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Heroes Community > Other Side of the Monitor > Thread: Hurricaine Katrina -- Report from the Front
Thread: Hurricaine Katrina -- Report from the Front
Peacemaker
Peacemaker


Honorable
Supreme Hero
Peacemaker = double entendre
posted September 07, 2005 10:49 PM
Edited By: Peacemaker on 8 Sep 2005

Hurricaine Katrina -- Report from the Front

I have a friend named Wendell, the gentleman in New Orleans who took care of us while my husband was having emergency retinal surgery on his eye when we were there on a business trip last August. We'd made friends and kept in touch over the course of the year.

Here's the exchange.

Quote:

Sunday, August 28, 2005  8:57 p.m.
Peacemaker wrote:
Hi -- it's [Peace and Hubby] from Denver!

I'm watching with horror as you guys are about to get washed away. I hope you've gotten out on time.

I thought of sending you an e-mail earlier today then thought you were probably already in that stream of cars they've been showing on the highway on the news all day. Stupid me; no telling if you could access your e-mail from another location where you might already be.

Wendell, I'm worried. As soon as you can, send me an e-mail from wherever you're receiving this message and let us know you're okay. I foresee you guys in New Orleans losing pretty much everything and want to know if there's anything I can do.

I hope I'm wrong.

Hope to hear from you soon.

Peace.


Eight days passed.  I left town Friday and went to the San Luis Valley, where I had no television and no radio stations were accessible.  When I returned Monday, this message was in my box:

Quote:
----- Message -----
From: Wendell *******
Sent: Monday, September 05, 2005 1:00 PM
Subject: Re: worried about you


I made it out of new orlean on Saturday that just passed. I am so lucky because time was definitely running out for me. I seen dead bodies all over the streets of New Orleans. Thank God that all my family members made it out alive. I am staying in a shelter in Nacogdoches, TX. Thanks for the concern. I am very broke and I have no money. My home is under water.


This alarmed me because Wendell was either so tired he was using vernacular grammar (which he usually doesn't do) or it was somebody else posing as Wendell.  Nonetheless, I assumed it was he.  I responded:

Quote:
Wendell --

Thank God you're alive. I'm so, so sorry about your home and things and your city. Where's the rest of your family? Are they there with you in Texas?

Believe it or not, I was railing at my husband Sunday night (BEFORE the hurricaine hit) about tens of thousands about to lose their lives, and and my vision of people being hacked out of the roofs of their houses. I watched the nightmare play out on the TV here, day and night, horrified you might be down there on the ground or in the water someplace and I couldn't do a thing but watch.

As soon as you can, respond to this e-mail and let us know what if any plans you have. If you tell me what your options are, if you have any, maybe we can help you get relocated. Did you want to return to New Orleans eventually? Or were you thinking of relocating? Are you alone, or do you have family with you that you want to keep together? I have lots of contacts for jobs and things here in Colorado, and I might be able to start networking to find resources, but it may be too far away for you.

Perhaps it is too early to think about these things.

Most important right now -- can you give us the address and a phone number where you are? How did you access your e-mail? I'm glad something still works.

If we can establish a communication line then maybe we can help you start working on a plan.

So let us know ASAP --

1) The address where you are

2) The phone number and best times to call

3) Most immediate emergency needs (we might be able to send supplies or other things depending on what they are)

4) Any plans where you want to go next, or whether you want to return to New Orleans eventually

5) Whether you're alone or how many of you there are.

I hope you get this and hope I hear from you soon. Once again Wendell, thank God you and your family all got out. We'll do whatever we can.


I am assuming/hoping this e-mail was really from Wendell and not a hacker. It has misspellings and oddities I haven't seen in his writing before, but he could have been very exhausted and sick from being in that water for six days.

An article about the refugees in Nacogdoches:

http://www.dailysentinel.com/news/content/news/stories/2005/09/05/20050905NDSrefugees.html




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Peacemaker
Peacemaker


Honorable
Supreme Hero
Peacemaker = double entendre
posted September 07, 2005 10:52 PM bonus applied.
Edited By: Peacemaker on 8 Sep 2005

Phone conversation with Wendell

Now for an update from Wendell.  I spoke with him on the phone at length yesterday.  Here are my phone notes of his incredible tale. Some people might find some of the descriptions in this post a little disturbing, so be forewarned.

