Friday, September 30, 2005

Rose: "My Katrina"

Rose evacuated before Katrina hit, and is now maintaining a "My Katrina" blog in Baton Rouge. From a 9/18 entry, "The River Center":
Maryann had gone there a couple of days ago to offer to bring some people back here to use our showers and have the chance to relax for a little while and get cleaned up. She connected with a woman and her four grandchildren and although they couldn’t do it that day, Maryann arranged to pick them up today. So off she went in the morning. She was going to take them to a McDonald’s for some lunch, then bring them here, but after a few hours she still hadn’t returned. We finally got a call from her (on the perpetually degrading phone system) saying she was standing in a line outside the River Center still waiting to get inside.

Evidently the security has been ratcheted up quite considerably in the past few days. When Maryann was there on Wednesday there were fewer people being housed there and she had just been able to walk in the door and talk with people. Today, there was a highly visible military presence. She said where she was standing there were a couple of guards, one with his rifle slung over his shoulder, the other with it ready in his hands.
Rose introduces "My Katrina" this way:
This blog started out as a series of emails to family and friends. I decided to blog these emails because I fear that the general public's interest in Katrina is likely to wane well before its effects on the victims. I hope that by writing about my experience -- and remember, I was one of the lucky ones -- that people outside the disaster zone and the surrounding areas will keep thinking about the broader and deeper implications of this disaster and do their damndest to ensure nothing like it can happen again. We can't stop a hurricane, but we can prevent the social tragedy that ensued.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Human Rights Watch: 517 prisoners still missing

Corinne Carey of Human Rights Watch:
We went down to investigate claims that we had been hearing that prisoners were abandoned in one of the facilities -- Templeman III is the name of the building -- and that some inmates had seen inmates left in their cells while they were on their way out, when they were finally evacuated Thursday and Friday of the week after the storm.

So the first thing that we did was [ask] for a list of prisoners that were held at Orleans Parish Prison prior to the storm hitting, and then we also obtained a list from the Department of Corrections of all offenders that had been evacuated from New Orleans. We went through that list and came up with 517 people who were still unaccounted for.

We're certainly not saying that those people drowned in the facility, but there are credible reports from inmates of being left in that facility in locked cells. And so we'd like to know from the Orleans Sheriff and from the Department of Corrections what happened to those 517 people.
From AlterNet: Left to Die in a New Orleans Prison. Dan Bright, now in Grand Prairie, TX, was imprisoned in one of the facilities involved:
The Templeman III building is a receiving cell. You go there, and they hold you until they put you into a steady housing development. And like she was saying, we were strictly abandoned. They just left us. When we realized what was going on, it was too late.

It was total chaos. The water was up to our chest. You had guys laying in the water trying to climb to the top of their bunks. You had older guys who didn't have any medicine who we were trying to help. And the way we got out was we had to kick the cell door for maybe like an hour or two. And the cell doors, they sits on this hinge. You have to kick it off the hinge. And when you kicked it off the hinge you have to slide out the door.

And Templeman III is...two levels. You had an upper level and bottom level. The guys on the bottom level was totally stuck in this water. Lights was out. So we had to get out on the top level and come down and help those guys. And the police, they had left.

Bunny Bread

This was taken from the website, which includes personal accounts of victims of the hurricanes. It struck a chord in me as the storyteller speaks about Bunny Bread, a gooey-white staple of my childhood in Louisiana...

Virginia Fernandez of Kenner writes:

I got the last loaf of Bunny bread at Wal-Mart the other day, the first one I've seen since I evacuated to Houston for Katrina. No one did a double take as I cradled that loaf of Bunny at Walmart and almost cried. As much as I was grateful for Houston's hospitality, I ached for what I consider my New Orleans . . . a big sloppy roast beef po-boy with fries stuck in it; seeing the streetcars rattle by as I chow down at Lebanon's Café; taking a walk at Lafraniere Park and watching the ducks paddle in that grody lagoon; going to the French Market to get some cheap sunglasses; taking a cruise down Lakeshore Drive with all the rollerbladers and joggers in the other lane. Even my evening commute to UNO on the 610 to Elysian Fields is gone for now. When I smelled that wonderful aroma of Bunny Bread, it brought New Orleans all back to me. It's ours, it's unique, and no one else will understand! I'm never going to take our city for granted ever again. Born & raised, forever, loving New Orleans.

Rick Perlstein: The Op-Ed Which Wasn't Run

Atrios publishes The Op-Ed Which Wasn't Run, written by Rick Perlstein, and submitted without success to major newspapers in the second week of September.
A white friend who's volunteering in refugee shelters on the Gulf Coast tells me the kind of things he's hearing around the small city where he's working.

A pastor is obsessed that "local" women not be allowed near the shelters: "At a community meeting they said these were the last evacuees, the poorest of the poor"--the most criminal, being his implication, the most likely to rape.

My friend says: "There were rumors that there were basically gangs of blacks walking up and down the main drag in town harassing business owners." The current line is that "some of them weren't even evacuees, they were just fake evacuees trying to stir up trouble and riot, because we all know that's what they want to do."

He talked to local police, who report no problems: just lost, confused families, in desperate need of help.

Yet "one of the most ridiculous rumors that has gone around is that 'the Civic Center is nothing but inmates. It's where they put all the criminals.'
Perlstein observed:
I immediately got that uncanny feeling: where had I heard things like this before?

The answer is: in my historical research about racial tensions forty years ago. I'm writing a book against the backlash against liberalism and civil rights in the 1960s. One of the things I've studied is race riots. John Schmidhauser, a former congressman from rural Iowa, told me about the time, in the summer of 1966, he held a question and answer session with constituents. Violence had broken out in the Chicago ghetto, and one of the farmers asked his congressman about an insistent rumor:

"Are they going to come out here on motorcycles?"
One other thing: the report that police had shot five suspicious characters? Perlstein says the five victims and three colleagues turned out to be contractors on their way to help repair one of the broken levees. I hadn't known that.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Clayton James Cubitt: Operation Eden

Fearing the worst, Clayton Cubitt began "Operation Eden -- "A personal chronicle of what hurricane Katrina has done to my poor proud people" --as the hurricane bore down on Louisiana. Cubitt is a photographer who goes by the name "Siege"; he's also an expressive writer. 8/29: Betsy, Camille, Katrina:
I can't breathe today. My mind is focused on that red swirl, right now mindlessly, purposelessly tearing up what I love. Most of my family lives in its path. I haven't heard from most of them. My last contact was with my mom, in a voicemail she left me yesterday morning at dawn, telling me she was evacuating. It ended, her voice breaking in tears, 'Pray for us, brother.'

The eastern edge of the eye is the area you don't want to be in. It's the area that is right now over the home I bought for my mom this year. Is she safe? My little brother? Is the roof of her home, which she called Eden, now upturned in some swollen black swamp? Are my childhood photos driven by the blasting winds like nails into a pine tree nearby?

My family, mom, my little brother. They have so little, is even that now all gone?

Are they safe?
He returned to the region soon after, taking pictures and writing about what he saw. After his mom was injured during cleanup, he took her to a clinic. 9/18, "Sour Times":
In 100 degree heat she sat there, and I watched as what was left of her dignity and pride slowly drained out of her. I could see it happen, right as she apologized to the doctor for having unshaven legs, but we haven't had running water this whole time, so I feel bad you have to touch them. The doctor was charming and said nonsense don't apologize, but it was too late, and Katrina and the 100 degree heat evaporated my mom's reserve of dignity and all I could do was watch, because dignity drains much faster than you can fill it back up.

We listened to Johnny Cash's Hurt on the way back to our shelter, and my mom silently cried a little, and I put my hand on her shoulder and couldn't say anything, because Johnny already said all that needed saying.
9/27: "Ragged Hymnal":
My sweet aunt and uncle still struggle in Slidell. There's eleven of them forced into one house now, with all the kids and in-laws. FEMA still has no timeline for temporary housing. A mythical program exists in the dreams and hushed whispers of victims waiting in the FEMA lines. Legend has it that FEMA has secured thousands of shiny white trailers for people to live in while the world is rebuilt. Trailer cities are coming for the homeless. An Eldorado with dwellings where only two people live in a room together. My aunt and uncle are on the List. Right now, lists are Life.

But she wonders how they're going to do it? The place across the street used to rent for $700, and now it's a steal at $1750. Somebody's making a killing. All the housing's blown away. Supply and demand. Carpetbagging a new Reconstruction.

"Can I do anything for you? Anything? What do you need?" I say.
"Pray for us, baby." She says.

But I never was much of a prayer.
Via Stryker. Mr. Cubitt also maintains a separate operation:eden fundraising site where you can donate money, or buy or bid on things (warning: not all work/child safe) to help him help his family get back on their feet. He explains "Eden":
My mom raised me and my little brother alone, working three jobs, and I promised myself I'd take care of her when I could. This March I was finally able to make good on that promise, when I used my life savings to buy her a humble trailer she had fallen in love with in Mississippi, and gave it to her for my birthday. It was the first thing she'd ever owned, aside from junker cars. She named her humble trailer "Eden", and was as happy as I've ever seen her, which is pretty damn happy.

