Third Party & Independents Archives

New York and New Orleans

I live and work Manhattan. On September 11, 2001, I watched in horror as the World Trade Center collapsed, killing nearly twenty eight hundred innocent people. I walked from my midtown office to my apartment in Murray Hill through the shocked and frightened throngs in the streets. I invited some of my co-workers who lived in the suburbs and couldn’t get home to my apartment, and we watched our mayor go on television and try to put our “unimaginable” loss into words.

In the ensuing days, lit candles began appearing on mailboxes, strangers gathered at street-corners to pray, and heart-wrenching flyers began to get taped onto the walls of buildings. What began as a trickle became a deluge. Thousands of them. The city became plastered with them.

Invariably, they all contained a color photo. The people in the photos were young and old, men and women, black and white and Hispanic, affluent and working class, Catholic and Jewish and Moslem and Protestant. Invariably, they showed the smiling face of someone at a wedding or a picnic or a bar mitzvah or a family holiday or an office party. Invariably, they all said the same thing: "John Smith. 47 years old. 6'1" and 195 lbs. Worked at Cantor Fitzgerald in the South Tower on the 102nd floor. If you see him, please ask him to call his wife, Mary, at XXX-XXX-XXXX." Invariably, the rain and the wind made them illegible eventually, and they slowly disappeared.

I lived near Bellevue Hospital. As I walked my dog past the hospital that terrible afternoon, I remember seeing dozens of doctors milling around outside the Emergency Room, waiting for the injured and wounded who would never arrive.

Bellevue is also the location of the City Morgue. As the days passed, I remember watching as the refrigerated trucks began to appear, converted into makeshift morgues. I also lived near one of our National Guard armories. One of my dog-walking acquaintances told me that Bellevue had run out of room. The City Coroner had decided to place the overflow from his morgue into our local armory. The bodies would go to Bellevue; the body parts would go to the armory. As long as I live I will never forget the haunted, shell-shocked faces of the families of the victims of that heinous crime as they walked from the hospital to the armory and back again, day in and day out, searching from some scrap, some shred, some small piece of evidence that they could claim as a memento from a person they had loved.

And when all was said and done, using the most sophisticated scientific techniques available, they could only find positive DNA matches for slightly more then half of the victims. Nearly thirteen hundred people had been obliterated, pulverized into nothingness.

I recall all of this as I watch the television coverage of the death of New Orleans. And I'm angry. I'm angry with myself. Just like the tragedy in my city, the disaster in New Orleans didn't have to happen. We, you and I, could have prevented both tragedies. It wasn't our government's fault. It wasn't Bush or Clinton or Gore or Cheney or any of them. They work for us. That's the beauty and the agony of a democracy. If we want to take the credit, we have to take the blame. It's our government, our responsibility, our fault, not theirs. It can't let us down; we can only let ourselves down. We're adults. We could have done more. We should have done more. We have to do more. But we let our petty differences and our childish squabbling get in the way.

In a way, the catastrophe in New York was more cauterizing. It was over in a matter of minutes, almost before we could really come to grips with what had happened. And we had an evil foreign villain to blame, straight from central casting. This time it's different. People are dying there as I write these words. This is a slow-motion disaster, which is made all the more horrific because we can watch it unfold and listen to its victims. And it's our fault because it didn't have to happen.

I was moved to write these words because I read the transcript of an interview that the Mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, gave to a local radio reporter. It made me recall some of the interviews Rudy Giuliani gave after 9/11. I imagine that Rudy would have said pretty much the same things that Ray is saying if he hadn't been able to get the help he needed either. Ray is watching the city that he loves as it drowns, as much from Lake Ponchartrain as from a sea of red tape and neglect.

If you haven't already, I urge you to read the transcript of his interview.

To quote the mayor,

"I don't know what to say. I got to go."

Posted by Chuck Hanrahan at September 3, 2005 2:22 PM
Comments
Comment #77757

Chuck, in a direct democracy, the people have themselves to blame. In a Republic representative government, the people can rightly blame the representatives if and when incompetence or lack of proper priorities demonstrates itself, as was the case of 9/11. Jury is still out on Katrina’s damage and losses.

Posted by: David R. Remer at September 3, 2005 3:33 PM
Comment #77759

Chuck,

Bravo! Very moving.

Now, how do we fix it? How much is enough? What will it take? How do we make America right again?

Posted by: Stephanie at September 3, 2005 3:39 PM
Comment #77760

David,

We let the system get out of control.

Posted by: Stephanie at September 3, 2005 3:40 PM
Comment #77766

The first thing we can do is fire that Bush Appointee incharge of FEMA. The guy’s got NO related work experience other than fundraising for the RNC!!!