("NO" stands for New Orleans)

_______________________________________________

UPDATE ON WENDELL

Wendell e-mailed me with his cell phone number Tuesday Sept. 6th during the mid a.m.  Just got off the phone with him – we spoke over an hour. Verified.  It’s Wendell --- he remembered both of us, asked how (my husband’s) eye was doing.  He sounded weak, sick and hesitant when he first answered the phone.  He was clearly relieved to be talking to someone from the outside world.


WHAT HAPPENED:

Sunday, August 28, 2005

He lives a few houses from Ponchetrain and the levee.  Nice neighborhood, NO East.  He recently bought this house.  He was at home and gonna ride out the storm to try to protect his property.  

At first it seemed okay.  The storm came and went Sunday to Monday evenings.  

Monday, August 29 – Tuesday, August 30, 2005

He was outside Monday evening, cleaning up around the house.  Everything was fine all night and the next day.  The people in the neighborhood thought they’d ridden it out.

The water did not start rising until Tuesday night.   There had been no reports about the levee before then.  Suddenly the water hit his porch and was eight feet deep in a matter of 15-20 minutes.  Everything he owns was inside and submerged within a matter of minutes.

Wendell made it to the roof.  His neighbors next door did not.  Wendell implied that they drowned.  "They -- didn't make it," he choked.

Tuesday, August 30 – Thursday, September 1, 2005

Wendell was stuck on the roof of his new house for two days with no food or water.  He had retrieved a book bag with his insurance information, computer disks with a resume and some personal information, a flashlight and his credit card and other account numbers.

Helicopters were flying over but it seemed like they would pass him by and not stop.  

A man in a boat came retrieved him Thursday night – Wendell flagged him down with the flashlight.  The guy in the boat took him Uptown NO to his grandma’s house in Carrolton area closer to higher ground.  The water was at the steps.  He broke into her house and stayed there Thursday night.  Saw all kinds of dead bodies floating in the water.  Dead dogs and cats.  He saw the looters – some looter shot another right in the water the night before – still floating in the water near his G Mom’s house.  

Wendell reported that by that time it seemed like bands of marauding brigands had formed and had taken over the city.  They had high-powered rifles and were shooting people, looting houses and businesses.

Wendell reported, sounding upset, that it appeared to be the perfect time to get away with murder and it looks like people were taking the chance.  The organized gangs had appeared to have taken over the city.  Wendell reported that gangs of robbers were seen looting wealthy homes in or on St. Charles, taking jewelry and SUV’s and everything they could get their hands on.  Wendell reported, again sounding distressed, that even average people started losing it, rebelling – getting angry and violent, raising hell – attitude - maybe they’ll start to notice us.  He heard four men shot the police sheriff (to death?) when he was trying to help some people.  He heard another report of a gang of men driving down the street with a military Hummer and apparently all its firepower in the hands of the gang.

At some point Wendell talked to a guy who knew one of the people sniping at the copters.  Wendell asked why they did that and he said because they didn’t want to leave. Apparently the philosophy was, if they evacuate everyone then there will be no excuse to just bulldoze the City of New Orleans.  Again, Wendell, emotionally repeated that it’s like the criminals took over the city.  

He spoke about the Convention Center, where thousands were trapped, some in water to their waists, without any relief for days and people dying from dehydration all around.  He was shocked when I told him the outside world did not even know about the Convention crowd until Wednesday morning because communications were completely down and we only had aerial reports from the mass media then.

Friday, September 1, 2005

By Friday the water was overtaking his Grandma’s.  He was with a lot of people he didn’t know in his grandmother’s neighborhood, helping each other out.  Trying to survive.  He was picking up a local radio station from his grandmother’s CD player, but the batteries eventually ran out.  The local station was not helping at all.  No reports of where to get food or water – how to escape – the group felt like they were treating it like a big joke.

The group found out about the buses by word of mouth.  There was a lot of misinformation floating about and a lot of people got misguided into deadly situations.  

