Five years since Katrina: Looking Back

Below are a few post I did the a week after Katrina hit.

What Took So Long?
September 2nd, 2005

I went to bed around midnight but still couldn't sleep. We finally had electric back on, the house was cool, bed was comfortable but my mind couldn't shake all I had been hearing and seeing since Monday. My heart is breaking for the thousands that are dieing only 60 miles away in New Orleans.


We took some clothes to our church Tuesday. The people in the shelters only have a few changes of clothes with them. The population here in Baton Rouge has doubled. There are 5000 evacuees in the River Center and thousands spread across town. The churches are really being Jesus. I don't know of one church that isn't doing something. Their parking lots are full of people eating and waiting. My mother called from Florida and offered to fly us there so we could get away from the freaky population explosion here but there is no way I'm leaving. I am frustrated that I don't have child care so that I can volunteer to help feed people at my church. Dean is having to work 12 to 16 hr days trying to keep the stores filled with Coke products and he will have to work Saturday but we are both planning on helping somewhere Sunday and any other time we can.


I'm listening to the New Orleans Mayor, Ray Nagin's interview from yesterday morning. It is phenomenal. He is mad, he is articulate and he is cussing but he is no longer a politician, he is a man watching people die. He is expressing the frustration of the thousands that are waiting, dieing. It has been 5 days now. The interview was yesterday, and it obviously spanked a few butts into REAL action because now, this morning there are thousands of buses, now there are the air drops at the convention center, now there are the rescue vehicles, now, after so many people have died from dehydration and starvation, people are really being evacuated. Here are a couple links to the interview.


http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,11069-1762200,00.html


http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/09/02/katrina.nagin/index.html


Heads are gonna role on this one. President Bush said the response was unacceptable and that is an understatement. There is no excuse, in a country like ours, with our resources, there is no excuse for what is happening in New Orleans. I hope they learn from this. I think Bush made some real mistakes with this one. You all know what a Bush fan I am. I am a hard core Republican but I have to say I am disappointed in the leadership of this country. Bush has seemed out of touch when he talks about it. In his interview with Diane Sawyer, she asked about looters who are stealing diapers, shoes, food etc, and he said there should be zero tolerance for all lawlessness. That is just an ignorant statement. I would steal to eat, feed my kids, cover my feet to walk through polluted water, etc. When he did the fly over Tuesday, he should have done the walk through then, not today, it's been too long. We needed the buses Tuesday, and there is no reason why they weren't sent then, at least no reason I can see now. Granted, I may hear and understand better down the line why it took so long, but I think everyone will look back and say it took to long.


Then there is the comment by the house speaker Denise Haskel, a Republican. It may have been taken out of context, I know that happens but just shut up. I mean really, why comment in any way that could remotely be taken wrong. He's a politician for Pete's sake, he knows the game. As the governor said, he is stealing hope when that is all they have. What would he suggest the residence of New Orleans do? If your willing to say not to rebuild you better be willing to offer somewhere for them to go permanently, forever,if not just shut up or at least apologize.


I have been both proud and disgusted with our Democrat US senator, Mary Landrue. She does great when she is talking to the local media, you feel her pain but when she is on Nightline or Larry Kings, you see the politician. She skirts around questions of blame, she talks about the bills she has tried to pass dealing with the Louisiana coast, she sounds like all the other out of touch politicians and she is so "in touch" since she lives in New Orleans. Why not just be real all the time. I hate that.


I have heard some unbelievable comments by people. One says "well, they are getting what they deserve, they should have left like they were told". I say, thank God I didn't get what I deserved hundreds of times. Jesus took what I deserved. We all make mistakes but few pay with their lives. There is help out there and we would want that help if it were us. Also, there are elderly, sick, hospital employees, people who had to stay that are now starving and dieing. The government is now there, it's all over the news as I type this but it should have happened yesterday. I just can't help thinking "it's about time!"


Relief Part 1
September 6th, 2005

Over the weekend Dean and I both got went to help at the New Orleans Airport with evacuees. Lori Earles and I also got to help at the Donaldsonville Dream Center Sunday night. Lori was my volunteer buddy this weekend. I will tell Dean's story first, then mine.

Dean got up for work @ 4:30 am Saturday, worked till 4:30pm, we picked him up from the Coke plant and went straight to church which started @ 5pm. After church he went to the New Orleans airport with 75 other volunteers as part of the PRC Compassion team. As pastor Dino stated, "to do what no one else wanted to do". When he arrived they were told to expect a smell they would never forget, Dean said when the doors of the baggage claim area opened he couldn't believe the smell or what he saw. It was awful. Wall to wall people, sick, tired, hungry laying in vomit, covered in feces and urine. These were the people from the super dome and the convention center. They called the baggage claim area the pit, it was unbelievable. Dean mainly spent the night unloading people from the helicopters and loading boxes onto a Red Cross plane. When they took the people off the helicopters the national guard was there giving them water and an MRE (Army food, meals ready to eat, very cool little thing) They also had been given water on the helicopter. Dean said they (The PRC people who will be referred to as "The Orange Shirts") were not allowed to pass out any food or water because they would be mobbed. Dean was working with a guy that said it was like Vietnam. He helped a doctor pick up an elderly lady, she was sitting in her wheel chair, reeking of urine, feces and filth, she said she felt like she was sitting on something, Dean had to get her under her arm and life her up while the doctor looked and Dean said once they picked her up, they saw that her bottom was covered in dried old urine. He said it took everything in him not to vomit.

