |
This from Vera Nazarian on sff.net:
Transport Provided to Anywhere - Room Desperately Needed! (For the
Animal Victims of Katrina)
There is transportation provided, with people ready and waiting, for
upwards of 200 dogs and 150 cats so far rescued from the devastation
of hurricane Katrina. What these animals need is a place to go.
Kennels, boarding, vets offices, shelters with any extra space, foster
homes and rescues. Even one or two open kennels would greatly help.
From what we know, all animals have been vaccinated and are in good
health considering the conditions. There are dogs and cats of every
breed and size. Some are in groups of two, three or four, hailing from
the same family, while some are solitary. ANY KENNEL SPACE AVAILABLE
CAN CERTAINLY BE USED. These drivers are willing to move these animals
ANYWHERE they need to go. Absolutely anywhere.
The current safe houses for these animals are being inundated and some
of these pets will have to be euthanized if they are not moved to make
room for the incoming animals.
Please feel free to pass on this information everywhere. Every forum,
every list, every community.
REMEMBER THESE ANIMALS WILL BE TRANSPORTED TO YOU.
If you know anyone, anywhere, that is willing to take in even one cat
or dog, please have them contact Lynda at the information provided
They are also asking for ANY kind of donations for the animals -
money, food, bedding, water, etc.
Please Contact Lynda V. at: 203 515 3024 (cell)
Home: 203 227 5308
Please contact at any time, day or night. These volunteers, rescuers
and shelter workers are working around the clock.
PLEASE spread the word on this animal rescue effort!
|Posted on Sunday, September 04, 2005 - 06:25 am: |
Here's Michael Brown, top banana of FEMA, explaining why the poverty-stricken and the sickly bear some responsibility for their plight:
"Unfortunately, that's (death toll in thousands) going to be attributable a lot to people who did not heed the advance warnings," Brown told CNN.
"I don't make judgments about why people chose not to leave but, you know, there was a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans," he said.
It's nice he's not making judgements. Mighty white of him. The situation in New Orleans (a place I lived in for 13 years, having moved out about two months ago) is just one more example, and the most glaring, of how being poor can kill you in this country. No access to health care, crime-ridden communities, and now being unable to evacuate a ticking timb bomb of a city, after funding had been cut to shore up the levees.
|Posted on Sunday, September 04, 2005 - 08:12 am: |
This is by way of John Catt, from the Grand County Blues Society - Grand County, Colorado. - spread the word
Tab Benoit and the Voice of the Wetlands Foundation has set up a way for
people to send money direct. They are asking for people not to send to the
Red Cross, this is not so hard to understand, they haven't seen the Red
Cross where they are. They have refugees living in Houma , living being the
operative word, surviving is more like it. Homelessness is rampant. The
Voice of the Wetlands has people who know the ones in need of cash, they
don't need more clothes and blankets. This is straight from the battle
ground. You can send checks payable to Voice of The Wetlands , memo relief
fund. PO box 3756 Houma La. 70363. Send your name and address with it and
you will know that this money was handed to someone in need.
Truly sorry if getting this causes you any inconvenience. We are trying
to rescue a culture , not just people. Forget what you see on TV, you have
eyes down there telling you to help this way. People save people not
jcatt - GCBS
Directly Help Hurricane Katrina Victims
This is a pro-active strategy by the Voice of the Wetlands Organization.
We have changed our strategy from
|Posted on Sunday, September 04, 2005 - 01:47 pm: |
About the Bush photo op:
KATRINA: LANDRIEU ASKS FOR MORE HELP
Saturday, September 03, 2005
Landrieu Implores President to
“Relieve Unmitigated Suffering;”
End FEMA’s “Abject Failures”
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu, D-La., issued the following statement this afternoon regarding her call yesterday for President Bush to appoint a cabinet-level official to oversee Hurricane Katrina relief and recovery efforts within 24 hours.
Sen. Landrieu said:
“Yesterday, I was hoping President Bush would come away from his tour of the regional devastation triggered by Hurricane Katrina with a new understanding for the magnitude of the suffering and for the abject failures of the current Federal Emergency Management Agency. 24 hours later, the President has yet to answer my call for a cabinet-level official to lead our efforts. Meanwhile, FEMA, now a shell of what it once was, continues to be overwhelmed by the task at hand.
“I understand that the U.S. Forest Service had water-tanker aircraft available to help douse the fires raging on our riverfront, but FEMA has yet to accept the aid. When Amtrak offered trains to evacuate significant numbers of victims – far more efficiently than buses – FEMA again dragged its feet. Offers of medicine, communications equipment and other desperately needed items continue to flow in, only to be ignored by the agency.
“But perhaps the greatest disappointment stands at the breached 17th Street levee. Touring this critical site yesterday with the President, I saw what I believed to be a real and significant effort to get a handle on a major cause of this catastrophe. Flying over this critical spot again this morning, less than 24 hours later, it became apparent that yesterday we witnessed a hastily prepared stage set for a Presidential photo opportunity; and the desperately needed resources we saw were this morning reduced to a single, lonely piece of equipment. The good and decent people of southeast Louisiana and the Gulf Coast – black and white, rich and poor, young and old – deserve far better from their national government.
“Mr. President, I’m imploring you once again to get a cabinet-level official stood up as soon as possible to get this entire operation moving forward regionwide with all the resources – military and otherwise – necessary to relieve the unmitigated suffering and economic damage that is unfolding.”
Today’s aerial tour of the 17th Street levee will be featured tomorrow on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Later, Sen. Landrieu will also appear on CBS’s 60 Minutes.
|Posted on Monday, September 05, 2005 - 01:38 pm: |
Ok. I'm sick of waiting for the Feds to get their asses in gear and cut through the red tape to allow emergency supplies and personnel through to various areas. So I'm now giving money directly to people I know who need it and people I trust to get goods to those in need. I've given some money to the below (first org) because I believe them when they say they're actually hauling supplies to people. I urge you too, as well.
The people of Blondesense are funneling funds and supplies thru one of their members who live in LA who is buying supplies locally and getting them to nearby shelters or a Second Harvest 18 wheeler to reach outlying shelters and people. They've raised about $3K so far, and are able to receive paypal donations.
Veterans for Peace are collecting and hauling supplies to a VFP member
|Posted on Monday, September 05, 2005 - 05:56 pm: |
Thanks for posting these links.
|Posted on Monday, September 05, 2005 - 06:51 pm: |
Thanks, Ellen. This very helpful.
|Posted on Monday, September 05, 2005 - 08:55 pm: |
Your very welcome.
|Posted on Tuesday, September 06, 2005 - 11:02 am: |
Hi, folks, and thanks, Ellen, for starting this topic. My wife and I left New Orleans in a bus on Day Five, after spending a last night with four other people in an apartment building in the lower Garden District, an apartment building which felt like it was under seige by looters. Our water and food were holding up, and we'd even managed to gather enough rain water to flush a few toilets, but we didn't know how long the security doors would hold against those determined to get into our place.
We are safe now in Tulsa, with friends of my wife's mother, and we are on our way in stages out to California. But there are still many, many people in that city, some refusing to leave their belongings to the thugs, and some simply frightened to leave their homes. They cannot get the truth out of the local police because the local police aren't being told the truth, and they cannot get an escort out because the rescue operations are directed elsewhere.
What Nathan said above about "mandatory evacuation" is absolutely true. New Orleans has a well-maintained public transit system, which dissuades people with limited means from owning a car. My wife and I were two of those people. When a storm like this approaches, there are many things the non-affluent must consider, not least of which is this: if they leave, how long can they live in a strange city on what little they have saved up? Or this: If they leave, how long will their possessions remain in their homes before the thugs break in? It's very well to say that things are only things, and that anything can be replaced, but for those who live hand-to-mouth, this simply is not true. And to anyone who believes that those who don't evacuate deserve what they get, well, all I can say is, practice hard at being a human being for a few more years, and you just might finally get it right. If not, meet me anywhere, anytime, and we'll have a nice, quiet chat about what certain people deserve.