They started wading in the water together up to their chests/necks, hoping reports of buses coming to the Causeway were accurate.  Putrid, horrifying situation.  Dead everywhere, sewage, debris.  There were about 16 people who waded with him for about an hour through this water.  I could tell he was very emotional again – talking fast, not able to finish sentences – his voice was breaking and he sounded traumatized.  He kept making utterances like – just total anarchy, chaos.  I could tell he was searching for a way to describe the complete disorientation of an Armageddon-type atmosphere.

The group approached the crossover between New Orleans and Jefferson Parishes.  The National Guard was at the crossover point and would not let them through to Jefferson Parrish without proof of ID and residency in Jefferson Parrish.  As this was their only route to the Causeway, they started begging the Guardsmen, who eventually verified the buses expected at the Causeway.

Then a woman pulled up in an Enterprise (factory like) truck, turned out to be stolen.  She had stolen the truck and was taking people to the Causeway.  She helped the Guard verify the Causeway bus evacuation plan.  She drove Wendell’s group and some others to the Causeway.  About 30 or 40 were bunched up on the truck.  When she dropped them off they tried to discourage her from returning, but she went back for more evacuees.

When they arrived at the Causeway, thousands of people had amassed there and were waiting there for the buses.  Conditions were horribly putrid and unsanitary.  There was no food or water, and scant deliveries.  Wendell had a little food there – the first in four days.  One or two buses would come every few hours and cause small storms of desperate people.  Hundreds of small children with no diapers or milk, everybody was in clothing with the dried floodwater full of stench and death.

Then on Friday around noon, three buses pulled up and Jesse Jackson got off.  He spoke to the crowds on a bullhorn.  He derided the authorities for the situation and promised to personally arrange for bus transportation to Texas as soon as possible.  He calmed the crowd, everybody felt better after that.  Jackson took several children/families on the buses and promised to return.

Wendell slept under the Causeway Bridge Friday night with the thousands.  Porta potties had been delivered but they were overflowing and nobody there to attend to them.  Trash and debris were the night’s bedding.  Some people were dead and dying.

Saturday, September 2, 2005

Next morning 500 buses showed up on the Causeway.  The evacuees believe Jackson sent these buses, and for good reason.  The buses said on them “compliments of Jesse Jackson.”

It is not clear when Wendell left the Causeway on the bus.  At one point he reported leaving Friday night around 7, but then described the scene when the Causeway thousands was the caravan of buses arriving.  Everyone cheered and calmed.  Loading was orderly and people behaved as though there were a light at the end of the tunnel.  It is possible he got his days mixed up.

Wendell’s bus crossed the border into Texas on Saturday midmorning to crowds of people on the side of the road waving and cheering and offering water and food.  The bus pulled over and they accepted the hospitality gratefully.

The bus arrived in Nacogdoches, Texas (small, segregated community just across the border from LA) on Saturday afternoon to more cheering crowds.

Wendell’s group was taken to Ferdonia Hill Baptist Church on South Street, where he’s been ever since with about 100 other people.  He is in the Family Life Center, a big gym with cots that is well-organized and spread out.  They immediately provided clean dry clothes and shower/disinfectant for the flood-soaked people.  So far, Wendell and the others there at the Church appear to be showing no signs of water-borne sickness, which is rather remarkable under the circumstances.

Wendell reports excessive generosity and hospitality are the order of the day in Texas.  He received fresh clothes, eats three times a day and feels comfortable.  He got computer access and located his entire family on MSNBC.COM.  

Wendell and I talked for a long time about the fascinating interactions going on and the situation with large numbers of Black people coming into this small Texas town.  It was hysterical.  [EDIT:  Wendel is a large, rather imposing football-player-type built Black man.} The evacuees have shown only exhaustion and no aggression  whatsoever.  However, Texas law enforcement is present in numbers, armed and watching them like hawks.  The people are bending over backwards to make the point they are “color-blind” yet it seems to be the only topic of conversation the locals are comfortable with.  They’re getting a lot of funny comments: “We want you Colored people to know we’re color blind.”  “You boys – I mean, you men…”  The first several meals were only fried chicken.  The locals can be overheard marveling at how polite and civilized these Coloreds are being.