Posted by: Aldous at September 3, 2005 3:50 PM
Comment #77768

Aldous, this was a disaster that obviously required after 24 hours, a declaration of federal disaster and federal mobilization. The absence of such action demands scrutiny of a great many of Bush’s appointees as heads of many different cabinets. And of course the man elected to coordinate them all.

Posted by: David R. Remer at September 3, 2005 3:57 PM
Comment #77801

Chuck, excellent post. I do believe we have to take a more active part in how we take care of ourselves. Our representative republic has provided us an opportunity to become complacent and simply blame the government when things go wrong. We do need to step up and demand more from ourselves and our fellow citizens. Washington has become a convenient scapegoat for many of our problems. Granted, incompetence magnifies the problem and this administration has been nothing if not derelict in it’s response to the disaster along the gulf coast. At a minimum, I hope this shakes off some of the apathy at the voter booths, and we pay more attention to the people we put into office. Cronyism, patronage and favor are no substitute for competence. We need to be more active in demanding that offices such as FEMA are headed up people who are professionals who are expert in the field. A week of reckoning has occurred. Hopefully we will demand that our congress and our president focus more on capability than on patronage.

Posted by: Dennis at September 3, 2005 5:11 PM
Comment #77802

I thought you were going to compare NYC 9/11, where we saw no signifcant looting and nobody shot at the police to New Orleans.

I know we are in blame the president mode, so I won’t break the feeling, but there is an interesting difference. The Feds did little for NYC in the first days after the attacks. Yet New Yorkers behaved well. New Orleans did not.

Was this because it was a natural diaster? How differently is NYC organized than New Orleans? What did NYC do right in the first minutes? Was it because the damage in NYC was more localized? The reasons for this difference may be less fun than the blame game, but the answers to those questions could be more helpful in the long run.

Posted by: jack at September 3, 2005 5:24 PM
Comment #77816

jack,

I think one of the significant factors is the divide between the American people is much more entrenched now. Some people blame Bush for EVERYTHING and some blame him for NOTHING.

People seem to me more likely to tout their party line, no matter how little sense it makes.

Posted by: Stephanie at September 3, 2005 6:41 PM
Comment #77855

Jack, the difference is in NYC, roads, vehicles, and emergency personnel had access to the devastation site, and most victims were killed instead of being isolated from the rest of the country without food, water, or shelter for days on end. Huge, differences, Jack, HUGE!

Posted by: David R. Remer at September 3, 2005 8:52 PM
Comment #77867

David,

Yes, there is a huge difference. However, considering the way government tends to work, I do wonder if Ray Nagin is screaming so loud to cover up his own butt. I haven’t seen him actually doing a whole lot.

Posted by: Stephanie at September 3, 2005 9:43 PM
Comment #77877

Jack, you will be interested in just who is Bush Bashing, how about Newt Gingrich:

…former US House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) — a potential 2008 Presidential candidate — made almost identical comments. Here is what Gingrich said Friday: The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina “puts into question all of the Homeland Security and Northern Command planning for the last four years, because if we can’t respond faster than this to an event we saw coming across the Gulf for days, then why do we think we’re prepared to respond to a nuclear or biological attack?”

It was Bush who asked to be reelected to finish the job. It was Bush who was in charge to coordinate and insure our nation’s ability to deal with the next catastrophe after 9/11. Indeed, under Bush’s leadership, “why do we think we’re prepared to respond to a nuclear or biological attack?”, to use Newt Gingrich’s own words.

Posted by: David R. Remer at September 3, 2005 10:10 PM
Comment #77878

David,

The point you don’t seem to get is that Bush can’t do it alone, and he shouldn’t have to. If the local government’s drop the ball, then expecting the fed gov to instantaneously pick it up seems a bit unfair. Louisiana dropped the ball. New Orleans dropped the ball. They’re the ones I’ve heard complain. Are things this bad in the other two states that got hit by the hurricane?

Posted by: Stephanie at September 3, 2005 10:16 PM
Comment #77882

and to add to David’s comments, they were being held captive and not allowed to walk out! Why couldn’t they have dropped in water, food, medical supplies on Tues? And I can’t imagine Ray Nagin had the resources to help over 50,000 people get out of that situation. No mayor would. He was there for god’s sake! what would he have to cover up?

Posted by: Betty Roggenkamp at September 3, 2005 10:27 PM
Comment #77891

Betty,

“He was there for god’s sake! what would he have to cover up?”

Um…not using every city bus available to get as many as possible out in the days BEFORE Katrina hit?

Posted by: Stephanie at September 3, 2005 11:00 PM
Comment #77908

jack,

As a young man, I moved to New York in the summer of 1977. Interesting time to be in NYC for the first time. The summer of the Son of Sam. The Yankees won the pennant and the Bronx burned during the World Series in prime time.