I've lived in New Orleans for four years now. I love my adopted city, and it grieves me to see what has happened there. We were in the middle of it, and it was a five-day nightmare that will haunt us for a long time. And we know it was (and continues to be) far, far worse for many others.
On a brighter note, we've met the best kinds of people on our exodus, including a bus driver named Campbell Soup (I'm not kidding) who let all his passengers use his cell phone, and a community of evangelical snake-shakers in Arkansas who took us in and let us have our first showers in five days. There are wonderful people all over the South and all over this country, and they are coming to the fore in this crisis. There are also people the world can quite readily do without, and we watched several truckloads of these circling our neighborhood like plague flies, looking for easy targets.
I'll tell you one thing I've resolved, and I'm not alone in this. Heads will roll for what happened in the Crescent City. Those of us who endured this nightmare will never forget, and we will never forgive. After the rescues, the relocations, and the body removals, agencies and individuals will be held accountable, if not by our government, then by those people our government pretends to represent.
My thanks to everyone out there who cares about the people of New Orleans. They are good people. I know because I've lived among them for four years. They deserved better than this.
|Posted on Tuesday, September 06, 2005 - 11:12 am: |
An additional note:
Anyone who wants another angle on why FEMA gave birth to a clusterfuck in this situation should look up Eric Holdeman's comments on the dismantling of FEMA under this administration. I don't have a web link, so I hope someone else can provide that. I found an article entitled "Destroying FEMA not the best move" in the Sunday, September 4th, Tulsa World. Holdeman is director of the King County, Washington, Office of Emergency Management, so anyone who takes the Seattle papers might be able to give a link.
|Posted on Tuesday, September 06, 2005 - 11:29 am: |
Here's a link to that article: http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/opinion/12569332.htm
|Posted on Tuesday, September 06, 2005 - 11:31 am: |
I'm really glad to hear that you got out of New Orleans safely.
I tried to email you but it bounced (not surprisingly.) I was wondering what part of California you were heading for. If it's the San Francisco Bay Area, I may be able to offer some help--neighborhood advice, extra clothing... I'm not sure what you might need. You can reach me at web at vylarkaftan dot net. Let me know.
|Posted on Tuesday, September 06, 2005 - 11:40 am: |
It's strange, I got the Herald one fine at first, but when I try to go back , it asks for registration. Try this one instead: http://www.centredaily.com/mld/centredaily/news/opinion/12569332.htm
|Posted on Tuesday, September 06, 2005 - 11:42 am: |
For those who are reading this discussion board in the hopes of finding useful information about survivors and evacuees from the New Orleans area, please look on NOLA.com. They have converted a forum into two lists, one a listing of missing persons, and the other a listing of folks who got out and want to reassure their loved ones that they are safe.
MSNBC.com also has alphabetized lists which are easier to use than those at NOLA.com.
The American Red Cross has a registry of those who have been processed at collection points and shelters
I wish I could give more information for those concerned about the other affected areas.
Note: some people who ended up in shelters or staging points did not wish to wait hours or days to be processed, but instead struck out on their own. My wife and I were two of those -- We arrived at Fort Chaffee, in Arkansas, and walked out the front gate as soon as we could. Seven hours at an overcrowded, unshaded evacuation point, thirteen hours on a bus, and five hours waiting for information were enough for us.
Please keep trying, and don't lose hope.
|Posted on Tuesday, September 06, 2005 - 11:56 am: |
Thanks for your kindness and concern, but I'll be fine. I have family in the San Joaquin Valley of California (Bakersfield, my old hometown), and I've already been showered with all kinds of wonderful help. Also, I teach college English, so I know I can get back on my feet in a few short months, taking adjunct jobs or whatever comes along. Others are not so fortunate. There are families in the Lower Ninth Ward, for example, who have lived, three generations, within five blocks of one another. They don't have relatives around the country. The only family they have is right there in that toxic gumbo, and they've lost everything.
However, if you (or anyone else reading this) have things to offer, there are tens of thousands of people who could certainly use them, some of them probably very close to you, or coming soon. I don't want to step on the toes of the American Red Cross (who are doing good work right now), but I will say that some locals in a number of hometowns throughout America are arranging collections and transporting them to various shelter sites near and far. These things are greatly needed in some places whose resources have been tapped to their limits.
Anyone with extra clothes, soap, shaving goods, diapers, tampons, towels, or other day-to-day necessities should certainly think about donating those items or arranging a collection among their neighbors. This thing will not be handled by the government with any kind of alacrity, as we've already seen. It will take the hearts and muscles of average Americans to set this to rights.
One warning: before you throw together truckloads of goods, check with your local shelters, be they Astrodomes, school gyms, or community synagogues, and find out precisely what is needed. They might tell you, "We need nine more pillows and some baby formula," when all you've got is a truckload of tee shirts and canned green beans. The more we can organize and communicate, the sooner the nightmare will end for thousands of the displaced.
And thanks again.
|Posted on Tuesday, September 06, 2005 - 12:05 pm: |
Neal, glad to hear that you'll be okay and you have a place to go. I've already donated money, and I'll donate items as soon as I find a place that will take them.
|Posted on Tuesday, September 06, 2005 - 01:15 pm: |
Thanks again, Vylar, and keep doing good.
Anyone, by the way, who wants a bit of cheer amid the gloom can go to this link:
The guy on the lower right is an acquaintance of mine, a good and dedicated cop who spends some of his off hours at the local pub near my home.
|Posted on Tuesday, September 06, 2005 - 04:03 pm: |
Thanks so much for checking in here.
I'm trying to get some necessities to groups that need them. But yes, the problem is getting the rights things to the right people. I'm checking back with the person who requested the stuff two days ago as I only was able to purchase the things yesterday and get the carton to mail them in today. The box won't arrive for at least another few days. By then, they may not need what I've got packed up (soap, toothpaste, shampoo, rubberbands --don't ask me why :-) ).
Anyway, I do hope the responsible heads will roll (especially Brown's of FEMA). There is so much contradictory info as to who is responsible--on the local, state, and fed level --that at this point, nothing much is certain.
|Posted on Tuesday, September 06, 2005 - 04:37 pm: |
It's going to be people like you, and not the government -- any level of government -- who save human dignity in this crisis. While I give all due credit to our military for doing such amazing work saving people and reducing the anarchy in the affected areas, we need to remember that those efforts would not have been so desperately needed, had our government agencies worked the way they should have worked, and the way we were promised they would work when we were taxed to pay for them. And yes, I think you're right: heads will roll at all levels, and I urge all Americans not to accept the paltry sacrifice of a single fall guy. The fish stinks from the head down.
In the earliest days, government not only did not help; it harmed. I know of at least eight people who were ready and willing to drive into New Orleans, into non-flooded areas -- driveable areas -- in order to rescue those trapped in the city. They were not permitted to do so because police could not guarantee their safety. Perhaps I'm out of step with the times, but I don't see that as an acceptable excuse for refusing help. Our government obviously can NEVER guarantee our safety, so what's the difference? Get those men into the city, and let them take people out of the city in their vehicles. But that wasn't what happened, and more people died.
By the way, the first link you posted here, the one from DirectNIC... I know those guys. One of the men with whom I cooperated for survival from Sunday night through Saturday morning (Jim Macallum, a major mensch) worked with them and tried to reach and help them at one point via bicycle, but could not get through.
That Sig and his coworkers at Intercosmos could endure those first few nights in the CBD with their wits intact, and not only that, but come back and keep the rest of us informed about what they saw and heard... to me, that is just amazing. That impresses me far more than the efforts of national newsmen who hover in under guard after it's safe to hit the streets.
|Posted on Tuesday, September 06, 2005 - 10:04 pm: |
I urge all Americans not to accept the paltry sacrifice of a single fall guy. The fish stinks from the head down.