Alan Chin, photographer

i left today. writing from dallas airport hotel. flying back to NY tomorrow. frankly, from my point of view the story is the FAILURE of government and security forces. now they are doing what they should have been doing in the first place. So I'm going back to NY to develop my film and get it out. Practical info: it's easy to get in to New Orleans at the moment. fly to baton rouge, rent car, get at least 20 or 30 gallons of extra gas in containers, food, and water. best western, marriot, and hyatt hotels in downtown are open. they have electricity and wi-fi internet but not reliable water, yet. I stayed in private house owned by Times-Picuyune reporter who had working landline telephone, and swimming pool next door to bathe in. If you have contacts you can find such a place, or across the river in Algiers. The southern bridges across the Mississippi River are open, as is the western approach on I-10 to Causeway Blvd, then switch to the river road that follows the left hand of the 'U' that is New Orleans. Magazine Street and Tciputolas Streets are the main arteries of movement. St. Charles and everything north is under water or mostly so. SUV will help you but not really that much, and they drink a lot more gas than the Ford Mustang we had. Security situation OK. Looting was over-rated. yes, it was bad for a day or two but there were very few deaths inflicted by looters. at night it's a bit sketchy to drive around because of trigger happy security forces. have your credentials ready and drive slowly with hazard lights blinking when you approach police or military. cellphone service spotty but do-able. Verizon and T-mobile pretty good. SMS pretty good. Sprint (which i have) just started to work again today. french quarter, downtown, uptown, garden district neighborhoods all OK. everything else under water. Good luck.
Alan Chin's photographs of New Orleans can be seen at BAGnewsNotes: "Katrina Aftermath: And Then I Saw These."

Monday, September 26, 2005

The following was written by Richard Theilmann, an independent filmmaker whom I had the pleasure of spending time with while in Houston during the aftermath of Katrina.

I think you might find this interesting. I'm slowing getting back into the game. It has been intense. Writing this down has helped stem my anger. I'd love to show you some of the photos I took and I'd love to come down and chill out sometime AFTER ALL THESE HURRICANES !!!!!

A Call to Action

I stared in horror as day after day nothing was being done to help the people trapped in New Orleans. Worse yet, being ex-military, I know that we could move out in 48 hours. Also, I still have contact with people on Active Duty and I was receiving e-mail from old buddies such as Col. Liston, USMC who said they were all standing around waiting for orders and Lt. Col. John Mayers, US Army, 82 Airborne who said that he had 1,500 paratroopers with equipment ready to drop in and restore order but nothing in the way o foperational orders had come down from CentCom. [Central Command]. Life was very busy here at home as Rosemary and I were preparing for our huge Bankruptcy Sale on Friday, Sat, Sun and Monday of Sept. 2 - 5.

Sundays sermon by Fr. Mead [Matthew], urging us as followers of Christ to heed the words, Feed my Sheep, take care of the Sick. I could here Matthews own frustration as he implored people to "Do Something" ! I seriously made a commitment to find out what I could do. As it turned out, so did a new acquaintance of mine. I received an urgent e-mail asking for support and to volunteer to actively assist in recording the stories of the people and the recovery effort. I jumped into action, replying in the positive and made plans to move out as soon as our sale was over on Monday. We drove down straight through the night, arriving in just 32 hours. My first day consisted of still shots of Drew conducting interviews. This was intense and the people's stories were compelling.

The next day, more media briefings and we continued to record stories. I managed to interview part of the field team of the CDC [Centers for Disease Control]. They were to be flown by Helicopter back to New Orleans and lay Mosquito Traps all around the city and into the surrounding areas to determine the spread of infectious diseases. They were VERY concerned about Malaria and West Nile Virus. They also took water samples to establish the contamination rate. The last 2 days was more still shots of the various working teams and the rescue workers stories..That's the short version.

We were warned to be prepared when we get home to go into depression. Alas,I became angry. This process of writing it down has helped to stem that anger. I'm reflecting on cause and effect and as I step back things become clearer.

My Analysis

Is this the United States of America? The entire world is watching as our citizens, people, women and children wailed for help. Sick people die of thirst on the sidewalks. I know we have seen such scenes of blacks fleeing devastation and despair from places like Somalia or Angola, but here, the world's richest country ! This national shame, Third World like condition sright in our own backyard. This has got to prompt some soul searching. How can we spend hundreds of millions of dollars to wage war on Iraq when we can't even protect our own citizens ?? Then, the utter collapse of civic order, looters, gangs attacking fleeing victims. Some of the stories we heard contained description of beatings and rapes. Such violence is not inevitable. In the aftermath of the tsunami, we saw no selfish savagery, even though the countries hit - Indonesia,Thailand, Sir Lanka - were much poorer than us. Is it possible that
the veneer of civil society is thin and fragile here inAmerica ? What does this say about community. We have a national ethos of self-reliance, individualistic, and anti-authoritarian. But, by virtue of this every-man-for-himself, it could destroy the system itself. Do we really value community, of a people pulling together in a joint project, or only if there is money to be made. I hope Katrina, and now Rita will serve as a wake-up call, as if 9-11 wasn't enough ! I hope that now we call a halt to the experiment of limited government, the conservative agenda. They cut away at social services until they created a whole underclass of uneducated indigents. Gutted federal disaster agencies to pay for an immoral war. This is no example for the rest of the world to follow. When corpses float in the streets for five days, the superpower is impotent...The king has no clothes...The fact that this happened AGAIN while President George W. Bush was on vacation makes the humiliation complete. The least hardworking president in history continued playing at his Texas ranch while our fellow citizens drowned and starved in New Orleans. Most of us get only a few weeks vacation, no vacation if you're self employed. But this guy takes five weeks vacation all the time, lacks leadership and expects faith to take care of everything. Remember that deer-in-the-headlights look when Bush was informed of the 9-11 attacks? Bush seems similarly helpless in this second national crisis. And he showed the same political denseness. Just as he kept reading a story to school children while thousands of Americans were burning to death in the twin towers, so he kept smiling and joking as floods engulfed whole cities. This time around, let's hope that we're not so easily fooled. The death toll in Iraq rising month after month with no end in site and larger hurricanes to eliminate more cities must cause us to take a moment of pause, that tough talk and the profligate use of military power is no substitute for true leadership. A little compassion would have gone a long way. Have we lost our will ? Or should I say, We have lost our will! A political awakening is long overdue. We must criticize the Political Class. We watched the richest country in the world let its poor die like animals. It's beyond dispute that we had the means to rescue the hurricane victims. We simply lacked the will and leadership. That the largest and most modern military in the world was so inefficient can only be blamed on leaders of doubtful competence. We have been tarnished as never before.I wish I could end this on a positive note, but, I'm unable to. This really is a time for action. And, a time for prayer and reflection.

Yours truly, Richard

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Wayne G., via "Alive In Truth"

Wayne G., Singer, 9/7/05:
We got there the first day. On a Wednesday. Okay, we had security guards on Wednesday, there. They had electricity, in the Convention Center. They had air conditioning, in the Convention Center. Okay? See, that next morning? We was by ourselves. We were by ourselves.

No security guards. They turned the lights off. They turned the air conditioning off.

No representatives, no state representatives, no government agents. Nobody came to us to see what was happening with us, okay. Alright, here go the feces and the urine! Okay, now, you got 5,000 people—that’s in one section of the Convention Center! The Convention Center goes to the A, B, C, D, and E. It’s about the same size as yourn, on the inside, okay. Bathroom a mess. Feces, urine. Peeing on the floor. All that, and shittin’ on the floor. Okay, all that there. So then they had to find another place to shit and piss. Alright? They went, they found a big ole room. They made that out a sewage room.

You got no air conditioning, right? So all the heat … You can smell it, going all through your throat. You’re smelling urine, you’re sleeping with urine. So here go the people dying on you, okay? Disease, disease setting in, okay? And then, uh … shit. (Crying.)

Okay. Me and my mother. Like I said, we are Christian people. We always believed in God, we have faith in God, we know that he did it for a reason. It’s something when you get around—when you’re, when you’re, when you’re sleeping with dead people right by you, you know. It’s, uh … and, uh …. When you see, uh, elderly people dying around you and you can’t do nothin’, because uh nobody there to give you no water.

I starved three days and I fed my mother, just so she can eat. But she was worrying about me, but I told her I was strong. Told her I was strong, Mama, you go ahead on, eat this. Okay? And, uh, then here come the rapes.

Raping little—gangs raping little females, cuttin their throat. This is at -- this is -- I seen it all. Little babies dying. (Crying.) They were stompin little babies. (Crying.) They started killin’ little children for nothing. They had nobody to protect us, at all.
Transcribed and published to the web by "Alive in Truth: The New Orleans Disaster Oral History & Memory Project." From "who we are":
Alive in Truth is an all-volunteer, grassroots effort to record oral and written history about the lives of displaced New Orleanians, in their own words.