But what I remember most vividly was the blackout. The deranged man outside my window screaming about Armageddon. And the looting, the arson, the cops getting shot.

A friend of mine from college was watching the movie Star Wars in Times Square. (Yes, it was that long ago.) The screen went dark, and the manager told the audience to go home. The subways were shut down so he had to walk back to his dorm at Columbia University, through Harlem. He said it wasn’t so bad until he got to 96th street. Then, it became a war zone. The poor, the dispossess, the hopeless, the neglected and ignored had turned their decrepit neighborhood into a free-fire zone.

I relate these recollections to tell you that people who have nothing to lose are the same everywhere. Whether it’s a blackout in New York, a flood in New Orleans or an invasion in Baghdad, they’ll lash out at authority. Any authority because, frankly, they don’t give a shit. They’ve been dealt a raw deal, and payback’s a bitch.

But that’s no excuse. To understand is not to condone. The vast majority of the victims in New Orleans conducted themselves with as much honor and integrity as the circumstances permitted. I just hope that, if you or I are ever confronted with such travails and temptations, that we would resist the urge that we might have to lash out in greed or anger. I think we would, but I hope that we’ll never have to find out.

And that’s what we have to ask from our elected representatives. It could have been you or I in New Orleans, or Harlem, or the World Trade Center. As long as the chasm exists between those who lead our republic, regardless of party politics, and those who support them, we’re nothing more than abstractions, numbers they manipulate to meet their cravings for power and glory.

Sorry I hadn’t had a chance to comment earlier, but I’d becomed transfixed, glued to the television, watching the mind-numbing horror show of the needless suffering of my compatriots. I had to clear my head.

I don’t have any answers, save one. Our arguing about blaming this tragedy on any specific individuals is sophomoric and idiotic. The problem is not personalities. The same thing would have happened if Kerry or Nader or Donald Duck had been elected president in 2004. The problem is systemic. It was the system that let those people down, not the people who happened to be running it when the levees were breached. But we created this system, and we can change it. How many more World Trade Centers or apathetic responses to natural disasters is it going to take?

A week ago tonight, I posted a tongue-in-cheek comment about an interview I’d seen on CNN as Katrina was bearing down on New Orleans. The local head of Emergency Response predicted 40,000 to 50,000 casualties if the storm made a direct hit on the city. I guess his comment didn’t really register until I saw the devastation with my own eyes. I’d laughed it off. I mean here’s the guy in charge of emergencies taking about nearly as many casualties as we suffered in Vietnam! That was his plan for God’s sake!!!

I had to ask myself some tough questions. How could I have smirked at such a ridiculous idea? Why wasn’t I outraged? Have I become as numb to the suffering of others as he was? What’s my threshold of permissible losses? And I didn’t like the answers.

I’m just old enough to remember Walt Kelly’s comic strip, Pogo, and his most famous punch line:

“I have met the enemy, and he is us.”
It looks to me as if he still is.

Posted by: Chuck Hanrahan at September 4, 2005 1:00 AM
Comment #77909

Stephanie, Mayor Nagin had no communications. His martial law declaration was passed to the people by word of mouth, and his police force sectioned off an area as large as they could manage and worked around the clock to maintain order in that area, while the rest of the city was left to fend for itself.

But, that is not the issue. The issue is, Bush was in charge after 9/11 with insuring that our nation was ready and capable of responding to national catastrophe. And it was obvious and reported after about 24 hours that a major catastrophe had struck. Bush and his cabinet heads were, dare I use the word, ‘slow’ to get it. And even slower to respond.

But even before the storm hit, our federal government had ample warning that a major catastrophe was likely going to occur. The federal government did nothing. What has to happen? Does OBL have to walk up to the Whitehouse gate with a megaphone and announce to GW Bush that a catastrophic event is going to happen in 5 minutes, to get a rise out of him, his FEMA, Homeland Defense, Red Cross, and plethora of other agencies and organizations to get them to take action, preemptive and proactive?

The Bush administration has set the taxpayers back large numbers of billions of our dollars in the name of being prepared to respond, preemptively and proactively to the threat of catastrophe. The threat was obvious at least 2 days before landfall. Bush failed. His appointees failed. They were the ones with the helicopters, the corps of engineers, the power to override “posse commitatus”, the power to alert and mobilize the national guard before the storm made landfall.

None of that happened. Bush was on vacation. What’s new?

This looks to me like 9/11 all over again. Bush asleep at the wheel along with his cabinet heads sitting on warnings and the date, 9/11, and not knowing what to do with the information.