Thanks for posting, Neal. But you seem to have a disconnect about the underprivileged. Let Barbara Bush fill you in: The Modern "Let them eat cake" moment
Here's some more food for thought when accountability comes up later:
AGENCY OF THE DAMNED: Links to all kinds of help that FEMA turned away
The Bush appointee:
Head of FEMA has unlikely background
Will the buck stop where it should? Of course, this site is a chestnut by now, but there are more new grounds than from an ocean-pot of coffee.
Who's working the hardest now at the top level of gov?
Lies and Truth: The Disinformation Campaign
The usual ways that the fallout from this storm is dealt with are (this model is one followed here in Australia and in the UK, too):
Demote whistleblowers and leakers
Reward people like the head of FEMA with Congressional Medals of Honor, and cushy jobs as K-Street lobbyists cum company directors for co's that get contracts with gov.
It is good seeing how people all over are actually doing something to help, including helping animals
Perhaps this is a turning point for America, and if it is, then that would be good for the world.
|Posted on Wednesday, September 07, 2005 - 05:50 am: |
Thanks for posting the AnimalConcerns link; I hadn't seen that one. My wife and I had contacted the Humane Society, which has hooked itself up with a great many other groups and people, including pet food companies and supply distributors, in order to rescue, care for, and place stranded and abandoned animals.
In the apartment building where we held out, there were three abandoned cats which we had to leave behind us (though we managed, by hook and crook, to get our own cat out in the company of a kindly Border Patrol officer). It broke our hearts to leave those animals behind, and to ignore the barking and howling of dogs left in backyards and homes along our escape route. I am grateful to those groups which are going in, searching for trapped and starving animals. I wish I could be with them now.
As for blaming those responsible, I am of two minds. On the one hand, those people are right who say we should concentrate on mitigating the human cost of these disasters (the natural and the man-made) before playing politics. On the other hand, I do not want Americans to calm down and forget to blame, as we have in so many other instances, and I fear that the relief of a succession of accomplishments will dull the healthy fury which should by rights be directed at this disfunctional government.
The bottom line is that Americans have lost control of their governmental agencies. We are taxed to produce collosi which, far from ensuring the smooth flow of men and materiel in times of crisis, instead produce nothing but seas of red tape and mountains of classified documents. And we have sacrificed our own liberties in order create these things. That, by anyone's accounting, is a sucker's bargain.
As far as government being representative of the people, I am quite happy to assure anyone outside the U.S. that this is absolutely not the case. The kindness and generosity that my wife and I witnessed firsthand, and that many displaced Americans are still witnessing, as well as the tremendous courage and will displayed by those Americans who went into dangerous areas long before our tremulous and colitic government gave the go-ahead, testify to the fact that this government (and I don't just mean Republicans) is anything but representative of America. Of course, this brings up the question: if "We, the People" are no longer represented by our government, why do we suffer that government to continue to exist in its current form? Americans from all over this land have proven themselves capable of taking direct action to alleviate the suffering of thousands of their own fellow citizens. I can only hope that spirit will sustain itself in the weeks and months after this crisis once again takes a back seat to celebrity marriages in the national news. There must be change. Sweeping change.
|Posted on Wednesday, September 07, 2005 - 09:31 am: |
The writers of this are two paramedics from New Mexico who were trapped in
New Orleans while there to attend a conference.
the pull quote: Thousands of New Orleaners were prevented and prohibited
from self-evacuating the City on foot.
Hurricane Katrina-Our Experiences
Hurricane Katrina-Our Experiences
Lorrie Beth Slonsky
Two days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, the Walgreen's store at
the corner of Royal and Iberville streets remained locked. The dairy display
case was clearly visible through the widows. It was now 48 hours without
electricity, running water, plumbing. The milk, yogurt, and cheeses were beginning
to spoil in the 90-degree heat. The owners and managers had locked up the
food, water, pampers, and prescriptions and fled the City. Outside Walgreen's
windows, residents and tourists grew increasingly thirsty and hungry.
The much-promised federal, state and local aid never materialized and the
windows at Walgreen's gave way to the looters. There was an alternative. The
cops could have broken one small window and distributed the nuts, fruit juices,
and bottle water in an organized and systematic manner. But they did not.
Instead they spent hours playing cat and mouse, temporarily chasing away the
We were finally airlifted out of New Orleans two days ago and arrived home
yesterday (Saturday). We have yet to see any of the TV coverage or look at a
newspaper. We are willing to guess that there were no video images or
front-page pictures of European or affluent white tourists looting the Walgreen's in
the French Quarter.
We also suspect the media will have been inundated with "hero" images of the
National Guard, the troops and the police struggling to help the "victims" of
the Hurricane. What you will not see, but what we witnessed,were the real
heroes and sheroes of the hurricane relief effort: the working class of New
Orleans. The maintenance workers who used a fork lift to carry the sick and
disabled. The engineers, who rigged, nurtured and kept the generators running. The
electricians who improvised thick extension cords stretching over blocks to
share the little electricity we had in order to free cars stuck on rooftop
parking lots. Nurses who took over for mechanical ventilators and spent many
hours on end manually forcing air into the lungs of unconscious patients to keep
them alive. Doormen who rescued folks stuck in elevators. Refinery workers
who broke into boat yards, "stealing" boats to rescue their neighbors clinging
to their roofs in flood waters. Mechanics who helped hot-wire any car that
could be found to ferry people out of the City. And the food service workers who
scoured the commercial kitchens improvising communal meals for hundreds of
Most of these workers had lost their homes, and had not heard from members of
their families, yet they stayed and provided the only infrastructure for the
20% of New Orleans that was not under water.
On Day 2, there were approximately 500 of us left in the hotels in the French
Quarter. We were a mix of foreign tourists, conference attendees like
ourselves, and locals who had checked into hotels for safety and shelter from
Katrina. Some of us had cell phone contact with family and friends outside of New
Orleans. We were repeatedly told that all sorts of resources including the
National Guard and scores of buses were pouring in to the City. The buses and the
other resources must have been invisible because none of us had seen them.
We decided we had to save ourselves. So we pooled our money and came up with
$25,000 to have ten buses come and take us out of the City. Those who did
not have the requisite $45.00 for a ticket were subsidized by those who did have
extra money. We waited for 48 hours for the buses, spending the last 12
hours standing outside, sharing the limited water, food, and clothes we had. We
created a priority boarding area for the sick, elderly and new born babies. We
waited late into the night for the "imminent" arrival of the buses. The
buses never arrived. We later learned that the minute the arrived to the City
limits, they were commandeered by the military.
By day 4 our hotels had run out of fuel and water. Sanitation was
dangerously abysmal. As the desperation and despair increased, street crime as well as
water levels began to rise. The hotels turned us out and locked their doors,
telling us that the "officials" told us to report to the convention center to
wait for more buses. As we entered the center of the City, we finally
encountered the National Guard.
The Guards told us we would not be allowed into the Superdome as the City's
primary shelter had been descended into a humanitarian and health hellhole.
The guards further told us that the City's only other shelter, the Convention
Center, was also descending into chaos and squalor and that the police were not
allowing anyone else in. Quite naturally, we asked, "If we can't go to the
only 2 shelters in the City, what was our alternative?" The guards told us that
that was our problem, and no they did not have extra water to give to us. This
would be the start of our numerous encounters with callous and hostile "law
We walked to the police command center at Harrah's on Canal Street and were
told the same thing, that we were on our own, and no they did not have water to
give us. We now numbered several hundred. We held a mass meeting to decide a
course of action. We agreed to camp outside the police command post. We
would be plainly visible to the media and would constitute a highly visible
embarrassment to the City officials. The police told us that we could not stay.