First and foremost, we are grateful to the people who share their stories here, and whose enormous strength of character is evident.

The project is founded and coordinated by New Orleans native Abe Louise Young.

se7en: Cleaning up

The power is on:
Made it into the house yesterday and it's quite a mess. The water level inside was only about 2 to 3 ft but the water has soaked into the walls several feet higher than that. The big oak in the backyard is indeed leaning against the back of the house, causing a considerable amount of damage to the roof in several places, and rain is able to leak down all the way to the lower floor. A branch was thru my bedroom window, it had broken thru from top to bottom and destroyed the window frame. It was kinda fun to stand on top of my bed with a chainsaw to cut the branches back that were sticking thru. Then I pulled a small sheet of plywood out of the attic and used my bed as a workbench to trim it with the chainsaw to fit the window frame and screwed it to the window frame, weeee!! Who knew it could be so much fun to use a chainsaw indoors!! The glass had shattered all over the room and debris and leaves have been blowing in for the past couple weeks, LOL

Amazingly both of my main PC's still work and booted up just fine, I haven't had a chance to check the other two though, maybe today. The cable is down so I have no 'net connection there, I'm blogging from a family friends house a few miles away. We will be staying here for a short time, how long is anybody's guess. The lower floor is disgustingly filthy, the smell was overwhelming and there is shitloads of mold and mildew covering everything. I was able to get the A/C running, one of the main fans was frozen. A little persuasion in the right place and I was able to get it going. It's been running all night, hopefully when we go there today it won't smell as bad and a lot of the moisture will be removed.

Slidell, Louisiana: home video of storm

Slidell Hurricane Damage Blog:
This is nuts, but there is a home video someone in Slidell shot during the storm. Go to this page to check it out. There is a slideshow of the images, plus you can play the video.
The blog itself is obviously all about Katrina, and tags many posts as "eyewitness reports." Slidell, Louisiana is on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Brian Thevenot, New Orleans Times-Picayune reporter

Apocalypse in New Orleans: A firsthand account of how a small band of Times-Picayune journalists covered devastation and misery in their shattered home:
The Saturday after Hurricane Katrina drowned my city, I sat alone in a rented Jeep in front of the latest headquarters of the Times-Picayune's "New Orleans bureau" – our fifth in as many days – pounding furiously on a laptop, taking belts of Johnnie Walker Red to beat back tears. I was locked out of the staff's Uptown house, awaiting the return of the tiny team of colleagues that now represented the entirety of the paper's presence in the city we once dominated. On the advice of cops who warned us they couldn't patrol the area – and to forget 911 – we'd arranged for a shotgun and two .357 revolvers that would arrive before nightfall.

As I typed, I struggled desperately to do justice to the scene I'd witnessed that morning, amid a mass of refugees at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, one that had laid bare the beauty and the horror of mankind and reduced me to a sobbing wreck.

Sitting in the Jeep, air-conditioning on full blast, the scene through the windshield turned even more surreal: A building collapsed 30 yards in front of me. A dozen men dressed in black flak jackets and shirts marked simply "security" raced toward me and away from the cascading bricks, glass and wood.

I leapt out of the car to help but found no one hurt. My heartbeat returned to whatever had become normal after days of rushing adrenaline, sporadic food and listless sleep on hard floors.

It had come to this: During the worst natural disaster on American soil and the biggest story in its 168-year history, the Picayune's roughly 200-member city-based editorial staff had been reduced to about a dozen editors, writers and photographers. We'd set out four days earlier, as the rest of the paper evacuated to Baton Rouge and Houma, to cover the storm out of one delivery truck. Since then we'd gathered a canoe, a kayak, two bicycles and several staffers' cars. We'd foraged in journalists' homes for food, water, housing, computers, notebooks and sporadically working landlines. A wind-up radio served as our only connection to fast-breaking news of the storm.
Via a glowing review by Teresa Nielsen Hayden at "Making Light."

In a way, this one doesn't fit with the general "no media voices" idea here, but maybe that's not so much the idea as "no second-hand stories, the storyteller lived the story." This is a lived experience narrated by the man who lived it.

Quvandra Ballard

City Pages - New Orleans: Survivor Stories:
Before the storm came, we were trying to see if we should leave or not. There wasn't a mandatory evacuation at first. When we saw it looking really bad, we decided to leave. We just grabbed what we could. All we were able to grab was what was hanging around, some jeans and a shirt, stuff like that. We grabbed some covers and pillows, to ride in the car and just in case we need it in shelters. We actually thought that we would be able to come back home like we do for every other storm. But this was category five; this was a different story. They kept predicting it every year, but it never happened.

My mom was in Hurricane Betsy. She was on top of her house. I was like, really? I just couldn't see that. But now I really see it.

So now we're in Minnesota. I come here to visit once in every blue moon. Last December I was here for four days. And now I'm here to make it my home.
Links to other City Pages stories here.

Joshua Cousin - Note From The Book

Note From The Book:
Ofcourse You all Know by now that my blog was featured on CNN as the Katrina survivor blogging direct from the Astrodome. We'll Here's My Storm Story REVISED for the ones who missed it... or atleast want to know more than what was told the last time. [...]

When the morning came it was a big lack of coast guards but they kept yelling"400 more are on the way" which was a lie. there were a few guards and the rest were The neighborhood rescue team We ate chicken and some of our found floating goods until they came to rescue us. They got our 2nd Neigbors First, Then my next door neighbors.. Then it was our time.

We had to slide down the poles to get on the boat because the waters were high and were said to get 9 feet higher. This is when I asked the guard where He came from. He told me that he came from Miami. which was so great because they were hit by the storm also. so we commend him for his efforts. :) . we got on the interstate to find out that Those Black hawks were there to bring food, water & also bring us to saftey. Those MRE's were Great.

We had to sleep on the interstate for 2 nights straight untill our squad of 50 had to load the buses. We got on those buses & were relieved. We finaly were able to get some Cool air and to sit down and not be hurting from the concrete like on the interstate. the bad part is that we had to leave our pets.

Riding Through the city was a Mess though. It was a big heartbreak for us. Our Whole Neigborhood was flooded... We thought we were in high waters in the hood; These houses were under water, some were even blown away from their foundations. If you looked to the left The waters were high. but looking to the right the waters were higher.
(Via Ernie the Attorney.) Joshua is now living at the Reliant Arena in Houston.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Dispatches from Tanganyika

Poppy Z. Brite is a NOLA blogger who's been blogging reliably all through the disaster. This is from September 8:


Rescue team apparently got into our house. Got 14 cats and the snake; are going to try to go back for more. I don't know which cats or where they are. Hoping for more info soon and will update as I can. I feel like a man who has just been pulled back from the edge of a deadly precipice. Thank you all, again, for the help. We still have a long, scary road ahead, but at least there is hope.

Evacuees Were Turned Away at Gretna, LA

From NPR:

Three days after Hurricane Katrina struck, authorities blocked the road that connects the city of Gretna to New Orleans. Thousands of evacuees say they were prevented from escaping the flooding and chaos, and that shots were fired over their heads.

Rob Helpy-Chalk, who provided the NPR link, also has notes from his own interview with the mayor of Gretna :

I told him I felt lucky he chose to call me, and I hope he and his community recover quickly. Then we hung up.

I can see quite clearly where he is coming from: He thinks he did the right thing, because he protected his people. His problem is that he has too small a view of who his people are.

Rob also has a post called "Gretna Facts," which includes a map of the area involved in the story.

Canal Street, Friday

Canal Street, Friday
Originally uploaded by Tampen. Posted with permission.
Photo by Tampen. A slideshow of his other New Orleans photos is titled "After The Flood."

These and other Katrina aftermath photos can be seen by viewing's "The Hurricane Katrina Pool." The slideshow version is pretty powerful.

Looking for Grand-daughter (Yahoo! Message Boards)

Yahoo! Message Boards, Katrina - New Orleans, LA:
Grand-daughter; Tia Meleane Ann Banks, DOB:01-04-1995, Last known address is 4229 Mendez St, N.O., LA, May be with her dad; Derrick James Banks, DOB:12-30-1972, same last known address. any one knowing the whereabouts of these two please connect me at or Or Tia's mother at We both have been checking every site since the day after the hurricane Katrina went through the New Orleans area. Mother and Grand-mother is very worried in San Diego, CA. When conacting us please leave name and a means to contact yourself or Tia.
This is one of 4418 messages currently on the Yahoo! Katrina-New Orleans board; there are numerous other message boards for the entire region affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Minneapolis/St. Paul City Pages - "New Orleans: Survivor Stories"

Editor Steve Perry explains:
The survivors all had stories to tell, whether they could bear to tell them or not. A few first-hand accounts by New Orleans survivors did circulate via email lists and get posted at websites; these were more revealing, and more gripping, than the reports news media offered up regarding conditions in the city during the days between the storm and the eventual evacuation. (One exception: Scott Gold's wrenching coverage in the LA Times.)