Wendell was laughing at this and found it all very charming.  He is cognizant of the fact that the community is unfamiliar with black people and just doesn’t know how to act or what to expect.  We talked about the conservative talk shows focusing on how all the “black people in New Orleans have descended into chaos and are shooting each other.”  (Wendell and I both heard this same, extremely racist Bill O’Reilly broadcast when he was saying this stuff).  I pointed out that Texans make a regular diet of that sort of thing and they probably were fearful what they might be getting themselves into because of the perceptions that everyone in New Orleans was like that.  

However, Wendell stressed over and over that for a community as nervous about Black people as this one appears to be, they are opening their town and bending over backwards to feed, house and take care of the evacuees.  He’s greatly impressed and thinks he might have had misperceptions of his own about Texans, just like the Texans had misperceptions about the Blacks from New Orleans.  

We had a big laugh about how the town basically set up an armed camp around them but are treating them like gold inside of it.  He said the locals appear more relaxed than they did at first.  Nocogdoches citizens are pouring to the shelter sites and cooking, bringing clothing and supplies, and volunteering.  The young town girls are excessively friendly with the young black men and this is making Wendell very nervous.  The presence of the guys standing around with the guns compels him to stay as far away from the young women as possible.  Wendell reported the young men are not nearly as friendly as the young women.  I told him they probably perceive him as competition.


STATUS

Wendell’s twenty three.  He is not showing any signs of illness from his experience yet.  He graduated with a BA in Communications in May.  (Human Resources is his anticipated Master’s Degree)  He was getting ready to get certified in Pharmaceutical Sales Representation and was being sponsored by Oschner and Brent House when the flood hit.  The last time he called Brent House about his job they were still there (on dry ground – never did get flooded) and they said they’re holding his job.  Wendell and the Brent House may both be being a bit too optimistic that this situation will not change.  I pointed that out to him and he acknowledged it.  But I figured it was too soon to press this issue with further discussion.

His cell phone service is still in operation – needs to call them to see if they can prolong his service until he can find a way to pay his bill.  Wendell saved all his personal data in a book sack, and has a resume already posted on Monster.com as well as a copy on a disk in his bag.

He’s already contacted his credit card companies, his car and other obligations.  He says everyone’s bending over backward, suspending due bills, etc. I told him to call here collect if he needs to and we’ll help him with whatever decision he makes.

First in order – Wendell has everything he needs but decent tennis shoes.  He needs a twelve wide so I am going to get some for him and have them sent via internet.  He also mentioned being broke, but then again reminded me that for now he is being provided with everything he needs.

PROSPECTS

Wendell now has three primary prospects:  Dallas, Los Angeles,  and Denver.  

(Discussion eliminated here for privacy reasons)

I got the impression the reason he wanted to go back was because he’s anticipating his house will still be there.  It was pretty clearly his new house that he was attached to.  They had flood insurance.  He thinks they will rebuild.  I gently reminded him they are talking about bulldozing the city, and he may not have that house there anymore.  That was when he started saying hell with it, it was only stuff.  The important thing was that he was alive.   He did sound tearful again at this point however.  

He expressed interest in coming to Colorado without any prompting whatsoever, possibly at least temporarily if he can find work here, but is in thinking and regrouping mode.  (I recall him expressing interest in Colorado when we were at the hotel).  I get the impression he is afraid to impose or make us feel uncomfortable in asking point blank about staying with us at our house, and I did not state that outright yet.  I did tell him I had access to networking resources and would be able to help him get settled if he wants that.  I told him to start thinking about it when he was ready, and that whatever he decided to do we would do whatever we could to make it happen.  

Wendell sounded remarkably better by the end of our conversation.  His hearty booming voice and engaging laughter had returned.  He sounded the way I remembered him.


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pandora
pandora


Honorable
Legendary Hero
The Chosen One
posted September 08, 2005 12:15 AM

Wow... that was a very moving account. Thanks for sharing it peace, I'm so glad to hear there's a 'happy' ending.
____________
"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

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Consis
Consis


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Legendary Hero
Of Ruby
posted September 08, 2005 02:32 AM

Uh....

I'm confused as to why this post was re-made for an entire thread. Two hurricane threads? Ooookay.
____________
Roses Are RedAnd So Am I

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Peacemaker
Peacemaker


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Supreme Hero
Peacemaker = double entendre
posted September 08, 2005 04:16 AM

Good Question, Consis

I re-posted it in a new thread because it was first-hand information from one of the evacuees -- but I did have the same hesitation that you are now expressing, Consis.