Regardless, we began to settle in and set up camp. In short order, the police
commander came across the street to address our group. He told us he had a
solution: we should walk to the Pontchartrain Expressway and cross the greater
New Orleans Bridge where the police had buses lined up to take us out of the
City. The crowed cheered and began to move. We called everyone back and
explained to the commander that there had been lots of misinformation and wrong
information and was he sure that there were buses waiting for us. The commander
turned to the crowd and stated emphatically, "I swear to you that the buses are
We organized ourselves and the 200 of us set off for the bridge with great
excitement and hope. As we marched pasted the convention center, many locals
saw our determined and optimistic group and asked where we were headed. We told
them about the great news. Families immediately grabbed their few belongings
and quickly our numbers doubled and then doubled again. Babies in strollers
now joined us, people using crutches, elderly clasping walkers and others
people in wheelchairs. We marched the 2-3 miles to the freeway and up the steep
incline to the Bridge. It now began to pour down rain, but it did not dampen
As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across the
foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing
their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various
directions. As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and
managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of our
conversation with the police commander and of the commander's assurances. The
sheriffs informed us there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to
get us to move.
We questioned why we couldn't cross the bridge anyway, especially as there
was little traffic on the 6-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was
not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their
City. These were code words for if you are poor and black, you are not crossing
the Mississippi River and you were not getting out of New Orleans.
Our small group retreated back down Highway 90 to seek shelter from the rain
under an overpass. We debated our options and in the end decided to build an
encampment in the middle of the Ponchartrain Expressway on the center divide,
between the O'Keefe and Tchoupitoulas exits. We reasoned we would be visible
to everyone, we would have some security being on an elevated freeway and we
could wait and watch for the arrival of the yet to be seen buses.
All day long, we saw other families, individuals and groups make the same
trip up the incline in an attempt to cross the bridge, only to be turned away.
Some chased away with gunfire, others simply told no, others to be verbally
berated and humiliated. Thousands of New Orleaners were prevented and prohibited
from self-evacuating the City on foot. Meanwhile, the only two City shelters
sank further into squalor and disrepair. The only way across the bridge was
by vehicle. We saw workers stealing trucks, buses, moving vans, semi-trucks
and any car that could be hotwired. All were packed with people trying to
escape the misery New Orleans had become.
Our little encampment began to blossom. Someone stole a water delivery truck
and brought it up to us. Let's hear it for looting! A mile or so down the
freeway, an army truck lost a couple of pallets of C-rations on a tight turn.
We ferried the food back to our camp in shopping carts. Now secure with the
two necessities, food and water; cooperation, community, and creativity
flowered. We organized a clean up and hung garbage bags from the rebar poles. We
made beds from wood pallets and cardboard. We designated a storm drain as the
bathroom and the kids built an elaborate enclosure for privacy out of plastic,
broken umbrellas, and other scraps. We even organized a food recycling system
where individuals could swap out parts of C-rations (applesauce for babies and
candies for kids!).
This was a process we saw repeatedly in the aftermath of Katrina. When
individuals had to fight to find food or water, it meant looking out for yourself
only. You had to do whatever it took to find water for your kids or food for
your parents. When these basic needs were met, people began to look out for
each other, working together and constructing a community.
If the relief organizations had saturated the City with food and water in the
first 2 or 3 days, the desperation, the frustration and the ugliness would
not have set in.
Flush with the necessities, we offered food and water to passing families and
individuals. Many decided to stay and join us. Our encampment grew to 80 or
From a woman with a battery powered radio we learned that the media was
talking about us. Up in full view on the freeway, every relief and news
organizations saw us on their way into the City. Officials were being asked what they
were going to do about all those families living up on the freeway? The
officials responded they were going to take care of us. Some of us got a sinking
feeling. "Taking care of us" had an ominous tone to it.
Unfortunately, our sinking feeling (along with the sinking City) was correct.
Just as dusk set in, a Gretna Sheriff showed up, jumped out of his patrol
vehicle, aimed his gun at our faces, screaming, "Get off the fucking freeway".
A helicopter arrived and used the wind from its blades to blow away our flimsy
structures. As we retreated, the sheriff loaded up his truck with our food
Once again, at gunpoint, we were forced off the freeway. All the law
enforcement agencies appeared threatened when we congregated or congealed into groups
of 20 or more. In every congregation of "victims" they saw "mob" or "riot".
We felt safety in numbers. Our "we must stay together" was impossible because
the agencies would force us into small atomized groups.
In the pandemonium of having our camp raided and destroyed, we scattered once
again. Reduced to a small group of 8 people, in the dark, we sought refuge
in an abandoned school bus, under the freeway on Cilo Street. We were hiding
from possible criminal elements but equally and definitely, we were hiding from
the police and sheriffs with their martial law, curfew and shoot-to-kill
The next days, our group of 8 walked most of the day, made contact with New
Orleans Fire Department and were eventually airlifted out by an urban search
and rescue team. We were dropped off near the airport and managed to catch a
ride with the National Guard. The two young guardsmen apologized for the
limited response of the Louisiana guards. They explained that a large section of
their unit was in Iraq and that meant they were shorthanded and were unable to
complete all the tasks they were assigned.
We arrived at the airport on the day a massive airlift had begun. The
airport had become another Superdome. We 8 were caught in a press of humanity as
flights were delayed for several hours while George Bush landed briefly at the
airport for a photo op. After being evacuated on a coast guard cargo plane, we
arrived in San Antonio, Texas.
There the humiliation and dehumanization of the official relief effort
continued. We were placed on buses and driven to a large field where we were forced
to sit for hours and hours. Some of the buses did not have air-conditioners.
In the dark, hundreds if us were forced to share two filthy overflowing
porta-potties. Those who managed to make it out with any possessions (often a few
belongings in tattered plastic bags) we were subjected to two different
Most of us had not eaten all day because our C-rations had been confiscated
at the airport because the rations set off the metal detectors. Yet, no food
had been provided to the men, women, children, elderly, disabled as they sat
for hours waiting to be "medically screened" to make sure we were not carrying
any communicable diseases.
This official treatment was in sharp contrast to the warm, heart-felt
reception given to us by the ordinary Texans. We saw one airline worker give her
shoes to someone who was barefoot. Strangers on the street offered us money and
toiletries with words of welcome.
Throughout, the official relief effort was callous, inept, and racist. There
was more suffering than need be. Lives were lost that did not need to be
|Posted on Wednesday, September 07, 2005 - 12:41 pm: |
So glad to know that you and yours are okay! :-)
|Posted on Wednesday, September 07, 2005 - 12:42 pm: |
100 Reasons Why Someone Might "Refuse" to Evacuate
|Posted on Wednesday, September 07, 2005 - 12:43 pm: |
This is unbelievable. I mean, I believe it. But it makes me despair for the state of our country, and for the state of our news media.
|Posted on Wednesday, September 07, 2005 - 03:15 pm: |
Ellen, thanks for that wonderful account. My own group had a nearly identical experience on the bridge. Local police were telling us we would be permitted to cross on foot if we explained that we had folks on the other side waiting to move us along. This was not the case. On our first trip up, in a pouring rain, near the head of a sea of people, we were drawn up short near the entrance to the bridge by the bark of a shotgun blast fired into the air.
On our second attempt, again on the advice of misinformed NOPD, we were informed that, by law, foot traffic was disallowed on the bridge "365 days a year, 24 hours a day." By law. Thank you, officer, but couldn't we, considering the circumstances, suppose this to be day 366, hour 25? No? Okay. Back down we went, back to our "survival bunker," having already given away half our available water to others remaining behind us.
Of course, we were also told by NOPD over the phone on our last day, before we marched out to the collection center, that our way down St. Charles Avenue was "the only safe route" because it was "heavily patrolled" by local law enforcement and National Guard. There were no cops or troops in sight in either direction, only looters working hard to crack open video poker machines and display cases in shops whose window-boards bore signs reading "Looters Will Be Shot!"
|Posted on Wednesday, September 07, 2005 - 03:16 pm: |
Thank you, Vera. Nice to be around to visit these boards again.
|Posted on Wednesday, September 07, 2005 - 04:15 pm: |
One distinction I would like to offer to anyone who viewed the early chaos from outside, especially through the filter of a sensationalist media, is the distinction between a "looter" and a "scavenger." This distinction may be nonexistent for some highly moralistic folks living in the more manichaean districts of our universe, but for me, it has tremendous relevance.