We wanted to hear more. So last week, CP reporters and stringers contacted about 30 of them and asked them to tell their stories. We interviewed some of the 1,000 or so Katrina survivors who have made it to Minnesota, and spoke to many more who remain in the area by phone. Here are a few of the stories we collected. The real measure of all that was done wrong by city, state, and federal governments, and of all that people trapped in New Orleans had to do and endure as a result, is in these tales and thousands of others like them.
The portal page is titled "New Orleans: Survivor Stories" and subtitled "Beyond soundbites : detailed first-hand accounts from people trapped in the city after Katrina -- what they did, what they saw, how they stayed alive." Some of the City Pages stories already been blogged here, and others (Slonsky, Denise Moore) have also told their stories elsewhere.

At random: Edith Moore, 70:
We stayed in the shelter two days. At the school. It was terrible. Terrible. The floor had urine on it, you walked in urine. You didn't have no food, you didn't have no water. We was treated like dogs. They called us refugees. I really didn't know who was running it. The camouflage, I guess, the National Guard. They treated us like dogs. They treated me like a dog. Because any time you're running all over people with shotguns, them big popguns, and you're cursing them out and telling them to get down on their knees, and up on their feet, and you're making them turn their heads, and making them stand outside so you can taunt them. You tell them to get up with the sun, and you tell people that the trucks are coming and you're moving them out to safety. It didn't happen.

And they point guns at you. I was very frightened and very upset. And if you leave out the door, they said if you get to the dogs, they was gonna shoot you at the dogs. These was words that came from their mouth. And these was the guards that was over you. I've never had a gun pointed at me. No I haven't. And it was terrible.
And another: Calvin Dawson, 36:
I saw a shotgun fired off. I saw shotgun pumped and stuck under a lady's throat. Cops standing at gung ho, ready to fire. A guy ran over a pop bottle and dude was like on the crowd with a fully automatic weapon in the west bank. He was ready to kill us, man! And he like blasted the crowd with a shotgun over our heads. Boom! Because people were trying to get on the bus! They were only bringing in two [buses] at a time and there were 600 people under the West Bank bridge! People were trying to get on the bus with little tiny babies. They had been standing on their feet all night long. They were sick and tired. They were stressed out. They had lost everything they owned. They were literally at their wit's end. They couldn't take any more stress.

And these cops were not trying to be sympathetic to the fact at all. They just wanted to pop, pump shotguns and aim them at people. You know, you are going to give an officer, who already has the license to kill, you are going to give him martial law and a gun, a loaded weapon, and say, "Here, aim that at unarmed citizens." It don't make no sense. I'll give credit where credit is due. People were getting a little out of hand. They were already out of their minds, so they were getting a little out of hand. But the cops took the force a little further than they should have by aiming guns at people. They could have used verbal restraint first. But they were at gun force right off the jump. You know, standing around with fully automatic weapons. C'mon man. You don't need to get that dramatic with the situation. It was out of hand, man. Out of hand.
The full list:

Adele Bertucci, 53, hospitality worker, native of Cuba and 35-year resident of New Orleans.
J. Michael Brown, 52, resident of Chalmette in St. Bernard Parish, president of an electronic funds transfer company
Dumas Carter, 30, eight-year veteran NOPD officer, one of six local cops who stayed on duty at the Convention Center complex in the days after Katrina [*]
Sandra Carter, 59, retired schoolteacher, Algiers resident
Calvin Dawson, 36, brick mason, former resident of Jackson Avenue in Orleans Parish [above]
Briana Chatters, Red Cross volunteer in Baton Rouge shelter
Cory Delany, 24, resident of Waggerman, Louisiana, was in New Orleans with his family during and after Katrina
Jason Fraude, 22, carpenter, resident of New Orleans' Lower Garden District
Tysuan Harris, 24, nurse's aide, resident of the lower Ninth Ward
Jeffrey Hills, 29, tuba player, resident of the Lafitte housing project
Harold, 56, last name withheld by request, politician/professional decorator and New Orleans native
Machelle Lee, 31, Tulane Law student, one-time Minnesota resident, stayed in the Garden District during the storm and the days after
Jackie Mang, 32, nightclub manager and University of New Orleans, Bywater neighborhood resident, four months pregnant at the time Katrina struck
Edith Moore, 70, resident of Johnson Street in Uptown, near the Superdome [above]
Denise Moore, one of the 20,000 who went to the New Orleans Convention Center [*,*,*]
Katy Reckdahl, 40, Gambit Weekly staff writer, former City Pages staff writer, went into labor at New Orleans' Touro Infirmary on the Saturday night before the hurricane hit [*,*]
Sidney Smith, 51, Uptown resident and owner of Haunted History Tours
Lorrie Beth Slonsky and Larry Bradshaw, emergency medical technicians from San Francisco who were in New Orleans for a convention when Katrina struck [*,*; the infamous "bridge to Gretna" story]
Derrick Tabb, 31, snare drummer for ReBirth Brass Band, lifelong New Orleans resident [*]
Jennie Lynn Waters, 62, legal secretary in the New Orleans city attorney's office
Quvandra Ballard, 37 years old, lifelong resident of New Orleans, housing archivist for the state of Louisiana [*]

Click names for the full narrative at City Pages, or click the bracketed asterisks -- [*] -- for excerpts of the City Pages or other accounts by the person on this blog.

Lindsay Beyerstein: Blogging a disaster

Lindsay Beyerstein ("Majikthise"), a blogger who went down to the Gulf coast to have a look for herself, shares another Katrina story. This one illustrates the difference between voyeurism and reporting:
We got out of the car to photograph the markings on this house where we found the dead body floating near the lamp post earlier in the week. Notice the open door in right side of the image.

I was stepping back for a wider shot when our companion (who shall remain nameless) announced that she was going inside. Bob and I tried to discourage her, but she ran in anyway.

'Spot me!' she yelled as she disappeared into the moldy gloom, 'I'm moving furniture.'

This put me in an very awkward position. I couldn't just leave her in there, but I really didn't want to go inside. I heard scraping and thumping. She really was moving furniture! It occurred to me that she was also wearing shorts. I tried to think if we had a snakebite kit in the car. [...]

Suddenly Bob started honking the horn furiously.

She sighed and said, "If you're not comfortable with this, I don't expect you to be here."

She didn't have to tell me twice. It was no longer my problem.

Now I just had to walk back through the house and out the door. I was scared because I couldn't figure out why Bob kept honking like that. Was he trying to warn us to stay out of sight? Were there cops or soldiers outside? I stood absolutely still in the foyer, trying to peer out the door without drawing attention to myself. After a few seconds, I made a break for it.

As soon as I got out the door, I saw what was worrying Bob. A huge feral dog was growling and circling erratically in the front yard. We'd seen this dog before, several blocks away and he seemed to have followed us here. Bob carefully drove between me and the dog so that I could jump into the passenger's seat.
The post also features tips for would-be freelance journalist/bloggers in the 21st century.

Click here for other Beyerstein/team Majikthise stories on this blog.

Chef Bob

Bob: Hey - how do you like that chicken? I don't like the coating...I took it off before I ate my piece.
Me: I don't eat chicken, but the potato salad is delicious!
Bob: Not enough pickles in there for me. I'm a chef and that's not the way I would make it. But it's not bad, I guess.

That was my introduction to Bob, a chef from St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana - one of the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina. I met him on September 11, 2005 at the Houston Astrodome.

You can't get a good cup of coffee in here, so I decided to buy a pot and brew it myself. And then I realized that was kind of selfish if I was to have good coffee and no one else could, so I took my Social Security check and bought this [commercial] coffee maker. It's good, huh? I'm using a blend of 1/2 Starbucks and 1/2 Folgers. I bet those people would be real mad at me if they knew, but how they ever gonna know?

Bob was passing through Houston as an evacuee. His plans were to move on to Corpus Christi, TX after his stay at the Astrodome. He was hoping to work as a chef again. His fellow evacuees and volunteer workers revealed that Bob was in poor health and they were concerned about him.

I knew I had to do something. Today is a hard day for me. If I wasn't making coffee, I would have spent my Social Security money sitting in a bar somewhere all day. I lost my wife four years ago today.
I put my arm around Bob's shoulder as he pulled out his wallet and showed me a picture of a beautiful Asian woman, smiling for the camera.

I lost her in New York on September 11.

Stuart Leeds, MD -- FEMA prevents peace group from helping

From a letter to Cindy Sheehan that she reprinted at "Daily Kos":
My name is Stuart Leeds - I'm the family practice MD that you met at the storage facility shortly before we all caravanned to Algiers today.

It was a great honor and delight to meet you! I'm also pleased and somewhat relieved to have the opportunity to give you a brief report on the state of affairs visa vi the medical relief effort in the afflicted areas.

In short strokes: people are not getting the help they need, because our government, through the agency of FEMA, has totally politicized the relief effort. I'm sure you've already gotten wind of the reports that the Bush Administration is handing out huge contracts to favored vendors, much as they have done in Iraq. But what is not widely known is - and I can verify this personally -- that FEMA is preventing certain groups and individuals from participating in the relief efforts. Here's a quick synopsis of the experience I and my companions (my wife, and two respiratory therapists) had today, in our attempts to offer our services to the Red Cross operation in Covington, LA.