I just figured that people started looking at the existing thread as a theoretical discussion thread which had lost steam.  Despite that it's the ongoing worst mobilization crisis we've had since the Civil War, nobody was talking for over three days.

So I decided to start a new thread with first-hand accounts.  To me that is kind-of different than people speculating from a distance.

Make sense?  

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Consis
Consis


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Legendary Hero
Of Ruby
posted September 08, 2005 07:19 AM

Well...

Peacemaker, If you don't mind me saying . . . while you, myself, and extremely few others might enjoy digesting lengthy memos in much the same fashion as President Jimmy Carter; it doesn't necessarily equate to the majority of the visitors here. I don't mind reading such depth but I've found the majority of persons who attend are looking for slightly shorter posts with a bit less volume. Upon discovery of this observation, I've since talored my Heroes Community posting for the less patient-minded. What I have to say might be interesting but some people may never even decide to read my post from feeling overwhelmed.

Just a thought that it might not be the location, but rather the length.
____________
Roses Are RedAnd So Am I

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Khaelo
Khaelo


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Underwater
posted September 08, 2005 09:47 AM
Edited By: Khaelo on 8 Sep 2005

For the record, I'm delighted Peacemaker placed Wendell's account in a new thread.  I e-mailed the link to a non-HC person who'd also be interested in a "report from the front."  There aren't post numbers here to reference particular posts, so the new thread is most convenient.  
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Shiva
Shiva


Promising
Famous Hero
posted September 08, 2005 03:44 PM

Here's something I came across on another board.

note: Bradshaw and Slonsky are paramedics frorm California that were
attending the EMS conference in New Orleans. Larry Bradsahw is the chief
shop steward, Paramedic Chapter, SEIU Local 790; and Lorrie Beth Slonsky
is steward, Paramedic Chapter, SEIU Local 790.[California]

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 looters.

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 those stranded.

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 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 enforcement".

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 there."

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 our enthusiasm.

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 90 people.

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
#### 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 and water.

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 policies.

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 dog-sniffing searches.

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 lost.

Sep 6, 2005, 11:59
By Parmedics Larry Bradsahw and Lorrie Beth Slonsky
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Khayman
Khayman


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posted September 08, 2005 06:03 PM bonus applied.
Edited By: Khayman on 8 Sep 2005

Great Personal Account, Peacemaker

I am glad to hear that Wendell is safe.  As for Shiva's internet account, my thought is to "doubt almost everything that I read, and believe only half of everything that I see."

Now, for the record, I just want to point out something to all of you extremely liberal, peace-loving, and irrational thinking people who continue to believe that someday the world can live in harmony.  Here is the proof that you are out of your minds.  There will never, ever be a utopian society, which I have told you many times before.  As if you didn't believe me prior to this, I will just reference a few of Wendell's observations from his account:
Quote:
Wendell reported, sounding tearful, that it appeared to be the perfect time to get away with murder and it looks like people were taking the chance.
Quote:
Again, Wendell, sounding tearful, repeated that it’s like the criminals took over the city.
This is reality, people.  This is what happens without law enforcement and consequences.  Chaos rules in the absence of order, and the extreme and violent badness will overpower the meek and helpful goodness.  Not all humans are self-serving, uncaring, and violent individuals.  Personally, I believe they are the minority. However, those individuals that are not good people, when given the opportunity, will always choose to take advantage of situations like this instead of acting in the best interest of all people as a whole.  

The world is already a very bad and ugly place, and this is what happens when people are left to their own devices without supervision.  Some people will lie, cheat, steal, and yes, even kill, just for the sheer fact that they can get away with it.  It is extremely sad and discouraging.

Now, if you have no choice but to break the law in order to survive, then that is acceptable.  The laws of morality should always outweigh the laws of man (i.e. stealing food to prevent your family from starving).  However, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals just in the states of Louisana and New Orleans alone who have no respect for laws or the sanctity of human life in the absence of authority.  Just imagine their numbers when calculated throughout the entire world.  This appalls, disgusts, and infuriates me, because those people are exactly what prevents our world from taking that next step in becoming a better world.  (Please note I said "better" and not "perfect.")