Posted by: David R. Remer at September 4, 2005 1:13 AM
Comment #77911

I think Chuck hit upon something very important here: on 9/11, the disaster was over within hours, the dead dead, and the living alive.

But in New Orleans, the disaster still commenses, folk’s fates are still undecided. Even now we aren’t getting to all the folks we need to be getting to. In some ways it would be inevitable that it would be too late to help some, but these are things of margins.

Before you judge us Democrats or Liberals as being overly partisan, you should consider this: it did not take us long to find out that Bush had slashed the FEMA budget, demoted it from cabinet level, subjugated it to the unwieldy Homeland Security, and alienated many of the professionals of the department by putting a political adviser of his with little actual disaster relief experience in charge of FEMA. These were all easy to find. They do not mean that Bush intended Katrina to happen. Heck, I think he’d just as soon have avoided the headache. Fact is, though, his policies did leave us unprepared, and its an easy and simple argument to make from the facts.

What’s the good spin on that? Where should a Republican’s notion of what mistake is differ from a Democrats on this count?

I don’t hold much sympathy for those who knowingly and willingly cut Disaster Preparedness and levee-strengthening funds in pursuit of other goals. They took a gamble with our countries future, and we all lost. The best way to start over is to stand up and admit the truth, then work our way out of this problem

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at September 4, 2005 1:46 AM
Comment #77920

David & Stephen,

I’m not saying Bush doesn’t hold some responsibility. Obviously he does and he’s welcome to it as far as I’m concerned.

What I’m saying, and what you’re not getting, is if the Fed. Gov. fails I want to know, I want to be damned sure, that my local government doesn’t fail too.

You can blame Bush all you want, except for the fact that I think such thoughtless blaming brings us closer to civil war, I really don’t care. Bush’s reputation can be plenty tarnished for what he has definitely done wrong. However, if you really want to place blame, make sure it sticks.

They ALL failed! They ALL could have done something to prevent this DISASTER! This wasn’t a dirty bomb or anything like this. They ALL knew it was coming! Fed, state, city government could have all stepped in and said, “You know, this is going to be bad, we’ve GOT to get these people out of here!”

Our country has buses, in mass. I bet Louisiana does too. And I’ll be New Orleans does too. I’ve never been there, but I’d bet just about anything that between school buses, city buses, and Grey Hound, they could have massed a huge fleet of commandeered public transportation saying, “Everybody’s getting out of here!” With a police force to back it up. IF people didn’t move, then call the Governor and the Governor could have sent HER military force to handle the matter. IF that wasn’t sufficient, THEN call the feds.

But, if you feel better blaming Bush…enjoy!

Posted by: Stephanie at September 4, 2005 2:23 AM
Comment #77922

My hometown, where I was born and raised, was in the direct path of the hurricane.

I cannot find a way to express to anyone here, the amount of devastation that has been caused. There has never been a disaster of this magnitude on American soil. An 18 year old boy waited in a gas line for 7 hours and as he pulled away a man came up and shot him in the head and stole his car. A brother killed his sister for ice. This is in my city! The city of Baton Rouge has tripled its size. 100,000 regufees are in Houston at the astrodome. Jackon, MS has doubled it’s size. Power remains out. Water remains out. People are dying for lack of medication, from the heat. They can’t get out of the cities unless they walk. People are drilling into cars to siphon off the gas. The refugees from New Orleans keep spilling out into the outlying areas, which are just as devastated. Coordinated groups are scouting out abandoned homes and looting them.

Generators are useless, because there’s no gas to run them.

We’ve been trying for a solid week to get word if my parent’s house is still standing, but the cell phone network is down, the phone network is down. My mother is in charge of home caregivers, how do they get help with no phone, no power, no gas? The red cross is setting up relief centers, but no one can get to them.

Road after road is blocked.

I look at the coverage of Sept 11th. And I see the coverage of what is happening in Mississippi and Louisiana and I can’t fathom it. We need to mobilize the entire nation.

450,000 people lived in New Orleand. 1.3 million lived in greater new orleans. That’s more than 1 in 300 americans. But the hurricane hit a wider swath of cities. I wouldn’t be surprised if 1 in 50 americans has a close friend or relative left homeless by this disaster.

The scale is staggering.

In any case, this will be one of my last posts. If you can, donate to the red cross or the salvation army. Better yet, call your congressmen and tell them to get off their asses and get creative. the mayor is right, get every greyhound bus in the nation to head down there. Get every flatboat to boat out there. Get every Amtrak train at your disposal.

It will be months before we finish counting the dead.