# We got a call from an official at the Red Cross that the Vets for Peace were being invited to send doctors to Abita Springs, a nearby community.
# When we got there around 9 AM, some of director Dr Rachel Murphy's assistants welcomed us, and started making lists of materials we would need
# Suddenly, a man wearing a Homeland Security shirt came over and rudely asked us to leave. He brought a local cop with him, and their body language was pretty threatening. We explained that we were coming at the request of both Dr. Murphy and the mayor of Covington, Candace Watkins. He (whose name was Rodney Hart) would hear none of it from us; he forced us to leave immediately.
Via Charles Dodgson.

Monday, September 19, 2005

thatfarmgirl, "Annapolis Cares" volunteer

Via a this post, Annapolis, Maryland resident "thatfarmgirl" shares pictures from her volunteer work in Houston.

On September 12, she wrote:
We have three huge trucks pulling in to Houston Saturday morning and we'll be there waiting with open arms...and sore backs. Full report when I return.
She has also been to the DC Armory with donated supplies, and wrote:
Yesterday, we sorted and packed and loaded items from 9 am - 6 pm. We then drove three trucks...with full police escort! the DC Armory. There were so many wonderful volunteers from Annapolis and the surrounding area...about 15 of us. While we were waiting in front of the Armory, a young man and his father came up to the truck and offered to help us unload. Thank you to Jamil and his father for seizing the opportunity to help!

I had an opportunity to sit and talk with a number of victims of the storm. Their stories are heart-wrenching and heart-warming. Those with whom I spoke were all in good spirits and they were very pleased with how they were being treated by those at the Armory. Somehow, they even managed to get, in the words of Mr. Persica, an evacuee, "very expensive seats" to the Florida Marlins vs. Washington Nationals' game across the street. And I cannot express how wonderful it was to see the eyes of the children when we walked in with a huge box of toys and told them to take what they wanted. It was Christmas in September!
Thanks for your work!

Mike, DMORT volunteer

DMORT stands for Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Teams. Linsay Beyerstein ("Majikthise") spoke with him in Baton Rouge, and shared the stuff that wouldn't get him in trouble ("Drinking with DMORT"):
"'Mike' from the airport bar is a retired firefigher who was headed back to the Midwest after spending several days searching people who drowned in their homes in New Orleans. Mike is a veteran DMORT volunteer, his first deployment was to the WTC after 9/11.

Mike didn't set out to join DMORT, he just had a general plan to volunteer for a federal agency after he retired. DMORT was the group that got back to him.

He talked about his DMORT training. All potential volunteers have to go through extensive training, as do their non-deploying spouses. Husbands and wives are taught how to support their partners when they come home from their deployments. They're told to expect nightmares and emotional outbursts. Veterans try to explain the ambivalence of spent, traumatized volunteers who still yearn to be back in the disaster zone with their buddies.

For Mike, DMORT was a big adjustment after decades firefighting. Before, it was an all-out struggle to save lives and protect property, now it's a methodical accounting of those who couldn't be saved. But Mike finds the work rewarding. DMORT is like a family, Mike explained. The guy you're working with could be an internationally recognized forensic expert, or a local firefighter, but everyone is equal and everyone is committed to each other and to the mission.

DMORT has a special relationship with the deceased. No matter how many casualties there are, and no matter what their condition, every body is the remains of an individual human who needs care -- not just removal and identification.

'We talk to them,' he said quietly. 'We say, 'We're here, Grandma, we're going to take good care of you.''

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Andrew Schamess, doctor

Mr. Schamess describes his experiences with FEMA in Houston on his blog "":
After a couple of hours in the medical clinic I was pulled aside with a few others to screen evacuees to relocate to a cruise ship. A cruise company had offered a ship docked in Galveston. We were supposed to decide who was healthy enough to board. ...

They kept us sitting around for about two hours, during which time we decided which conditions to screen for and made up a checklist. They weren't going to tell the evacuees where they were going until they got to Galveston. Aimee and I objected - you can't just bus people out to Galveston and then tell them they're going on a boat. They have a right to make their own decisions. [...]

Come 11:00, the FEMA employees decided to knock off. The processing would have to wait until tomorrow, they declared - as if it made little difference whether four hundred hot, miserable evacuees got to leave the Astrodome now or later. This lassez-fair attitude struck me as inappropriate in representatives of the agency whose slow response left thousands of New Orleaneans to die in the flood. I told the FEMA supervisor this. She smiled and assured me that my concerns would receive full attention in the morning. Then she left for her hotel.

Aimee and I spent the rest of the night running the gastroenteritis clinic. I want to emphasize that the City of Houston is doing its absolute best to manage the influx of evacuees - but this is what happens when you crowd six thousand malnourished people together in an open space on cots. We had a steady stream of patients with vomiting and dehydration. We laid them down on stretchers, gave them intravenous fluids, anti-emetics, cleaned them up, found them new clothes. Once they were able to keep down some water, we sent them out to the quarantine area. They were remarkably cooperative about it once they understood that they could infect others in the Astrodome.

One young man wandered in who was autistic and mute. He had been separated from his group. We had no idea how to find them. He was frightened as well as sick. Aimee contacted a local agency that cares for the retarded. They were willing to take him in. How he will ever be connected with his prior caregivers, I don't know.

As the night wore on and patients came and went, I began to imagine that he symbolized all the hurricane victims. It's as if they've lost, not just their homes, but their place in the world: their individual voices, their collective voice, their power to choose. Who is representing them politically? All kinds of decisions are being made about them without their input.

When I left Houston and had time to look again at the media coverage, this feeling was even stronger. The administration is working assiduously to shift the focus away from the disaster, away from the three days that people were trapped in the flood zone with no food or water, and toward rescue and reconstruction efforts now underway. We see soldiers patrolling the now empty streets, politicians posing in front of demolished houses. Everyone cares! The great crisis is be the damage to the President's reputation. Can he save his legacy?

We should not allow ourselves to forget the real experience of the people of New Orleans, those who were abandoned in the flood. I hope their stories will be collected and told. I hope that they will not disperse silently to whatever homes can be found for them. I hope they will not be bought off by a $2,000 ATM card. Their lives have been changed forever. I would like to know what happens to them.
(Emphasis added) Earlier entries by Mr. Schamess: Houston Convention Center; Volunteering for Medical Relief - Hurricane Katrina.

Derrick Tabb: "Once the press came, things changed."

Another City Pages survivor story, this one by Derrick Tabb, told to Pete Scholtes:
"In the midst of me stealing that van, as my family was loading up, they had a lot of other families, elderly people, in the hotel, and they wanted to get in the van. But we didn't have enough room to put everybody in. So they had like a couple SUVs and another van, and I stole them, too. Then the people and their families drived the van out of the hotel.

This was my first time ever stealing a car. I know you don't believe it, but I have a lot of friends with car shops. I had two cars that were stolen. One of them I found on the street, and I had to use a screwdriver to drive it back. A friend on mine came and told me how to put it up. The thief had just gone joyriding.

I got five cars [from the hotel] altogether. One SUV Yukon, two 15-passenger vans, and two Ford Explorers. I had to start the cars for people. A couple of them knew how to start them once I popped it up for them. I loaded up my family and I left. [...]

It [the Convention Center] was horrible. It was just wild out there. It was all right 'til the police came with the press. Once the press came, things changed. The police was down with you taking food and all that, 'cause they was trying feed everybody. Then when the press came, they made it look like people was just looting. A lot of people wasn't looting just to be looting. They were really feeding people. You didn't want to see a lot of old people and babies crying for water and stuff. I watched my mother-in-law cry for some water. That part was just sad. I had to watch a couple people die. I watched more than a couple, I watched like about five people die, because I was walking back and forth the whole night. The police shot a couple people. It was about the worst situation in my life. I have never been in a situation like that. [...]

The police searched us when we got to the dome [Houston Astrodome]. I told him the van was stolen, and they took the van. They didn't arrest me at all. The police treated me like a hero, damn near. They took my gun. But to tell you the truth, they treated me real nice. They didn't handle me bad in any kind of way. But they was searching everybody and doing all the procedures, just doing their job. Especially one of the cops was like a real, I would say, redneck. He was really cool to me. He was chewing his tobacco and everything. He just wanted to tell me the rules and regulations of Texas, that I couldn't have my gun.
Derrick Tabb plays snare drums for the "Rebirth Brass Band," and he's apparently now back on the road with them.

Dumas Carter, NOPD officer

From account published in City Pages ("NOPD officer who worked Convention Center describes the days after Katrina"):
Lots of people on the street were asking me where to go. I'm telling them the truth, which is I don't know, they haven't told us anything. They're telling us that somebody told them that they were told by another person who was somebody in charge of something that the Convention Center was being set up as a secondary evacuation point with food and water. Those people went to the Convention Center, and there was no food or water there for them. So now there's no water, there's no police--everybody's left the city except for the six of us. And now there's 20,000 people with no extra security down there.