I have great sympathy for all of the innocent victims whose government let them down (which is another issue to be addressed later).  However, in addition to that, I must also make it clear that I have the utmost respect, appreciation, and admiration for those civilian 'heroes' who courageously acted in favor of the greater good of society.  An example of this is the woman in Peacemaker's post who evacuated Wendell and his group, probably in addition to numerous others in her return trip.  Hopefully, you will hear more of these stories about the good people of the world, because without them, I can only imagine the additional loss-of-life without their presence of mind and their deep respect for human life.

I hope all of you take some lessons from this tragic event.  Trust me on this one.  Not everyone thinks or acts the same way as you do, especially in a crisis situation such as this, without any law enforcement, consequences, or supervision.  There are indeed many bad people in this world.  Do not ever forget that.  This was your reminder.
____________
"You must gather your party before venturing forth."

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Peacemaker
Peacemaker


Honorable
Supreme Hero
Peacemaker = double entendre
posted September 08, 2005 06:50 PM
Edited By: Peacemaker on 8 Sep 2005

WOW

Just great, great posts you guys.

Shiva, your addition has me thinking maybe we should start compiling a book of these accounts.  The world should know first-hand accounts like these so they can understand what happened.

Khayman, I like your post, man.  For one thing, it's good to remind people that there are the unsavory elements in every society, and that this is not a phenomenon exclusive to New Orleans.

Consis, I think it's working out okay.  I think the nature of this topic demands long posts though.  Nonetheless, thanks for the feedback.

[EDIT]  It was really Wendell and the others who deserve that red star.

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Peacemaker
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Honorable
Supreme Hero
Peacemaker = double entendre
posted September 08, 2005 09:05 PM

BTW -- If any of you comes across other first-hand accounts, plese post them here.

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pandora
pandora


Honorable
Legendary Hero
The Chosen One
posted September 08, 2005 09:33 PM

The QP was applied because after hearing such a thing you thought to write this out to share with all of us here.

If I thought QP's could somehow help those people out there I'd send one out to everyone

I think its important to hear these real life stories, it becomes too easy to become desensitized to tragedy with all that we see; and hearing about how real people are affected brings us back in touch with the fact that they arereal people.

Thanks again for sharing, I hope to see more as well
____________
"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

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Peacemaker
Peacemaker


Honorable
Supreme Hero
Peacemaker = double entendre
posted September 09, 2005 12:22 AM
Edited By: Peacemaker on 8 Sep 2005

(Duplicated from the Hurricaine Katrina Topic thread)

I don't know why the other NOVA link wouldn't work, but this one does.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/sciencenow/3204/02.html

Click on "Watch the Segment" under the aerial satellite shot of the hurricaine.

If that doesn't work, then go to

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/

click on the view segment link next to the aerial photo of the hurricaine onthe right side of the page.

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Peacemaker
Peacemaker


Honorable
Supreme Hero
Peacemaker = double entendre
posted September 10, 2005 01:24 AM
Edited By: Peacemaker on 9 Sep 2005

NPR Report on just what exactly went wrong

Guys -- National Public Radio is probably the most objective, reliable news source in the U.S.  Tonite on their evening program, "All Things Considered,"  they broadcasted a comprehensive, blow-by-blow description of exactly what happened leading up to and through Katrina.

Click on the link below, then click on the red-lettered "Listen" icon at the top.  It's several segments.  As soon as one ends, it automatically reloads the next one.

I urge you all to listen to this report if you want to be informed as to how all this came about.

http://www.npr.org/templates/rundowns/rundown.php?prgId=2

Love and Peace

P.S.  Wendell has been moved to another shelter with greater library and computer access.  If any of you wants to send him messages let me know and I will ask if it's alright they be forwarded.  He may like the fact the people all over the world are aware of him and that he has been anything but forgotten.  But I need to check with him, so just let me know.

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Peacemaker
Peacemaker


Honorable
Supreme Hero
Peacemaker = double entendre
posted September 14, 2005 08:52 PM
Edited By: Peacemaker on 14 Sep 2005

Tha above limk only listed its top story as the Katrina report for about one day.  I took the liberty of preparing paraphrase notes of the report because I thought it was so important.  It basically demonstrates how the gravity of the disaster combined with failures at all levels of government to lead to the result we are now witnessing.