Posted by: Julia at September 4, 2005 2:32 AM
Comment #77923

“They work for us. That’s the beauty and the agony of a democracy. If we want to take the credit, we have to take the blame. It’s our government, our responsibility, our fault, not theirs. It can’t let us down; we can only let ourselves down. We’re adults. We could have done more. We should have done more. We have to do more. But we let our petty differences and our childish squabbling get in the way.”

It’s funny Chuck, when I read this I got a shock of surprise. I guess I’ve just been assuming that the fact that all of us constantly come here to discuss (and often pettily squabble about) politics makes us the kind of people who also do plenty in regards to letting our government hear from us.
I pester my state Senators and Congress people on an almost daily basis — through phone calls, e-mails, letters if I feel something is extremely important, and by signing both actual and e-mail petitions. And once you get on their mailing and e-mail lists, they start sending stuff to you, telling you what they’re working on, what concerns them most, and what petitions they’d like for you to sign. Also, you can get on other lists — for instance, I get regular e-mails from ‘Act for Change’ and ‘MoveOn’. I don’t necessarily sign every one, but they can keep you very well apprised of what’s going on in the White House, the Senate and House, and even the Supreme Court.

Jack:
“signifcant looting and nobody shot at the police to New Orleans.”

I think it’s rather ridiculous how some people keep bringing up the looting. Most of those people were in survival mode while the New Orleans police dept. lost two thirds of their force to desertion, and the National Guard was no where to be found. What else can we expect from people when no help arrives and an entire city has been destroyed? If you were there and had just lost everything, were wading around in water, with no one to help you, and no one to organize you and assure you that you and your family would be taken care of, you’d be looting clothing, and shoes, and water, and food, and lots of other stuff, too.
I know I certainly would. Really, one would have to be really stupid not to do so. And if the cops were trying to stop you from getting what you needed while not assisting you to any of those things or to safety in any way, and you had a gun in your hand, is there any possibility you might shoot it off to scare or even kill them in order for you and your family to survive? Really, think about it. I have a feeling the whole social fabric disintegrated quickly because there was no emergency plan going into immediate effect — if there had been, it would have calmed people down right away.
As for the numbers of dimwitted looters taking high-end crap instead of necessities, does it really matter? Isn’t that city pretty much a total wreck and a total loss? And don’t the wealthier businesses and corporations have plenty of insurance that will help them recover their losses? I believe they most likely do. In a nightmare mess like that it shows a real lack of true priorities to be worrying about protecting businesses or merchandise and shooting at looters when giant mobs of people in and outside the convention center are being left to their own devices for so long that they start terrorising each other, don’t you think?

“The Feds did little for NYC in the first days after the attacks. Yet New Yorkers behaved well. New Orleans did not.”

I think it’s because FEMA broke all the rules of Human Decency. They didn’t make sure that the sick, the elderly and the poor people who had babies and young children got out. The truth is, they could have commandeered all kinds of busses and trains to get those people to safety before the hurricane even struck, but they didn’t do it. Instead, what we saw was a PRIVATISED version of disaster evacuation.
They told everyone that they SHOULD leave, rather than they all MUST leave — therefore, only those with the means to do so got out, while most of those who were left behind didn’t have the means and/or the strength to help themselves.
This kind of a mentality is a disgrace — the kind that brings shame to all of America. We have leaders who know how to take our taxdollars from us, but they nothing about how to lead honorably or how to act with decency and responsibility towards We the People. It makes me sick.

“What did NYC do right in the first minutes? Was it because the damage in NYC was more localized? The reasons for this difference may be less fun than the blame game, but the answers to those questions could be more helpful in the long run.”

I think there are several important reasons that NYC got it so right. First, there the city had/has a lot of money to work with. Always has, always will. New Orleans is/was a much poorer city. Secondly, Being a very densely populated city and an enormous tourist mecca for the entire world, their fire and police dept.’s are very well rehearsed in all kinds of situations — and their large city budget has always allowed for disaster planning and drills to be a high priority. Third, they had the National Guard to call upon at that time — in other words, they weren’t drastically reduced due to the fact that they were fighting a war in a foreign country.

David:
Jack, the difference is in NYC, roads, vehicles, and emergency personnel had access to the devastation site, and most victims were killed instead of being isolated from the rest of the country without food, water, or shelter for days on end. Huge, differences, Jack, HUGE!

Yup. The road situation wouldn’t even have needed to be a factor though had they simply loaded people onto trains to take them out of the range of the hurricane though.

“It was Bush who asked to be reelected to finish the job. It was Bush who was in charge to coordinate and insure our nation’s ability to deal with the next catastrophe after 9/11. Indeed, under Bush’s leadership, “why do we think we’re prepared to respond to a nuclear or biological attack?”, to use Newt Gingrich’s own words.”