We just told people that the National Guard was handling the evacuation effort, and they're not talking to us. So we've got all these people at the Convention Center, and now the captain is saying, okay, you all got to get out of the hotel. They're going to riot and they're going to burn the fucking hotel down. They're going to start this big massive thing, they're going to start killing people on Convention Center Boulevard, it's going to be a big massacre.

At this point it's like four days into it, and we're trying to explain to the captain, these people are so tired and thirsty and hungry they couldn't flip over a lawn chair if they wanted to riot. I won't say anything bad about my captain. My captain was making good decisions based on bad information. And my captain had to realize that he had to run a district of a hundred [officers], not all of whom had the testicular fortitude to stick this all out. So to keep morale up, he moves them out of the line of fire so they can sleep in a car somewhere. Whatever. That's what he had to do. When he got the proper information, he said we didn't have to leave the hotel. He said, just do the right thing. I trust you all. Do what you need to do. [...]

The majority of the people were staying outside. We were hearing all kinds of horror stories from inside, murder to rape to robberies to shootings to beatings. There was no way to verify any of that stuff. Ninety-seven percent of these people were behind us. They wanted us to be the police and they loved that we were still there. We were the only police they saw for four or five days. The majority of the conversations were, "Baby, I know you're being left here just like we're being left here and you don't know anything, but if you find out something, could you tell us?" My response was, you've got the radio--you tell us what's going on. And these people would come over and give us bulletins as they heard it from the news.
Dumas Carter is 30 and an eight year veteran of the New Orleans Police Department.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Joe Comer, ham radio volunteer

A post on the "Daily Brief" -- Katrina was devastating, but the Gulf coast will rise again:
Destruction in the Gulfport - Biloxi area was pretty bad, but the speed with which recovery is going is really impressive. Power companies from all over the country are working to get power back on, and other people, such as law enforcement folks are there from nearly everywhere. I met a group of state troopers from Indiana at Hattiesburg, even before I got to Gulfport. They were on their way down. There were groups of Florida state troopers there. Sonar guy asked me in a comment if there were Naval Reservists there. In fact, there were. On Thursday, on a trip to the Biloxi center, I met up with a whole group of Naval reservists, unloading trucks and passing out supplies. They were really working hard, doing the grunt work. Someone else asked me about NG and ANG troops. They were all over. Many of the NG troops were directing traffic in both cities, and that was really needed, as both power being out and many of the traffic lights just completely missing. It was impressive to see that many troops working so diligently, helping others when they could have been home in comfort and doing their civilian jobs. [...]

It was not like my experience with other storms. Frederick, in 1979, did nearly as much damage to Mississippi and Alabama, but this monster was much bigger, and the damage will take a lot more to recover from. It will happen, though, and will probably take more than five years to replace all the large structures, like bridges, that were destroyed.

More from Denise Moore

Via Camp Casey Detroit, a letter from John Woodford relaying Denise Moore's account of the Convention Center:
they were there for 2 days, with no water, no food. No shelter. Denise, her mother (63 years old), her niece (21 years old), and 2-year-old grandniece. When they arrived, there were already thousands of people there. They were told that buses were coming. Police drove by, windows rolled up, thumbs up signs. National guard trucks rolled by, completely empty, soldiers with guns cocked and aimed at them. nobody stopped to drop off water. a helicopter dropped a load of water, but all the bottles exploded on impact due to the height of the helicopter.

the first day (Wednesday) 4 people died next to her. the second day (Thursday) 6 people died next to her. Denise told me the people around her all thought they had been sent there to die. again, nobody stopped. The only buses that came were full; they dropped off more and more people, but nobody was being picked up and taken away. they found out that those being dropped off had been rescued from rooftops and attics; they got off the buses delirious from lack of water and food. completely dehydrated. the crowd tried to keep them all in one area; Denise said the new arrivals ha mostly lost their minds. they had gone crazy.
Ms. Moore was interviewed by "This American Life" for their 9/9 program, the subject of a prior post. The details here seem consistent with those she described then.

FDNY firefighter report

Also via Nick at "Blogborygmi":
(9/2) I've become a looter myself, technically. In an effort to conserve our dwindling supply of MREs, we've been breaking into houses for canned food. I suspect we're being a little gentler than our looter brethren, and we try to secure the doors when we leave, but it's almost silly. Nobody's coming back to these houses for a long, long time.

We've also become an armed band. One of my guys "found" a shotgun. I didn't ask him where, but I feel better that he has it. I've fallen back on infantry tactics for travelling down the streets - stay close to the walls, don't bunch up - because there's lots of random gunfire. The good news is that there's a lot more National Guard around today, so maybe things will begin to stabilize.

I do need to tell you some of the stories.

There was a woman walking down the street carrying two plastic bags. She looked to be in shock, so we stopped her to see if we could treat her. She had two dead babies in the bags.

We didn't find out if they were her children. She was a 3 on the responsiveness scale (which goes 1-5) and wandered off before we got much out of her. There are a lot of walking dead here. In a lot of ways, they're the creepiest of all.

We walked around the corner and into a shootout between two cops and a guy carrying a rifle. One of the cops shot the guy in the head. And they got in their car and drove away.

We rescued a mom and two kids who had been on a roof since Tuesday with no food, no water and the body of their grandmother. How does a kid have a normal life after that? What kind of awfulness is being bred here?

And one more:

An old black guy had stayed in his barbershop all week, trying to protect it. As we went by, he came out and said 'you boys need a shave.' So I sat in a chair on Poydras Street while he shaved me with a brush, straightrazor and filthy water. I'm not sure which one of us felt better.

Hemant Vankawala, MD: triage at the airport

Via Nick of "blogborygmi," a report from a doctor that has been "making the rounds on EM residency lists":

we did not practice medicine

there was nothing sexy or glamerous or routine about what we did we moved hundreds of patients an hour, thousands of patients a day off the flight line and into the terminal and baggage area patients were loaded onto baggage carts and trucked to the baggage area, like, well, baggage. and there was no time to talk, no time to cry, no time to think, because they kept on comming. our only salvation was when the beurocratic washington machine was able to ramp up and stream line the exodus of patients out of here

our team work a couple of shifts in the medcal tent as well. imagine people so despeate, so sick, so like the 5-10 "true" emergencies you may get on a shift comming through the door non stop that is all that you take care of. no imagine having not beds, no O2, no nothing except some nitro, aspirin and all the good intentions in the world. we did everything from delivering babies to simply providing morphine and a blanket to septic and critical patients and allowing them to die.

during the days that it took for that exodue to occur, we filled the airport to its bursting point. there was a time when there were 16,000 angry, tired, frustrated people here, there were stabbings, rapes, and people on the verge of mobbing. the flight line, lined with 2 parallel rows of dauphins, sea kings, hueys, chinooks and every other kind of helocopter imanigable, was a dangerous place. but we were much more frightened when ever we entered the sea of displaced humanity that had filled every nook and cranny of the airport. only now that the thousands of survivors had been evacuated, and the floors soaked in bleach, the putrid air allowed to exchange for fresh, the number or soldiers allowed to outnumber the patients, that we feel safe

i have meet so many people while down here. people who were at ground zero at 9-11, people who have done tusanmi relief, tours in iraq and every one of them has said this is the worst thing they have ever seen. its unaminous and these are some battle worn veterans of every kind of disaster you can imagine. [...]

many of the sickest simply died while here at the airport, many have been stressed beyond measure and will die shortly even though they were evacuated. if you are not medcial then go the shelters, hold hands, give hugs and prayers. if nothing else it will remind you how much you have and how grateful we all should be. these people have nothing. not only have they lost their material posessions and homes, many have lost their children, spouses, parents, arms, legs, vision, everything that is important.

talk to these survivors, hear their stories and what they have been through, look into their eyes

you will never think of america the same way
you will never look at your family the same way
you will never look at your home the same way
and i promise it will forever change the way you practice medicine

Nick notes that Dr. Vankawala has spoken to the press about his experiences.

Houston Chronicle blog "Voices of Katrina"

The Houston Chronicle is maintaining a blog called Voices of Katrina, featuring reporters, photographers, and survivors. From a 9/15 entry:
On Thursday, Melissa Phillip and about eight other journalists were headed to the Superdome when they heard a rumor that thousands of people were stranded at the New Orleans Convention Center with no food or water. They decide to check it out.

When journalists reached the convention center, they were shocked by what they saw. Within seconds, they were swarmed by people begging for help. There were no police and no military personnel anywhere.

A man screamed at Melissa to look at the body of a person who died while waiting for buses to rescue them. Melissa was appalled that the people were told the convention center was an evacuation site. She learned they had been stranded for four days with no food or water. She noticed dozens of old people, obviously from a nursing home, who were dumped in the middle of the street and weredying in the blistering sun.
The blog begins on September 4 and is ongoing. From September 9 entry about Superdome eyewitness Phyllis Johnson:
Johnson said many of the people she met inside the dome thought they were going to die there. But she didn't want to lay down and die. She escaped the shelter, slogged through chest-high water and finally caught a ride on a stolen truck. She ended up getting onto a bus headed for Houston.