There were initially thirteen of us barricaded in the apartment building where we holed up. While we had non-perishable food to last several days and water enough for three or four, we also had four people with special health and medical needs, including one woman with MS in remission (requiring refrigerated injections of an interferon drug), one woman who had recently undergone major invasive surgery on her shin, and one young man who had a seizure disorder and had depleted his prescription.
When the Walgreen's drugstore at Felicity and St. Charles was looted, some of our number were among those who went in, with a strict goal: secure what we needed to survive. In such cases, you go after bottled fluids and non-perishable foods. The chances of getting batteries are slim, as most will have gone before the storm. One woman among us entered the pharmacy and secured a supply of the very medicine our young man needed to avert his grand-mal seizures. That was a considerable relief to those of us who had begun discussing what we would have to do when that inevitable first seizure came.
When the Zara's grocery on Prytania was looted, we went in for water and canned foods, not only for ourselves, but also for a neighbor who was holed up with his elderly mother-in-law, as well as a couple on the next block who had been stranded with a two-year-old daughter when their ride out of the city panicked and took off without them. There was precious little to be had, but we did get some still-frozen meat, which we grilled that night, steeping some of the leftovers in fruit juice to keep them from spoiling. This was scavenging, and I am not in the least ashamed to have done it.
This is not to say there were no actual looters. I saw a man come from the direction of a looted Walmart with nothing in his shopping cart other than a large ceiling fan, still in its box. Another man and his son lugged a wide-screen plasma television down St. Charles on the third day after the storm passed. One organized group of looters circled our neighborhood in stolen dairy van, visibly armed. To be sure, these people exist, and they were out in numbers after this storm.
But there is a clear difference, to me at least, between such people as those, and the mass of stranded citizens who were anxious to lay in supplies which would keep them and their families alive long enough to be rescued. They could not walk out, and the scene at the collection points was deadly, with no demonstrable relief in sight. They were stuck, and they --we-- did what we had to do.
|Posted on Wednesday, September 07, 2005 - 06:16 pm: |
There must be change. Sweeping change.
The most important place to sweep is under the rug.
The bottom line is that Americans have lost control of their governmental agencies. We are taxed to produce collosi which, far from ensuring the smooth flow of men and materiel in times of crisis, instead produce nothing but seas of red tape and mountains of classified documents. And we have sacrificed our own liberties in order create these things. That, by anyone's accounting, is a sucker's bargain.
As far as government being representative of the people, I am quite happy to assure anyone outside the U.S. that this is absolutely not the case.
Neal, I admire and applaud your spirit, but must disagree with a perception. Americans haven't "lost control" and agencies don't "produce nothing but seas of red tape". Americans didn't HAVE control, and agencies roll out red carpets for those with the connections. Agencies are in fact, service agencies for pros who use the government as a welfare provider (the energy bill, the latest pork-laden budget with that $230 million bridge to nowhere) and an active obstructionist for socially useful projects and products that conflict with the corporate-government chimera status quo. As for racism, I see this more as a continuation of the attitude to the poor and weak. There's a REASON they are, and therefore they deserve to be punished for it. My own experience of the US is of people helping people, and gov being corrupt.Years ago I was arrested along with others for obstructing a wrecking ball that was tearing down an apartment to build a parking lot (though there was a court order to delay the wrecking). The cops were there to arrest us before we even arrived that morning, and we all got fingerprinted, my own charming fingerprinter making sure his hands travelled all over my body under my clothing in the process). America has, in my experience, treated all poor people indiscriminately, like shit. I hope your words get spread widely, and that you can inspire others. Much does need to be done, but to do it, people need to realise that for government to be for the people, the people need to make it OF the people.
Some urgent changes need to be made:
Attack from every quarter, public policy made for private interests--which means that a system of public interest monitoring needs to be instituted.
Do everything possible to seal the revolving door and flatten every K Street in America
Penalise those who politically appoint people with the kind of creds that the head of FEMA has
Constant vigilance. (I have extensive experience with US government agency corruption--another agency Americans think is there to protect them, but is also there for private profit, and obstructionism of public interest changes. This isn't just an American problem. This is a picture of regulatory agencies around the world now, thanks to a certain extent to the US model--Brussels and Canberra have their K Streets, too) See Spinwatch
End gerrymandering (the system Schwarzenegger is proposing will end the pattern of reelection being a slam-dunk)
Celebrate and actify upon the qualities that you have spoken of here:
The strength of people when they help each other and when we communicate
The weakness of us all when we are reduced to passivity and separation
One other issue as an example of private interest for screw-the-public profit, that the public knows nothing about, but which in my opinion, is a man-made disaster being created to happen, is the creation of chimera as a solution for human disease, due to be fast-tracked by the FDA to approval next year for the purpose of cross-species transplantation, despite knowing that the pandemic "risks" aren't just pisswilly; they're certainties. As a social issue that screws the poor of the entire world for the dubious benefit of a few rich, there is no other that can come close. The implications are not being told to public, and the press is complicit in this crime, as it is in the state of affairs in the US today. Chimera and cross-species transplantation are, in short,ideal biological land mines. This is what I would call banal terrorism, and no nation would be able to cope with the consequences.
Sorry if you all think this is irrelevant and possibly taking advantage of a situation. I've worked on this issue for years and no one cares. Perhaps now is the time to bring this up.
|Posted on Wednesday, September 07, 2005 - 08:20 pm: |
If you can't “convey a positive image”, then ban the press and they'll accept the banning meekly (mostly), or just kill the ones who still think their job is to show the truth.
This is how Iraq coverage is managed, and how the press is dealt with in places like Sudan, though they haven't been killed there with such impunity.
More journalists killed in Iraq than Vietnam
|Posted on Wednesday, September 07, 2005 - 08:46 pm: |
A Katrina Repository:
Thinking of both Let us Now Praise Famous Men and everything that Studs Terkel has done.
The Katrina Repository would be the bank of stories and photos of as many survivors (and not) as possible, and would include places--past, now and as they change. This would, I think, be an invaluable project of great importance to both America and the world. It would need a coordinator, and would need to have gov clearance, but if the press and publishers and writers of America can't get this done, then America is truly f***d, and myths and forgetfulness will be all that is left from this tragedy. I would nominate Studs Terkel as the leader of this project, titularly only perhaps. There are many stories now on the web, such as the outrageously should-be-fake-but-they-aren't that Ellen has posted here. They have no central place that they are stored or collected. They are being challenged now, and the history of this time could end up being as dry-cleaned as Nixon was before he died.
|Posted on Wednesday, September 07, 2005 - 09:00 pm: |
"That there are some who were untouched or, indeed, did rather well isn’t exactly news. This has been true of all disasters. The great many were wounded, in one manner or another. It left upon them an ‘invisible scar’….The suddenly-idle hands blamed themselves, rather than society. True, there were hunger marches and protestations to City Hall and Washington, but the millions experienced a private kind of shame when the pink slip came. No matter that others suffered the same fate, the inner voice whispered, ‘I’m a failure.’”