The people were separated into categories, black dots were for the ones who were dieing, red-critical, yellow-sick, green-ok. Dean said there was probably about 3000 - 4000 people there. He didn't really want to talk about it, he gets this look on his face when I ask him about an unpleasant memory, that is the look he got when he started telling me about it, like he just didn't want to go there again.

My experience at the airport was very different. Lori and I went on Monday at noon until 6:30pm. by then all of the convention center and super dome people were gone and we just had people that had been taken off roofs or made to leave by the national guard. The pit (baggage claim) was clean and now an area where relief organizations were meeting and stuff. There were hundreds of national guard everywhere. They told us that we were there to do whatever was needed. If someone asked you to get them a drink, you did, wipe their butt you did. We were there to serve in whatever way needed. I got water for a ladies dog, carried luggage, retrieved wheel chairs and passed out drinks and snacks. Mainly Lori and I walked people from the helicopters to the terminal. See what was happening was theses people were put in a line, screened just like they were airline customers by TSA screeners, then they went to a long table attended and surrounded by national guards men, there they would give their name number and address then they were directed to the terminal area to sit and wait for a plane out of there to who knows where. We did not know, the guards men didn't know, and the people didn't find out until they were on the plane. Fema is supposed to give them vouchers for return flights when they can return or to another destination. It was very surreal, we would be asked over and over, "where are they sending us" they would say "I want to go to Houston" or "Can you find out which one is going to Baton Rouge?" It was so sad. At one point Lori and I were helping a lady and her 3 girls, she was a 911 operator that had stayed to help dispatch the police officers. We asked her if it really was as bad as the media was saying, she said it was worse. Lori and I had both heard an awful rumor that ladies were actually drowning their babies. We did not ask this dispatch lady about this but when I said, "what was the worse thing you have gotten a call on?" she stated "women were drowning their babies!"

I have to continue later, I have to pick up Evangeline from School, pray, give, thank God for what you have.



Relief Part 2
September 7th, 2005

I felt after yesterdays entry that I should say, I have done and seen little compared to what thousands of other volunteers and emergency workers have. Dean saw much, much worse then I did. He was very glad that I went on a "good" day at the airport. He was very concerned that I would be traumatized by what I saw there if it had of been like it was when he went. I still was overwhelmed with emotion several times. If I took a minute to absorb all that was around me, it felt like we were in an apocalyptic movie. This isn't the end of the world for us but I can guarantee it felt like that to the people waiting in the Super Dome, Convention Center and on roof tops. Even at the air port where they are being lined up, directed by and surrounded by guards, holding everything they have on earth and going who knows where, it had to seem like Armageddon.

I was standing in line waiting with the 911 operators girls and Lori and I noticed this tall thin white man's shirt in front of us. It caught our eyes because it had a mug of beer on it and under it it said "one hour minimum wage gone" we chuckled at it and then looked down at his ankles that were literally twice the size of his legs! He was not in a wheel chair, he was standing and waiting in line quietly, and had been for quite a while. The national guard man who was standing in front of us was a very nice, fatherly looking Spanish man. He was firm but you saw kindness in his eyes. I asked him If I could go get that man a wheel chair and told him to look at the mans ankles, he looked at them and then said to the man "hey, you had a doctor look at those ankles?" the man said "yes, they gave me antibiotics." I could hear an Australian accent. The guard then told him to make sure and get them looked at again when he got to his destination shelter. When I got back and helped him settle into the wheel chair I asked him if he was diabetic (I was trying to figure out why his ankles would look like that, I thought it might be unattended too Type 2 diabetes) he said no, he had gotten and infection from having to walk through the water to safety and the doctors gave him a shot to keep it from becoming Gang Green!
Let me tell you, it looked like gang greed was already there. I asked his name, it was Kevin and if he had family, he said no, all of them were back in Australia. He didn't want to talk, you could tell he was uncomfortable with me talking to him. He was kind but maybe kinda shy. I have prayed for Kevin many times since. It was hard to really sit and talk to these people. I wanted to that's for sure and I took every chance I got but there was always someone else who needed help with a bag or wanted a blanket, needed to be taken to the bath room, etc. I wish I could tell every story, we talked to so many great people. I met a couple that had been begged to evacuate by their daughter in Houston. They had minimal water damage so he didn't want to leave his home to the looters. They were so sweet and I was two seconds away from bringing them home with me but he said his daughter was coming to get them this weekend from where ever they sent them. At one point I was passing out snacks to the ones waiting in the terminals to board the planes and I had to help an elderly, almost blind, lady with getting her straw into her juice. Her name was Lucille, she was white and sitting with her in another wheel chair was Dorothy, she was black. Lucille was 96 and Dorothy 85 and when I asked if they were from the same nursing home, Dorothy looked at Lucille and said "now girl, I know she didn't just say we were from a nursing home! I live on my own!" it was funny. We talked and laughed for a few minutes about how they reminded me of my grandmas that were now in Heaven, Dorothy said "well, we can't stay around forever now can we?" She was great. Lucille and her had just met, they both lived independently but had not known each other before then. They said they had been unable to leave and thankfully someone came and rescued them. They had no family and said they didn't care where they were going, I said "well, they will treat you good, better days are ahead" and Dorothy said "it can't get any worse, so you are right for sure." I will always remember thoughs two old angels.

Comments

Anonymous said…
I still cry when I read your stories about Katrina and see the images on the tv. What a sad time for our country. The greatest Country in the world and we couldn't get food and water to thousands starving and dying in New Orleans. There was no excuse possible because news people were there from the begining showing on tv the images of what was happening.
I remember thinking. What is going on?. Where are the air drops. If FEMA was staged for this before it happened, then What the heck?!