Even though President Bush said today that race played no part in the botched evacuation efforts, Johnson strongly disagrees. She is sure that if the people who were stranded in New Orleans after the storm were white, they would have been rescued immediately and treated with dignity.

"They portrayed us as savages," she said.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Spencer Francis

Tourist in New Orleans interviewed by Singapore blogger and friend "IZ", 9/5/2005:
Spencer: We were asked to take shelter at the Superdome. Initially we thought it would be just for the night or two until the hurricane flies past us. It was relatively okay in the Superdome until we start getting more and more people flocking in. By the second day, it was like hell.

IZ: Reports said that the conditions were very bad there.

Spencer: We had, I think more than 20,000 people in the Superdome. Maybe even much more. We had no air con, no water and no food! We keep hearing that the govt is coming to help us. It is the same thing everyday but no one came. Oh man, you would freak out if you were there. At night, there were no lights and everyone was afraid. Most of the people there are blacks. I would say 99%. Whites like me were stared at and abused everytime we walk to the toilet for example. There were also rapes going on in the Superdome, some people were stabbed, molested. I couldn't believe that I'm in America. It was like Somalia. And the toilets were disgusting. Smell of urine and faeces everywhere. We come to the Superdome to seek refuge but all we get is hell.

IZ: What about the police? Is there anyone to provide some sort of protection for the people?

Spencer: From what I heard, the New Orleans police officers were busy in the streets, having their own gun battle with thugs. Then, I came across a group of Australians and Britons. We decided to group together and watch each other's back. Man, everyone was crying. It was horrible.

IZ: So when did you leave the Superdome?

Spencer: Only on Saturday morning. All of the sudden the army finally showed up. We got into one of the first few buses. It was chaotic. I even saw a few dead bodies lying around the Superdome. We were so happy to get out of the place man. We were sent to Houston and we managed to get a flight.

IZ: Are you satisfied with what the govt did?

Spencer: Hell no man! Five fucking days. No help. Nothing. It is like they deserted the people of New Orleans. Even now, the govt isn't doing much. There are still people on the freeways and on the streets that no one is helping. I'm outraged with the people we put our faith to lead and protect us. We are Americans! Our own govt can't even help us as fast as possible. Five days! That's crap man!

Coordinating Katrina Survivor Information

Chris Holland writes:
Refugees can search 20 web sites for lost relatives and still miss their entry on the 21st web site. There is a need to combine all the refugee data from big databases like Red Cross, large posting forums like Craigslist and many other sources on the web. The Katrina PeopleFinder Project seeks to create a single repository combining as many sources of refugee data as possible from all over the web without interrupting existing momentum.
Links to volunteer with software development, data entry, and volunteer recruitment are provided.

Michael Homan

New Orleans resident, writing on 9/5/2005 from Omaha ("One of the Millions of Hurricane Katrina Stories"):
I learned that my father-in-law was flying to Jackson Saturday, and Friday those guys in the airboat showed up. I was very worried because I had heard that they were not letting people evacuate with their animals. But these guys said that had changed, and so I put my computer and a few papers in my backpack, loaded the dogs, let the birds go, and put Oot the sugar glider with food and water in Kalypso's room to await my return, much like Napoleon leaving for Elba I suppose. We drove in the boat all over the city looking for people. It was so surreal with the helicopters and all the boats up and down Canal Street amidst all the devastation. Towards dusk on Friday I arrived at I-10 and Banks Street, not far from my house. There they packed all of us pet owners from Mid City into a cargo truck and drove us away. They promised they would take us to Baton Rouge, and from there it would be relatively easy for me to get a cab or bus and meet the family in Jackson.

But then everything went to hell. They instead locked up the truck and drove us to the refugee camp on I-10 and Causeway and dropped us off. Many refused to get out of the van but they were forced. The van drove away as quickly as it could, as the drivers appeared to be terrified, and we were suddenly in the middle of 20,000 people. I would estimate that 98% of them were African Americans and the most impoverished people in the state. It was like something out of a Kafka novel. Nobody knew how to get out. People said they had been there 5 days, and that on that day only 3 buses had shown up. I saw murdered bodies, and elderly people who had died because they had been left in the sun with no water for such a long time. I’ve traveled quite a bit, and I have never seen the despair and tragedy that I saw at this refugee camp. It was the saddest think I have ever seen in my life. I am still so upset that there were not hundreds of buses immediately sent to get these people to shelters.

'It Was as if All of Us Were Already Pronounced Dead'

The pro-war WaPo put together a report on the conditions at the New Orleans Convention Center, which includes interviews with evacuees:

Near where Cash had hunkered down Monday night, she noticed a little boy having difficulty breathing. She figured he was having an asthma attack or an anxiety attack. She and others nearby spotted a too-seldom-seen police officer. The officer came over, his gun drawn. Cash said she pointed to the young boy. "The officer checked the boy," Cash remembered, "then turned to us and said there was nothing he could do."

The officer vanished. The boy was dead -- a death confirmed by three others interviewed for this article.

WiFi NOLA - Success!

From Jacob Appelbaum:

We accomplished much in getting everyone online. My method was to teach people how to teach other people. Everyone that learned from me went to teach others. They became the teachers and then they made more teachers. By the end of the day, no one was working with me at all, everyone knew how to fish. We now have 8 public terminals, custom ethernet cables, scavenged switches as well as other things. If you’re in the area we’ve got an open wifi network.

I'm waiting to hear what the specific plans for the media center are.

Helping Evacuees in McComb, MIssissippi

From Scrutiny Hooligans:

Scrutiny Hooligan Cindy Lou Who is volunteering with the Red Cross in McComb, Mississippi. She's a Licensed Professional Counselor with excellent interpersonal skills and the ability to levelhead her way through any situation. She called tonight to update us on the relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Here are a few things I learned:

- Just south of McComb 8,000 evacuees are being housed in an old cattle warehouse. Cindy Lou busied herself handing out Red Cross checks ($2,000) to the afflicted.

- There is no FEMA. Nowhere. Cindy Lou has seen one FEMA rep who came through the cattle warehouse to see if the FEMA phone number was posted.

More at link.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Louisiana NAACP calls for residents to organize

via Majkithise:


CONTACT: Bob Brigham 415-265-2226 (Cell)

BATON ROUGE - Ernest L. Johnson, President of the Louisiana NAACP called today for Katrina evacuees in shelters to take control of their own destinies by forming SHELTER COMMITTEES.

"Each SHELTER COMMITTEE should elect a Chairperson and a Secretary and begin holding meetings, organizing, and working as a team for better treatment," Johnson said. "In unity there is strength."

Johnson called for each committee to begin writing down the name, telephone number, and next of kin of every shelter resident.

This contact information must be put into the FEMA database for evacuees to receive financial assistance.

Johnson urged each SHELTER COMMITTEE to send this information to 1755 Nicholson Drive, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70802, or to fax it to (225) 334-7491.

The Louisiana NAACP is airing public service announcements on radio stations that explain the process for bringing participatory democracy to the shelter system.

"The Louisiana NAACP is with you in solidarity," Johnson said. "The NAACP will stand with all displaced people until each and every one return to a brand-new New Orleans."

Ernest Johnson is available for media interviews.

Survivor's Story

What REALLY happened in New Orleans: Denise Moore's story (via Realtique)

Denise said the people thought there were being sent there to die. lots of people being dropped off, nobody being picked up. cops passing by, speeding off. national guard rolling by with guns aimed at them. and yes, a few men shot at the police, because at a certain point all the people thought the cops were coming to hurt them, to kill them all. she saw a young man who had stolen a car speed past, cops in pursuit; he crashed the car, got out and ran, and the cops shot him in the back. in front of the whole crowd. she saw many groups of people decide that they were going to walk across the bridge to the west bank, and those same groups would return, saying that they were met at the top of the bridge by armed police ordering them to turn around, that they weren't allowed to leave.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Images: Tourist in NOLA

A tourist put together a 197-photo slideshow that runs from the day before Katrina to the fourth day of the disaster. It was featured by Digby in this post. From Digby:

Here's a good example of what I'm talking about. This slide show of the destruction of the city from the beginning of the hurricane until the photographer managed to finally get out on day four is spectacular. Look all the way through it. It's great. When he finally realized that he would have to evacuate from the city he went to the convention center with a friend as authorities told him to do. And when he got there he saw long lines of people. This is the caption to his picture:

My jaw dropped and a sudden state of fear grasped my body. However, I maintained utter calmness. It was obvious that they were NOT going to help these people evacuate any time soon. They had been forgotten and obviously and shamelessly ignored. And it was evident that Andy and I were merely two specs of salt in a sea of pepper. Not only would we have to wait forever, but more than anything, we would probably suffer dire conditions after it would be obvious that we wouldn't "fit in". It was clear to me that we would have to find another way out. We left the Convention Center and my first intuition is to walk around the city. I wanted to clear my head, but I also had a weird and crazy plan in mind.