“True there was a sharing among many of the dispossessed, but, at close quarters, frustration became, at times, violence, and violence turned inward. Thus, sons and fathers fell away, one from the other. And the mother, seeking work, said nothing. Outside forces, except to the more articulate and political rebels, were in some vague way responsible, but not really. It was a personal guilt.” - Studs Terkel, from Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression
Predictions today are that 400,000 jobs will be lost. The National Guard is trawling the shelters. Americans might look at their tax and regulation structures immediately to see what can be done to encourage more employment, rather than the discouraging system now, which just creates fewer jobs with longer hours.
|Posted on Thursday, September 08, 2005 - 05:14 am: |
Neal am glad you are ok, I remember noting over a year back when arguing with you about some scientific controversy, having to do with teleology in science I think, that you were at Tulane.
|Posted on Thursday, September 08, 2005 - 09:37 am: |
I live in St. Tammany parish which is directly north of New Orleans. Slidell was directly in the path of the eye. I am a deputy sheriff and have spent the last several days on search and recovery teams going house to house in ravaged subdivisions, breaking into houses and looking for bodies.
The economy here is going to take a nosedive. Over 40% of the residents of St. Tammany worked in New Orleans. Over half of the deputies who are busting their asses on the streets have no home to return to at the end of their shift. St. Tammany used to have some of the best schools in the state, but as the tax base drops to nothing, the quality of the schools is going to drop as well. My husband and I are lucky in that we both still have jobs, but we also have a 16month old and we are looking very seriously at relocating in the next year or so. Still not sure where, but we know we have to go somewhere.
|Posted on Thursday, September 08, 2005 - 02:38 pm: |
America needs another WPA, and a new New Deal.
It's got Halliburton. Today "Cheney tours Hurricane Region to Evaluate Response"
America needs another White House of ER and FDR, but the White House it's got is another Harding.
|Posted on Thursday, September 08, 2005 - 02:59 pm: |
Diana, best wishes to you. What a heartbreaking job you are doing, and your own lives are still in the eye of the storm.
|Posted on Thursday, September 08, 2005 - 05:43 pm: |
"I just got back from a FEMA Detainment Camp"
|Posted on Thursday, September 08, 2005 - 08:59 pm: |
Evacuees' stories are moving, but fence isn't-Diane Carman, Denver Post
If I didn't know better, I'd have thought I was peering through the fence at a concentration camp.
Volunteers feel pain of evacuees-Ken Hoffman, Houston Chronicle
Clothes mark the man.
Lots of people think they're charitable if they give away their old clothes and things they don't want. - Myrtle Reed
In the eightpenny dormitories the beds are comfortable, but there are so many of them (as a rule at least forty to a room), and so close together, that it is impossible to get a quiet night.The numerous restrictions stink of prison and charity....A man receiving charity always hates his benefactor- it is a fixed characteristic of human nature" - George Orwell, Down and Out in Prison and London
What do you call love, hate, charity, revenge, humanity, magnanimity, forgiveness? Different results of the one master impulse: the necessity of securing one's self-approval. - Mark Twain What is Man?
|Posted on Thursday, September 08, 2005 - 09:14 pm: |
Glad that you're okay. I tried e-mailing you last week (obviously without success.) I'm very sorry that you went through such a terrible ordeal. Drop me an e-mail if there's anything I can do (linked in the address.)
|Posted on Friday, September 09, 2005 - 12:45 am: |
Thank you so much for posting such a wealth of info on the tragedy. Eye-opening and horrifying.
Treat decent people as criminals, and lo and behold, suddenly they are.
Treat criminals as people, and lo and behold, suddenly they are.
|Posted on Friday, September 09, 2005 - 12:46 am: |
Hang in there, hon!
|Posted on Friday, September 09, 2005 - 08:57 am: |
"I live in St. Tammany parish which is directly north of New Orleans."
Diana, to you and yours, my best wishes and my fondest thanks. You folks took it on the chin, and I'm just grateful that St. Tammany had so many brave people to pull the rest of the survivors through this.
When you're ready, I'd like to hear your story.
|Posted on Friday, September 09, 2005 - 09:04 am: |
AT, the Katrina Repository sounds like a great idea. I was thinking of something like a "wall of rage" where survivors could get their frustrations out by posting whatever screed they had bottled up, however incoherent. But an actual memorial sounds even better.
I'd like to see an exhibit demonstrating not just what people DID, but what our leaders FAILED to do. I'd like to see the emergency evacuation plans which were ignored, reports on the capacity and status of the Superdome, eyewitness accounts from police officers who weren't told where they could send people, and (most important) the Louisiana state budget for the four years or so leading up to this man-made catastrophe.
|Posted on Friday, September 09, 2005 - 09:55 am: |
Here's something that's been kicking around in my head for a few days. I guess it just finally kicked hard enough to force its way out.
News guys from out of town. Why can't they learn the various districts and regions in Southeastern Louisiana? It really isn't that hard, folks. New Orleans, especially, is a dinky little city. I've walked from one end to the other in a single day, and still had time to do a little shopping. So why do I keep hearing about fires and shootings in some vaguely defined "New Orleans"?
Look, you have the French Quarter, right? Everyone knows where that is. It's the place where college kids do most of their vomiting. Just up from that, across Canal, is the CBD (Central Business District). That's the place with the really high buildings and fewer people vomiting. If you get to Lee Circle, you've gone too far, and if you get to the lake, well.. you're wet.
Now, uptown from Lee Circle, it gets a little more complicated, but the city is still easier to navigate than, say, a Las Vegas suburb. If you're just following St. Charles, you'll go through the Lower Garden District, with streets named after muses and traditionally (and proudly) mispronounced by locals. Then, past Washington, you're in the Garden District proper. Further along, you hit the Riverbend, where (you guessed it) the river bends. Then you're just "uptown." Not that tough, really.
Outside of New Orleans is NOT New Orleans. Algiers, Terrytown, Slidell, Marrero, Bucktown -- they all have their own names. Hell, they've earned them. They aren't just "the greater New Orleans area" anymore than Bakersfield, California, is the "greater Los Angeles area."
Maybe these news guys should be required to take along a local who knows the ground. The networks and newspapers could pay these "Indian scouts" and defray some of the loss of income. And the rest of us would be getting more accurate reporting. Speaking as someone whose apartment was still intact and unflooded when he left, I'd really appreciate knowing where a "fire in the Garden District" is burning, exactly.
|Posted on Friday, September 09, 2005 - 08:44 pm: |
Non-Retaliation Policy Urged for State and Federal Whistleblowers Who Come Forward in the Aftermath of Katrina National Whistleblower Center
The following statement was released by Stephen M. Kohn, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Whistleblower Center, regarding the protection of the potential whistleblowers that will come forward in Katrina's aftermath:
We call upon the Bush Administration to issue a public statement promising to protect any employee who steps forward with allegations of misconduct related to the federal or state response to Katrina.
Although a number of laws protect employees who may raise allegations concerning the failure to plan for or respond to a catastrophic events arising from Katrina, the National Whistleblower Center fears that the Bush Administration's past retaliation of whistleblowers will have a chilling effect on a majority of the people willing to come forward. The American people need to learn the truth about what went wrong and to make sure that the appropriate corrective action is taken.
We urge any employee who intends on making a disclosure on potential government misconduct to obtain counsel to prevent potential retaliation. Although a number of laws protect whistleblowers, it is the experience of the NWC that employees who blow the whistle to Congress are often given more protection than those that disclose such information to other sources.
The National Whistleblower Center also coordinates a network of attorneys nation-wide who are prepared to take referrals from whistleblowers, including employees who are considering whether to step forward with allegations related to the official response to Hurricane Katrina.
|Posted on Friday, September 09, 2005 - 08:49 pm: |
Read A Federal Whistleblower's Story by Teresa Chambers, in this month's Ethical Spectacle.