Clearly we’re not prepared at all. That’s what you get when an idiot like Bush puts political appointees with little, if any, emergency-management experience in senior FEMA positions. So instead of someone like James Lee Witt, we get someone like Michael Brown, whose qualifications were that he headed the International Arabian Horse Association before his position with FEMA. Kind of amusing in a dark, sick way — that he could lead a horse to water, but he couldn’t get the people of New Orleans anything to drink.

Posted by: Adrienne at September 4, 2005 2:56 AM
Comment #77924

Adrienne,

You excuse the looting so easily, but shouldn’t those people have moved heaven and earth to get out BEFORE the hurricane hit? How about the rape and the murder, do you excuse that too?

*sigh*

Bush and his entourage f.u., true, but so did everyone else involved.

Posted by: Stephanie at September 4, 2005 3:25 AM
Comment #77925

Stephanie, the power to commandeer other jurisdictional resources for an enforced evacuation lies with Governor’s and the President. Period. Below these levels of office, all that an office holder can do is request.

Additionally, where exactly landfall would be made, and on what course once it did, was not confidently projectable until the last 16 to 20 hours. The mayors failed in not anticipating shortages for those they knew were going to be left behind. Beyond that, it is logically very hard for me to find fault with their preparations, thought that was a serious and damning fault.

But, Mayor Nagin, had not the confiscatory power to take supplies that would be needed in the Convention Center and Dome on such short notice. He had no legal authority to do so, and the quantities needed as we now know, would have required confiscatory power.

Posted by: David R. Remer at September 4, 2005 3:35 AM
Comment #77927

Legal power be damned, David! By your own statement, you’re saying the man played it safe and cover his own butt, instead of taking an obviously NECESSARY risk and affecting the safety of those under his charge!

IMO, they are all responsible!!! Any one of these people could have stepped up to the plate and prevented this tragedy! Any one of them. And they all failed!

How many unnecessary civilian deaths does it take to prove dereliction of duty? 10? 100? 1,000? From Bush to Nagin, and everyone with any remote responsibility in between, all failed, and they all deserve their pink slips over this. You want to get Bush out of office? I think this could do it! Get Nagin and everyone else out too!

I’m angry! I’m just…

Disaster strikes and it’s politics as usual. How pathetic is that?

Posted by: Stephanie at September 4, 2005 3:48 AM
Comment #77928

Stephanie:
“You excuse the looting so easily, but shouldn’t those people have moved heaven and earth to get out BEFORE the hurricane hit?”

Those people have lived through lots of hurricanes. They most likely assumed that it would be just another like so many they’ve weathered before. Bush and FEMA were supposed to be getting all the info from the National Weather Center, if they’d been on top of things, they would have demanded a mandatory evacuation like Clinton did with Hurricane Floyd in 1999. They also knew about the dangers to the levees. It was their responsibility to do it, but they didn’t. Instead like I said before, it became a privatised evacuation — the rich got out, while the poor, sick and elderly were left to fend for themselves or die trying.

How about the rape and the murder, do you excuse that too?

No, rape under any circumstance is inexcusable. But murder, on the other hand, depends entirely on the circumstance. If my husband, or my child, or my mother, father, sister, brother, or friend was dying of thirst in 90 degree heat, and anyone tried to stop me from getting them water, or anything else they needed, I’d shoot to kill. Definitely.

“*sigh*”

Likewise.

Posted by: Adrienne at September 4, 2005 3:48 AM
Comment #77935

Stephanie:

The people did not leave because they were too POOR!!! Do you know how much money it takes to leave? Where would they go? Its not as if there were evacuation centers outside the Hurricane Path BEFORE it hit.

The most telling story is the one of two Hospitals. Charity Hospital and the private Hospital across the street. The Charity Hospital and its ENTIRE Patient Ward had to watch while the ENTIRE Private Hospital evacuated via Helicopter. EVERY DOCTOR, NURSE and PATIENT in the Private Hospital got out.

This is what it means now in America. The Rich get away while the poor dies.

Long Live the Republican Party!!!

Posted by: Aldous at September 4, 2005 7:02 AM
Comment #77936

Aldous, exactly.

I’d like to say, 1) it is not chaos down there, but it is a desperate situation. In desperate situations, the fringe element will do crazy things. 2) from first hand accounts, I know that individuals who were frantically trying to get help from helicopters kept watching them pass by and by and by and by, and so they got the bright idea of shooting at them to get their attention. Not smart, but not everyone shooting is trying to kill. 3) Greater new orleans has 1.3 million people, and yes, there is a large portion of them that are poor. 40 or 50 thousand people staying behind makes sense. Those are the sickly, weak, and poor. (or all 3). If you are a mother who just had a baby, are you going to evacuate, or stay in the hospital shelter? If you have no car, how do you get out, especially when you can’t miss a day of work? The smart poor people that were there walked to the Superdome. And some died there from lack of medical care, from the heat, or lack of food.