Cri du Coeur

A volunteer psychologist's account of evacuee conditions in Dallas September 9, 2005:

Katrina kicked the top off of a racist and social termite's nest that has been growing beneath the ground since Reconstruction. These were deeply religious people who have lost God and for that matter, faith and hope.

Hope has been replaced by magical thinking that augurs a second and
more terrible level of social disruption and anger not far down the road.

Over and over, I kept hearing a framing of self that puzzled me until I realized that this is how it must have been for blacks after
Reconstruction. Over and over, people said, "everyone has been so
wonderful, thank you, thank you." When I said, "there is no need to
thank us, you are our fellow citizens and we want to help you--Americanto American," there would be a long pause as if the idea of being the same never struck them before.

Malik Rahim

From the San Francisco Bayview:

Malik Rahim, a veteran of the Black Panther Party in New Orleans, for decades an organizer of public housing tenants both there and in San Francisco and a recent Green Party candidate for New Orleans City Council, lives in the Algiers neighborhood, the only part of New Orleans that is not flooded. They have no power, but the water is still good and the phones work. Their neighborhood could be sheltering and feeding at least 40,000 refugees, he says, but they are allowed to help no one. What he describes is nothing less than deliberate genocide against Black and poor people.

There was about to be a riot in New Orleans, by Malik Rahim September 7, 2005 (unsure of date)

This is Criminal, by Malik Rahim September 1, 2005

Joel and Jacob, who are blogging from NOLA, are also there to help Mr. Rahim set up the communications center for his grassroots relief effort. More on that here.

More Blogger Katrina Coverage

Jacob Appelbaum and Joel Johnson and Guerilla News Network's Anthony Lappé are all blogging from New Orleans documenting the aftermath. A good example of their work is the way all three covered a story describing the Red Cross' seizure of private medical supplies and the detention of the nurse who was transporting them.

From Joel:

I'm standing in a morning meeting with a group of volunteers who are working to set up the medical clinic. The big topic of the morning is the story of an LPN named Bobby (who isn't here) who was apprehended by the Red Cross while providing medical relief. The Red Cross (working with armed troops from FEMA [we think]), seized Bobby's medical supplies from his truck because someone from the Red Cross decided that he was stealing the necessities—specifically, the pharmaceuticals.

Problem is, Bobby's supplies weren't from the Red Cross, but instead from private donations. Many of the pharmaceuticals were for residents in New Orleans who have a prescription, and one of the other medical volunteers is licensed to dispense prescription medicines.

Not only did the Red Cross seize the pharmaceuticals at gunpoint (while detaining Bobby somewhere until after the curfew), but they also took the remainder of Bobby's supplies, including bandages and the like.

From Jacob:

I’m not really surprised that the Red Cross has the ability to use FEMA agents as armed guards. FEMA should guard them. FEMA should guard everyone. The Red Cross is doing important work, they’re saving lives. However, I’m really surprised they’re allowed to hold people at gun point and seize their belongings without any questions. This isn’t the Red Cross I grew up reading about is it? Is this possible? A reporter from Air America plans to follow up with the Red Cross about this. Here is another initial report of the seizure.

The people in New Orleans don’t all trust the Red Cross. Many of the people are afraid to leave, afraid to seek help, sick, wounded and these people are probably the best people to help.

More updates to come on this story as it’s pretty much a halfhearted rumor at best. Currently the guy from Air America is on the phone with this person.

From Anthony:

UPDATE: I talked with Bobby Lee Huss, whose shipment of medical supplies, including tetanus vaccines, prescription drugs, baby formula, wheelchairs, walkers and other devices, was confiscated yesterday at gunpoint by a Homeland Security checkpoint in Covington, a town on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. According to Huss, the shipment was seized at the request of a Red Cross official who claimed he had stolen the shipment. Huss, who says he’s a registered nurse for Methodist Health Systems in Denton, Texas, had been working for the Red Cross in Dallas and in Covington, La. as a volunteer. He was told of the need for medical supplies in Algiers (where I am) and appealed to his fellow Red Cross workers to help. According to Huss, he was given over $25,000 worth of medical supplies by the Red Cross in Covington. He claims he was given all the necessary credentials and Red Cross workers helped him load up his 1989 Dodge Caravan. But not less than 10 minutes later, he found himself staring the barrel of a gun at a Homeland Security checkpoint on the north side of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. According to Huss, a state police officer told him the Red Cross had requested he be detained.

Michael Moore is also blogging from the area at Camp Casey-Covington:

I have closed my New York production office and flown my crew down to Louisiana to assist in the effort. Retired Army colonel Ann Wright (who joined us on our election tour last fall) is there at Camp Casey-Covington helping to organize our relief effort and working with the dozens of Vietnam and Iraqi War vets who are going into New Orleans every day to rescue people. They are also distributing food, water and other necessities to area shelters.

A student journalism blog, Katrina's Stories, is up and running.

Our student journalists interviewed teenagers and their families, who are now in a Red Cross shelter in Longview, Texas. We want to share some of their stories as we reach out to them. Stories

The New Orleans Times-Picayune (which better win three or four dozen Pulitzers this year) set up a blog, NOLA View, to capture survivors' stories. E&P wrote about it:

The on-the-fly publishing system Donley and his team have built for hurricane coverage actually dates back to Hurricane Georges in 1998.

"One thing George showed us, because such a huge amount of people were leaving [the city], is that all of these hundreds of thousands of people who left wanted to know when the electricity was back on in their neighborhoods," Donley recalls. "They immediately got on the Internet and began slamming our site, looking for information and perhaps more importantly, exchanging information."

Last year, began using blogs to post regular midday updates. During Cindy and Dennis, which struck New Orleans over the Independence Day weekend and the week after, began running breaking-news blogs using an RSS system to feed constantly updated headlines to the breaking-news section of the Web site.

You can read the harrowing entries from the early days of the diaster and even more chilling ones that are being written even today at the website. August's archives are here. September's are here.

To get an idea of how well the blog worked as a flare for people in trouble read the following entries from this weekend:

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Name: Lisa Amos

Home: xxx-xxx-xxxx


Subject: My Hurricane Story -- Moss Point

Story: To anyone that can hear me.... two team members are in Moss Point right now!!! They say these people need help right away. They have given them what they can right now and are going to bring in some more tomorrow. There's approximately 400 people that desperately need food and water.

The Red Cross is too far away for these people to walk. They were promised that help would come today but no one has shown up. I have a contact there. Her name is Ruby Williams. She lives at xxxxx,xxxx. Cell phone is working. It is xxx-xxx-xxxx. She lives off I-10 exit #63. I been waiting on the phone for Red Cross for over 30 minutes and no one has answered. Does anyone have a phone number that works for them, the Coast Guard, the Natl. Guard, anybody????

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Moss Point update: Help on ground
2 p.m. update: We have confirmed that state and federal help is on the ground in Moss Point, Miss., as well as the assistance of private relief organizations.

A report
Relief workers with the Northeast Georgia Disaster Relief Fund responded to a cry for help posted on late Saturday afternoon. An assessment team left Slidell, La., headed to Moss Point, Miss., and discovered that the situation was even more dire than explained in messages circulating across the country asking for immediate help, Lisa Amos of the group said.

The Georgia group, plus another relief organization, were on the ground late last night in Moss Point. Contact was made through this Web site to the director of the Mississippi Emergency Response and the U.S. Coast Guard. Promises of immediate relief were given, but no confirmation has been received that government assistance has gotten to Moss Point near 1 p.m. today. (HELP ON GROUND, PER 2 P.M. UPDATE)

The first responder -- identified by Amos as "Devin" -- to this area described a remote community extremely cut off from help by a mass of downed trees and power lines. Most of the roads through Moss Point are not clear for travel. Eleven days after the hurricane hit, no food, water or medical assistance had reach the people of Moss Point. The Georgia group sent an immediate plea for help because they did not have enough food and water for the 400 residents in need of assistance.

Amos commended the relief team as she updated the group on last night's progress. "Most of the roads around the town were dirt roads that were impassable due to debris," Amos said. "They set up a distribution center and passed out food and water to over 400 people. You made this possible. At least they had bare necessities for one night."

Downed communication and power isn't the only barrier in Moss Point. Last Thursday, an alligator farm in the flooded community had a break and 200 alligators of various sizes were reported to have been loose on the streets of Moss Point. No details have been made available saying if the roaming alligators has made rescue attempts any more difficult. The owner said his gators were very docile and would probably run away from any humans in which they come into contact.

Angel Flights, a rescue group out of Oklahoma, has pledged to airlift any residents who need or want to leave to Oklahoma to waiting shelters and adopted families.

Amos said her group continues to seek help for the Slidell community also devastation by the storm. Medical help, in particular, is a dire need in Slidell, according to this group's assessment.

Contact source:
Name: Lisa Amos of the Northeastern Georgia Disaster Relief Fund
Home: xxx-xxx-xxxx