In agencies that span Federal service, conscientious public servants are struggling to communicate vital concerns to their true employers - the American public. Is anyone listening?
|Posted on Saturday, September 10, 2005 - 06:34 pm: |
US Postal Service instructions (see Current News)
|Posted on Monday, September 12, 2005 - 03:19 pm: |
AT: "Penalise those who politically appoint people with the kind of creds that the head of FEMA has"
Now, hold on just a second. There will come a time -- and mark my words, this day is coming upon us with wrath and fury -- when show-horses overrun a major U.S. population center. The time will come, a time of whinnying and clopping and green piles of recycled plant matter in the summer heat. On that day, you and all those like you will count your blessings that our president had the wisdom to appoint Michael Brown head of FEMA. And if you think such a disaster anything less than disastrous, imagine what havoc a single horse could wreak in downtown Los Angeles, a city where thousands of people drive SUVs with Green Party bumper stickers, a city for which "nature" is part of a question on an E-Harmony dating quiz. Okay? Now imagine that chaos and confusion magnified one-dozenfold. Get the picture? Thank God for the horse-fancier.
|Posted on Monday, September 12, 2005 - 04:04 pm: |
Gordon Van Gelder
|Posted on Monday, September 12, 2005 - 08:27 pm: |
For a bit of humor that's emerged from the disaster, take a look at this auction:
For me, the funniest part is the heated discussion in the questions section at the bottom. Reminds me a bit like this message board . . .
|Posted on Tuesday, September 13, 2005 - 07:32 am: |
That is VERY cool.
I'm just listening to a Chicago radio station that has some people talking about their experiences. The show was After the Flood:
|Posted on Tuesday, September 13, 2005 - 07:50 am: |
Since I have a 16-month old I was allowed to evacuate. We drove up to Monroe, LA where one of my stepdaughters lives and spent the night there. Good thing we had family there, because the next available hotel room was in Little Rock. The next day we drove back, skirting south and west to avoid the storm. We stopped in Baton Rouge just after dark and found one chinese restaurant open. There was no menu--they were serving shrimp with vegetables. It was the best shrimp with vegetables I've ever had. As soon as we left Baton Rouge there were no more lights.
We got off at our usual exit and continued up Highway 190. Dark and eerie does not even begin to describe it. But then we turned onto Harrison--a fairly major street--and thus began the most terrifying thirty monutes I think I've ever experienced. The street had been cleared barely enough for emergency vehicles to pass. At first we thought that surely a tornado had come through--for what other explanation was there for the hundreds of trees down and the power lines and power poles that draped over and through the trees and branches? But after several miles we realized it was no tornado. Anna woke up screaming and I took her out of the carseat and just held her as Jack drove at a crawl, working our way through the maze of ravaged trees.
Then we turned into our subdivision and saw that our house was still standing. We got out and realized that it had not flooded. We walked around and realized that we had not even suffered a broken window. The fence in the back was down, and the top of the chimney had come off, but that was it. Jack and I stood in the back yard and hugged each other and cried.
|Posted on Tuesday, September 13, 2005 - 11:45 am: |
Diana, thanks for your story. My wife and I saw some of our favorite local buildings blown to splinters, while ours suffered only two minor roof leaks. Nothing a little patching and some fresh sheetrock can't fix.
But the desolation... My god, you're right to describe it as beyond eerie. I'll never look at a post-apocalypse movie again with any sense of suspension of disbelief. I mean, blowing newspapers? How about lawn furniture on top of a van, plantain trees propped up by power lines, baby strollers floating down side streets, jolly bicyclers telling you about the body two streets away that's been there for three days. Alfred Jarry couldn't write anything this surreal.
One walkabout, Jim and I ran into a guy just standing there in a tee shirt and boxers or running shorts, staring at a palm tree that had crushed a wrought-iron fence. Or maybe it was the house a block beyond that had been completely erased by the winds, scattered out across the street and the yard beyond. "Shit is just THERE!" was what he said. Yeah, I thought, "shit is just there."
|Posted on Tuesday, September 13, 2005 - 12:13 pm: |
When I returned to work I went out on the search and recovery teams in Slidell. Remember, the eye went through Slidell and there was a 30 foot storm surge. It looked like the hand of god came through and swiped everything aside. It wasn't search and rescue. It was too late for that. S&R involves going door to door, breaking in, and searching the house from attic to foundation for bodies.
When houses flood, things float. Furniture, refrigerators, papers, books, washers and dryers. And when the water recedes everything comes back down in a jumble. A muddy nasty jumble. And after several days it becomes a moldy muddy nasty jumble.
We tried to do as little damage to the houses as possible when we forced entry, which was probably an expression of denial on our parts since most of these houses were beyond recovery. But we'd try to break small amounts of glass, or not destroy the door frames entirely when we pried our way in. Once inside it was the ugly business of stepping carefully through treacherously slick mud, spilled food from the toppled refrigerators, and the mold. And the smell, god almighty, the smell! My greatest triumph was not slipping and falling on my ass in the mud.
We would search through the house, shouldering open warped doors, and then clambering atop piled debris to get to the attic openings. Then finally we could leave the stench and heat and get outside into the fresh air and heat. We'd paint our mark on the front of the house that would show other search teams that we'd been in the house and then move on to the next house. I don't know how many houses I went through with my team. I was the team leader, with three guardsmen working with me. I was on search teams for three days, and at the end of each day I would go home--because I had a home to go home to--and get in that cold shower and try to decontaminate myself. The first night I had to wash my uniform in the bathtub. The next day Jack bought a generator so that we could have some lights, a small window unit AC, and the washing machine. Still no hot water though. We lived downstairs and slept on air mattresses because it was too ridiculously hot upstairs.
But in three days of searching in an area where we just KNEW that we were going to find a large number of casualties, we found no bodies.
|Posted on Tuesday, September 13, 2005 - 12:19 pm: |
Has anyone been keeping track of the diseases in NOLA? I know typhoid was a worry because of the horrifying fact that dehydrated and delirious people will attempt to drink the waste-polluted floodwaters. But I'd also heard of the fear of cholera. I know there was one cholera-LIKE disease in a shelter population, something-vulnificus, but I haven't heard word of Corporal Forbes himself actually rearing his ugly head. Anyone know of cases that didn't hit the mainstream media?
Our own group was very conscientioius about slathering up with DEET to keep the corpse-nipping mosquitos at bay. Also, everyone from our group is getting tetanus shots and treatment for possible Hep-B. But we had it relatively easy. I'm really worried about folks in flooded areas, those who had to cool their heels on roofs for four or five days while the swarms of mosquitos had free rein.
|Posted on Tuesday, September 13, 2005 - 12:38 pm: |
Diana, I'm glad you found no bodies. I only hope that means folks got the hell out of there. While my wife and I were sitting with our friends, eating cheese and bread ("Get the perishables in your bellies"), and drinking wine ("Try not to think about it tonight"), I was wondering about those folks in the path of the eye. I felt we were foolish to lose our last opportunity to get out, and I just hoped that the folks in Slidell got out, that their neighbors didn't load some motorcycle into the pickup rather than packing six people into it.
When we were on the bridge the first time, trying to get across the river to my friend's father in Algiers, we saw at least three empty pickups sail past us, honking and never, ever slowing down, lest somene jump in the empty bed. I remember hating the living hell out of those bastards. I wanted the cops at the top of the bridge to blast holy crap out of those drivers, toss the bodies into the river, commandeer their vehicles, and then say, "Okay, we can take eight more across." I think that first day on the bridge was when the fury really started to build in me. We were lucky enough to live in a neighborhood where everyone pulled together and looked out for one another. But those selfish bastards zipping across that bridge with empty trucks... man, I've never felt so much like murdering my fellow man as I did then.
|Posted on Tuesday, September 13, 2005 - 12:46 pm: |
Yes, far more people evacauted than we had ever hoped for.