__________________________________

NPR:  All Things Considered
Aired Friday, September 9, 2005

I.  Katrina Timeline:  Unexecuted Plans


(This is a set of notes on the broadcast, not a direct transcript.)

Three days before Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, public officials knew the potential for disaster was great.

For years emergency agencies had been planning how to respond in the event of such disaster.  What we now know is that those plans fell apart.

Thursday morning, Aug 25, four days before Kat hit.  Television and radio broadcasts imply LA residents have little to worry about, stay calm and “use common sense.”

Friday Aug 26. 1 pm   Phone call to Walter Maestry, who runs emergency management for Jefferson Parish which surrounds NO on three sides.  Call was from Max Mayfield – runs the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida.

Max warns a couple of the weather models are heading the Hurricaine right to NO – going to seriously intensify – you need to be ready.  This is real.

Maestry immediately gathers his staff in the Jefferson Parish “war room.” He passes the warning from Mayfield on.  Staff noted the storm still had not turned toward NO and still was not intensifying, but Maestry warns that Mayfield doesn’t cry wolf.

Hurricane Scientist Joe Sahada in Baton Rouge is watching Katrina develop on the web.  In the 1990s he and staff developed the first models how a category five hurricane could destroy NO.  He’s watching the storm develop along the very script of his disaster model, it’s coming to life. NO could be flooded, up to 40,000 could die.  Government officials have studied that model for years.  They had worked up hundreds of pages of manuals for what each level and aspect of government should do what in response to such a scenario.  They had run exercises and practiced the planned response.

Now it's Friday, 2 pm.  Maestry calls one of the key officials who is supposed to coordinate those plans -- Jeff Smith, Deputy Director of LA Department of Homeland Security.  Smith said Mayfield had called him too, but the storm didn’t look that serious.  Maestry says Mayfield doesn’t cry wolf.  “I know this guy.  When he calls you like this you need to take it seriously,” Maestry warns.

Max also briefs FEMA headquarters on teleconference to Washington about Mayfield’s warnings and alerts them they might need to activate the script.

Meanwhile, at the LA National Guard headquarters – winding down for a Friday, Pete Snyder Nat’l Guard Coordinator did not yet understand the seriousness.

On Saturday morning August 27:  the Guard were called back, storm worsening, everybody needs to be on alert but still projected to go into the pan handle.  But it didn’t turn and stayed the path toward NO.  LA National Guard calls up all available troops 4,000 – but 3,000 are in Iraq, along with their heavy water equipment, water bridges and other heavy craft.

Troops fan out to staging areas across the state according to the practiced plan, ordered to stay out the hurricane according to the emergency plans and be ready to distribute supplies and keep peace according to the emergency plan.  They were to coordinate with the  local PD in this process.

Governor Blanco announces Sat afternoon the storm will be so big that state/local governments will not be able to handle it.  She calls for the federal government to declare a state of emergency, and this is done later that day by President Bush.

Sunday 9:30 am August 28 – Mayor Ray Nagin orders first mandatory evacuation in NO history.  He urges citizens to check on neighbors who might be stranded without help.  Particularly senior citizens.

Meanwhile, in Jefferson Parish, Maestry sends fire trucks street to street announcing the flood alert and urging immediate evacuation.

Almost a million people did evacuate successfully.  But about 100,000 stay behind.  Statistics indicate 120,000 have no cars – all individuals were ordered to local schools for school bus transport, but many buses do not arrive.  Nursing homes do not evacuate their patients as required by law.

Still others can’t or won’t leave.

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson offers his Guard troops to Blanco.  Lieutenant Pete Snyder of LA National Guard said we need everything you got.  

Key officials are now in constant contact from all levels of the government.

Gathered in the state's Emergency Planning Center in Baton Rouge: Staff members from almost 40 state and federal agencies, FEMA – to distribute food and water; Army Corps Engineers in charge of water and structural damage, National Guard is there to provide troops and boats to forge through the water, assist victims and deliver food, all in contact with Maestry in Jefferson Parish, all on standby to move in once the hurricane passes by.  All day Saturday, Sunday and early Monday – they were in contact.