There are many stories of true heroism and kindness. But at the end of the day, the scale of the devastation is unbelievable. You need 15 gallons of gas to escape from here. How do you get it? And where do you go? Most lines of communications still remain down. Information is being passed by word of mouth. Yes, things will get better in a few days. But the sickly can’t last that long. And they aren’t. And this isn’t in New Orleans, it’s in a swath 70 miles around new orleans. It’s Gulfport, Biloxi, Petal, Hattiesburg, and all the outlying communities east of where the eye hit (the worst hit areas).

Posted by: Julia at September 4, 2005 7:22 AM
Comment #77937

Again, it’s not just New Orleans:

http://www.hattiesburgamerican.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050904/NEWS05/509040301/1002

attiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree is angry, upset and scared.
“I started trying to get federal help in here on Monday and six days after this town has struggled to get enough water and ice for its people we finally hear from the feds,” DuPree said Saturday.

Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Mississippi Gulf Coast on Monday and slashed its way through Hattiesburg and the Pine Belt. Two representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency arrived in Hattiesburg Saturday.

“I didn’t have an airplane or a telephone or a radio that worked,” DuPree said. “Finally, I just sat in my car and yelled. No one heard that either.”

He would welcome President Bush to come to see “how desperate we are for help and fast from the federal government. The people of Hattiesburg are resilient and we are working hard to meet our own needs, but we are overwhelmed.”

Posted by: julia at September 4, 2005 7:26 AM
Comment #77938

“Is a critical care nurse a critical worker?” he asked. “What about a funeral home director who has bodies piling up? What about linemen and utility workers? I’d say yes to all of those because they all play critical roles in keeping our city safe.”

DuPree suggested the federal government open the fuel reserves at Camp Shelby and cut through the red tape to get fuel to people who are desperate.

DuPree, who has been operating since Monday on about two hours of sleep daily, admitted that he’s probably got a short fuse and one that’s getting shorter by the hour.

DuPree said there are some bright spots. He said the response by the American Red Cross has been fantastic.

Something you can do:

Call your congressmen and tell them that they should open the fuel reserves at Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg. Tell them that two days to get this done is too long. This needs to happen in hours.

Posted by: Julia at September 4, 2005 7:28 AM
Comment #77993

Adrienne,

“Those people have lived through lots of hurricanes.”

And I’ve lived through a lot of tornandos…the difference is, when it comes down to my family’s safety, the buck stops with my husband and myself, nobody else. Worrying about rent, or missing a day’s work, doesn’t excuse me for not taking care of my family’s immediate needs. They gambled and lost.

“It was their responsibility to do it, but they didn’t.”

A lot of people flubbed on their responsibilities, but hey, if you want to place all of the blame on Bush, go ahead. Politics as usual.

“I’d shoot to kill. Definitely.”

And yet, you consider it too much to expect for them to do what it takes to get out before the hurricane hit? Hmmm. Poverty: an excuse to stay put like a sitting duck and then kill afterwards. Nice! No wonder so many liberals believe in socialism.

Money is not something I have in abundance. I have a family of six and we live on less than $25,000 a year. If you think I’m going to use that as an excuse for me not getting my family to safety, you’re quite wrong. If my family is in immediate danger, yes I would use lethal force, but I would and do think things through to prevent that necessity.

If worse comes to worse, and all those poor really didn’t have any means (i.e. a car, credit card, ect.) then they share, it’s that simple. Your friend Joe has a car, but can’t afford gas, so you go to a Check for Cash place, get a few hundred bucks, pile both families into the car (now’s not the time to worry about seat belts) and get out. Not that difficult. It’s called problem solving!

However, that being said, this doesn’t take the blame away from Bush, or Brown, or the governor (I don’t know her name) or Nagin, or any of the other officials from all the areas hit. Nor does it take away my sympathy and compassion for these people. But, if it’s soooo important to place blame, you got to be sure to hit ALL the bases. See, me, I would have preferred to avoid the whole blame thing to begin with, which is part of the reason today is my last day on Watchblog for awhile.

Posted by: Stephanie at September 4, 2005 1:23 PM
Comment #77995

Julia,

As someone who chose to stay, I have to ask:

Why? Why was the gamble worth it? Did you realize you were risking your life?

Posted by: Stephanie at September 4, 2005 1:26 PM
Comment #78000

“He was there for god’s sake! what would he have to cover up?”

Um…not using every city bus available to get as many as possible out in the days BEFORE Katrina hit?