I don't know about specific diseases, but I know that I ended up with a lingering cough from the moldy houses, and a certain intestinal malady that is finally beginning to ease up.
|Posted on Tuesday, September 13, 2005 - 04:55 pm: |
Diana, I hope you got all your shots in a timely fashion. My wife went down today to get tetanus and hep-B shots. She stepped on a tack embedded in a shingle. My only skin breaks were from a downed pine blocking a neighbor's gate; my wife and I chopped it back so the neighbors could get out or EMTs could get in, whatever. But I remember seeing neighbors wading through standing filth to gather up "flush water" for their toilet tanks. I asked them if they knew what was in the water, and they replied, "We got our shoes on, don't worry about us." Great.
|Posted on Tuesday, September 13, 2005 - 07:18 pm: |
I got my Hep B when I started with the Sheriff's office--after an incident with a woman who did not wish to be arrested in a calm and orderly fashion. I got tetanus two months ago when I got bit by a snake. I got Hep A this morning and I got a B-12 shot this morning... though it was only half a dose (all they had left) so does that make it an A-6 shot?
|Posted on Tuesday, September 13, 2005 - 07:18 pm: |
Oh, really cool site:
|Posted on Thursday, September 15, 2005 - 05:59 pm: |
Diana and Neal, your postings are exactly the kind of real history that needs preservation and wide dissemination. Thank you for keeping this up.
|Posted on Thursday, September 15, 2005 - 07:05 pm: |
You're welcome. Right now, I think a lot of survivors just need to sound off. And since I've never been a shy little fellow...
Seriously, though, I've landed in one of the most conservative places you can imagine (Southern California, north of Los Angeles), and I've been reading the newspapers for the past two days. Neocons are coming untrained over this stuff. "Why do honest taxpayers have to shell out when these morons don't have sense enough to come in out of the rain?" "Why the hell should I pay tax money to rebuild a city that was below sea level to begin with?" "Why don't they leave poor President Bush alone? This was clearly an act of God."
I just want to remind them that those who were flooded out, burned out, run out, and looted out were also American citizens and taxpayers. I want to remind them how much their fellow Americans payed the last time a spate of wildfires or a flurry of earthquakes decimated SoCal communities. I want to remind them that what killed all these people was NOT the hurricane, but the RESPONSE to the hurricane. Really, I want to tell them to sit down and shut the fuck up before they wake up toothless on the corner of Sadder and Wiser. I hate the reaction I've been seeing here. And I was born and raised here!
People's ignorance can be colossal. Sometimes, that ignorance is willful and hideous, a "See-No-Evil" response that is the only defense against the sacrifice of misplaced political faith. But even otherwise sympathetic people don't know what it was like there. I've said this before, but the city I left on K+6 was NOT New Orleans. It was like some sick cross between Mad Max and the fall of Saigon. And I had it good! Other people -- people I met and talked with, not imaginary "poor" -- had it far worse. The Santa Cruz family, with whom my wife and I waited for evacuation, lost everything they ever knew, including a mother and sister! Compared to them, we got showered with grace.
Oh yeah, there are a lot of stories that need to be told -- and listened to. The thing that bothers me more than anything else is that the politicos and spin doctors will cool this fire before it's really lit the night. I hope like hell that doesn't happen. This is a fire that needs to burn. It needs to burn up bureaucracies and institutions. It needs to burn up our childish faith in government quick-fix solutions to deep procedural problems. It needs to burn up our complacency at government malfeasance and porkbarrel politics. People have been saying that some good will come out of this. If it does, that good will be a reversal of the fat, grinning cynicism that has ruled our culture for the past couple decades. We need to start getting serious again about our politics, because Katrina was a political disaster, not a natural disaster.
|Posted on Thursday, September 15, 2005 - 07:40 pm: |
Neal, I want to quote too much of your posting, it makes me want to stand up and cheer so much, especially the last para.
For days I've wanted to ask why there isn't a movement, "Give back the pork". I just looked it up to check, and there is! Spread this one around. Give Back the Pork
That's only something little, granted. The real changes needed are just where you placed your finger.
As for God, it's odd, isn't it, that the very people you point out as saying This was clearly an act of God want to shove the biggest terrorist in history down our throats, and ask up to say thank you for it, and to thank the creep for leaving us, the living, breathing. Terrorist or psychopath, no one is as efficient at picking on the weakest and most helpless whenever an Act of God occurs. I'm all for a War on Terrorism there.
|Posted on Thursday, September 15, 2005 - 07:43 pm: |
A word about toilets.
If you've never spent more than a day without running water, you probably don't know what it's like not to be able to flush a toilet. Oddly, one of the modern conveniences most important to quality of life is plumbing. Working plumbing. We didn't have that, and it was miserable.
Going five days without a shower was bad enough. Yeah, you get a bit ripe. But after a few days, you adapt. Everybody starts to smell pretty much like everybody else, and your sense of smell starts to block out the stench.
But toilets? That's a totally different matter. Unless you want to lose what little moisture you've managed to put into your belly, you'll do everything you can to ensure you have a clean, flushable toilet. I'm not trying to gross anyone out. This was a major consideration for us while we were bunkered.
One survival tip I'd like to pass on to anyone who thinks he or she might be stuck in a similar situation (do you live in earthquake or tornado country?) is this: Don't sacrifice a drop of liquid. I don't care whether it's orange juice, transmission fluid, or pig's blood. If it's liquid, and it has any kind of specific gravity, it can be used to flush a toilet. If the grapefruit juice goes bad, pour it into the tank. If you're wary of the apple juice, pour it into the tank. If it rains, set all your tupperware bowls beneath drain spouts, catch all you can, and pour it into the tank.
You'll thank me later.
|Posted on Friday, September 16, 2005 - 11:01 am: |
AT: "Terrorist or psychopath, no one is as efficient at picking on the weakest and most helpless whenever an Act of God occurs."
There's a Wilco song, "I Can't Stand It." It's a jaunty little ditty about armageddon with lively piano melodies backing lines like "Your prayers will never be answered again" and "No love's as random as God's love." Your lines made me think of that song.
Coincidentally, I had made a couple of sampler CDs for my sister and brother a few days before the storm hit (the Wilco song was on one of them). I had intended to mail them out, but never found the time. Those CDs, because they were with a couple of notebooks for my dissertation, were among the bare handful of things I grabbed on my last trip to my apartment. When I got to Las Vegas, where my brother and sister live, I handed over the CDs, and we listened to them.
The first song on the first CD was Johnny Cash, "The Man Comes Around." I had forgotten it was on there. Hearing that song at that time gave me a slight case of the creeps.
|Posted on Friday, September 16, 2005 - 05:45 pm: |
Some of the more powerful images I recall from the six days we spent in post-storm NOLA:
The neutral ground on St. Charles, the parade route for the uptown Mardi Gras parades, shorn of its trees. The trees lay on their sides, uprooted, glittering beads still dangling from their branches.
Zara's Grocery, its security gates ripped and twisted as though by a frustrated giant.
The line of Army National Guard helicopters, from Chinooks to Apaches, lining up in the sky over the Convention Center like taxis outside an airport.
"Robot Lady," the homeless schizophrenic who lived near my block and sheltered at the Norwegian Seamen's Church, soldiering her way down Prytania after the storm as though nothing whatsoever had changed.
Five armed looters hanging out of the back of stolen Brown's Dairy delivery van, waving their AK-47s and pistols in triumph.
My own apartment breezeway blocked by a toppled banana tree, its three near-ripe pods of bananas dangling just off the ground.
A minivan resting on the back of a mid-sized sedan as though it were mounting the smaller vehicle.
A brick-and-wood building blown almost completely into the street, but with one window left perfectly intact, still sporting its gaudy purple curtains.
A man out walking his dog in Coliseum Park, surrounded by downed oaks and shattered branches and wind-flung rain gutters from blocks away.
The sea of shocked faces marching slowly, haltingly up the ramp to the Crescent City Connection, the bridge that would take us across to Jefferson Parish and freedom.
The wave of bodies hitting pavement, like toppling dominos, as those same marchers reacted to the blast of a sheriff's shotgun warning us not to attempt crossing the bridge.
St. Charles Avenue with no cars, no streetcar, no pedestrian traffic.
The Milky Way in the sky above New Orleans, perhaps for the first time in decades.
An old man in his undershorts and a pair of pink flip-flops who asked me, two days after Katrina made landfall, "So, any news about when they'll have the power back on?"
These are just a few of the things I recall.