My last post on Katrina was foolish. I see that now, but I fell into the same trap that the folks trying to head back home yesterday fell into--I thought this was going to be a walk in the park. Obviously a lot of us were wrong, myself included, and I for one apologise for my flippant attitude toward the occasion.
For all the facts and figures and pictures you can visit pretty much anywhere on the web, so I won't rehash it here. If you need a starting point, try Yahoo! for their news coverage, or Fox News, both seem to have covered it pretty well. Me, I can't look at it anymore. We're four hours north and a bit west of there, and I've seen too many faces, too many campers and cars and trucks. Every building, every parking lot, even places like the Tourism Bureau's Welcome Center, which is on the Hurricane Evacuation Route is packed with refugees.
On the positive side:
I watched yesterday as a nearly solid stream of clean-up vehicles headed South down the Interstate. There were long caravans of ten to fifteen burnt orange Asplund trucks (tree removal service folk) at a time headed south, and I saw at least four groups of them. Mixed into the traffic flow was bucket trucks, bulldozers, and every kind of construction vehicle you could imagine.
The governor and rescue personnel called for anyone with a boat to come south and assist--I have never seen more boats on the road at one time, everything from guys with their pirogues (pronouced: PE-row) and airboats up to one ton trucks hauling massive bay boats, all headed southward with a purpose.
The Disaster Relief people have been sending truckloads of goods there, too. I have seen several Red Cross vehicles, Disaster Relief diesel trucks, and medical supply folks headed that way.
Our DOO is a registered nurse with lots of experience in hospital ERs and lots of time served as an EMT and a fireman. He spent most of yesterday and I'm sure will spend most of today pacing the office wanting to go down there, but he cannot leave his job and even if he did, the chances of him getting into the city to help are slim. Plus, right now he can help more by being here to assist our southern offices with their patient load. I cannot imagine the huge number of people who DO have the opportunity to help and have already gone south to do so.
And in the midst of all this outpouring of consideration and love and humanitarian effort, there is still the human element--On the negative side:
I listened yesterday in disgust as an NPR reporter stood in waist-deep water and spoke to people (obviously from the Lower 9th Ward) who were busy looting a grocery store. Most weren't even vaguely apologetic. He reported that the women were carrying out mostly bread and canned goods, while the men were stealing mainly cigarettes and alcohol. I know that if my family were in desperate need and I could not get to a Red Cross station or wait for help from rescue personnel I would turn to looting for food. I would not, however, be stealing televisions, computers, cigarettes or whiskey. I also know that if I lived in a city that's already below sea level, a city that lies directly in a major storm's path, my ass would have FOUND a way to be as far north as I could manage.
I heard first-hand from a cousin of mine who is an RN at Ochsners that the hospital complex, while flooding, has enough fuel, supplies and food to support itself and it's patients for a month. Looters, naturally, have been trying to attack the hospital. While a police officer attempted to subdue a looter in the hospital's lobby, another looter, perhaps his accomplice, perhaps just an opportunist, shot the officer in the head and killed him.
Martial law has been declared in New Orleans as of yesterday.
I don't know what to say at this point. I started three different paragraphs, and cannot seem to finish any of them. I am distraught, fearful, and in a state of anger and disgust at what is happening in the city right now. No the city was not prepared. No there was no way everyone could have gotten out, even if they wanted to. And there really is very little I can do to help, and that bothers me most. None of that makes a hill of beans worth of difference.
On the positive side of things, and it's something that not everyone can say is this - the only friends or relatives I had down there are either safe in Ochsners, part of the National Guard forces working to restore order, or were smart enough to evacuate before the storm hit. I will not gloat but I am glad to say that everyone I care about who live down there are safe. That's far more than many people can say right now.