According to today’s (sunday) New York Times, New Orleans did use every available bus to get people to “safety.” In this case
the Superdome. It may be the case that there weren’t enough buses to get all those people out of the city and, clearly, there wasn’t any place ready to take them out of the city even if they could.

Posted by: steve at September 4, 2005 1:48 PM
Comment #78001

There’s a different comparison between Katrina and New York city to think about.

By coincidence, last week I started reading the book Triangle about the Triangle Waist Shirt factory fire of 1911, in which some 140 people were killed in 20 minutes.

It has this choice quotation: Many times before, a disaster was followed by a predicatble train of consequences: shock, then outrage, then resolve, all leading to lip service dwindling into forgetfulness.(p. 172)

Posted by: steve at September 4, 2005 1:53 PM
Comment #78006

From the Washington Monthly:

BEHIND THE CURTAIN….George Bush’s photo-op tour of New Orleans yesterday has apparently driven Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu over the edge. Today she blasted FEMA for its feeble response to Hurricane Katrina and Bush for his phony, stage managed promises of action:

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.

Full article here

Posted by: Adrienne at September 4, 2005 2:21 PM
Comment #78045

I’ve got an idea. How about a well organized, carfully planned, and completely habitable Crecent City Refugee Center on the CAPITAL MALL in Washington, on Bush’s and Congess’ doorstep, say, with accomodations for 25,000+ (or whatever is feasible) and designed for several months habitation (we’ll call it the ‘CCRC’)? This could be a focus for the massive protest marches that are long overdue in the area. I know, winter will be a problem and things will probably have to end long before then, but it’s a thought.

M.

Posted by: Michael Sirotta at September 4, 2005 9:48 PM
Comment #78064

Stephanie,

Quite frankly, you have no idea what you are talking about. Duing the last evacuation, my friends sat in traffic for 16 hours and made it 15 miles out of the city. Have you seen what it looks like to get half a million people out of an area in two days? It ain’t pretty.

I do not live in the South anymore. I was supposed to be in New Orleans when the hurricane hit, but due to a variety of reasons (which had to do with giving birth), I happened not to be there. However, if I had been in New Orleans, I would have given birth to a baby three days before the hurricane hit, and that baby would have gone into the NICU (where he is now) and I would have been unable to evacuate. That’s the real world.

My family lives there. They live in the direct path of the hurricane, but further inland. The dead doctors I know died because they stayed behind to triage patients who couldn’t be moved because there are only so many highways and so much time to get out.

I know a woman who had a stroke and was living with her son who has no car. He took her in a wheelchair to the Superdome toting her oxygen tank with him. We haven’t heard from them.

My family takes care of people with disabilities. My friends work in FEMA in Mississippi. There are clergy missing, clergy who stayed behind to help organize the poorer neighborhoods.

It is random that I am here and alive today. My husband had a job in New Orleans, and I decided at 6 weeks from my due date that it was too much stress to go. Because I went into labor early, my family is all here safe with me.

The nieghbors in my own street, have come under cover in the darkness and stolen gas out of my parent’s cars, and dismantled their lawn mower for gas. We have friends sitting in their house with a gun, guarding it.

This isn’t simple. And this isn’t politics.

You can try to make sense of the situation by believing that only the stupid people stayed behind, and there is some sense in their deaths because they should have known better. In two months, we’ll see if you feel the same way.

Posted by: Julia at September 5, 2005 1:59 AM
Comment #78283

Interesting sight on the news Sunday morning… I saw in New Orleans a parking lot full of school buses windshield deep in water, just sitting there. I wonder if anyone in New Orleans thought to tell the Mayor that you can haul more than kids in those buses. Crazy notion here, perhaps they could haul families out of the city before the storm hit. Probably couldn’t start, Hey, let’s blame George Bush for that too.
The fact is they were warned and the city of New Orleans dropped the ball. The only thing the mayor can do is rant on radio and the governor cry. Some leadership. If the local officials couldn’t handle the problem in the beginning, how can you expect the feds to work any quicker.

Someone tell me when this country ever reacted before a storm hit the coast. NEVER. How can you react when you don’t even know exactly where the storm will hit. Katrina missed the projected path by hundreds of miles. Once it hits, then go in and rescue. But you can’t rescue when they are firing on you. Send in a helicopter, they shoot, send in a supply truck, they hijack, send in a boat, they shoot. Bush is to blame there as well, I’m sure.

Posted by: Denuded at September 5, 2005 9:28 PM
Comment #78582

…long live Bush…..long live the President! Take a stick to those diplomats from Lousiana - something stronger for those looters.

Posted by: Bob at September 6, 2005 10:16 PM
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