Monday 7:10 am August 29 – Hurricane hits.  Snyder of Nat’l Guard says they lose immediate touch with all centers -- the “whole world.” Nobody anticipated all three alternate communications lines to fail almost simultaneously.  State Police Officer McCleary at the Baton Rouge HQ can’t contact their officers.  PD and Guard cannot contact one another.  Frantically trying to get in touch with the troops and personnel staged around NO – nobody knew whether they were still alive.

State and fed backup communications all failed – land lines inoperable, cell towers submerged or topple over – all battery powered radios go dead because all chargers are in Iraq or as far away as Baton Rouge.  Battery powered radios go dead after a few hours.  

People had to stay together, huddle and function in groups because no communication – city fell completely dark.

Late Monday night (storm has come and gone) – Joe Sahada, hurricane researcher, is watching the local news.  The anchor is handed a note that the 17th Street Levee breached, water level will raise 9 feet.  City floods in a tidal wave chases people to their roofs.  Worst case scenario is coming true.

II.  Katrina Timeline:  Misdirected Aid

As the sun comes up Tuesday morning August 30, rescuers are overwhelmed by thousands of survivors calling out, trapped.

William Loke chief FEMA coordinator doesn’t know about the levee breaches yet and announced that the flooding “is just not happening.”

Maestry follows the disaster plan to rush help to Jeff Parish.  Get on short wave radio talks to FEMA Army Corps of Engineers and Emergency Command Center in Baton Rouge – makes the requests for water and ice, the mobile medical, all the resources on standby.   They said they’d “place the orders” and the supplies should arrive 12-36 hrs.

Nagin says he’s confident based on a FEMA briefing that the help will be pouring in.

National Guard troops across country start calling to offer help.

New Mexico’s Bill Richardson says because of red tape etc they did not receive word to go until Thursday -- Shipley said officials in LA and National Guard HQ in Washington tell the Nat’l Guard that they have to wait until an official plan and a chain of command – not sent until Friday.

Wednesday, August 31 – Superdome – 25,000 evacuees with no food water toilets, people dying and going crazy inside in the heat – Convention center also deteriorating into squalor and death.

Started hearing horror stories – local officials pleading with the National Guard HQ – their own are focused at the Superdome.

Other parts of the city are lawless.  Weds afternoon Maestry states they haven’t seen food, water or medical supplies that were promised – “we don’t step in until the locals ask“ -- but they had already asked.

FEMA contractors trying to send the supplies – Dan Wessell waits two days for FEMA to send go-ahead, then FEMA sends them to the wrong place – first wave send is to Montgomery Alabama, second one to Dallas.

Finally redirected to LA need areas – but when they arrive, there is nobody there to distribute.  The Driver didn’t know what to do – he opened the doors and let people take stuff.

By Thursday, September 1  there appears to be total disconnect between what’s going on on the ground, and what the Washington Officials say is going on.  

Thursday morning Nagin gets back on the news and literally starts swearing GET THE HELP HERE!!!  TROOPS, GREYHOUND BUSES, every ******* thing you've got!!!

Top Bush officials are painting different picture.  Secretary of Homeland Sec Michael Chertoff sounds like he doesn’t know what’s been going on at the Convention Center for the past two days.  He states he had not heard a report of thousands at the Convention Center clamoring for food and water.

By Friday, September 2 – everybody in the region at every level is clamoring for government to send in troops.

President Bush goes to the tarmac at the Louis Armstrong Airport – meets with Blanco and Nagin on AF1.  Bush offers troops but only if they and National Guard answer to the Whitehouse.  Blanco says she needs “24 hours to think about it…”  (???) (Nagin angrily reported earlier this week he was left completely out of the loop on this decision).

Bush pats FEMA Director Michael Brown on the back and says he’s doing a heck of a job during a press conference inside the airport terminal.  Meanwhile hundreds inside the airport terminal are sick and hungry.

Bush sends 82d airborne over the weekend.

Meanwhile, the FEMA contractor Dan Wessell still cannot deliver the materials to the Superdome – got an e-mail from a worker Saturday – ice sitting on the dock melting.

Feeling of frustration, from the victims, to the local, state and federal government, all are frustrated. Now everybody is calling for investigation at every level.



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