Friday, September 02, 2005

Hurricane Katrina

I've been trying, for days now, to wrap my head around the devastation that has become of New Orleans. At first, the destruction of houses and buildings was to be expected footage to see on various news channels but when the flood waters silently began rolling in, I don't think any of us were expecting the amount of apathy that now permeates NO.

Yesterday, I watched as a mother, who only 2 days earlier spoke of how everyone was getting along with and helping each other, held her nearly dead son in her arms, crying desperately for the newspeople interviewing her to help. She stated that the baby (for he is only 2) wouldn't wake up that much and doesn't move around hardly at all.

A pregnant mother, in labor swam to try and get help for her 5-year old son who was having an asthma attack. When she got back, he wasn't there and that I know of, she hasn't found him yet.

Another mother handed her 2-year old daughter to another woman on a bus, got pushed back and slightly trampled and when she finally got up, the bus was gone. With the aid of a reporter (female. I mention her gender because I bet this was a key factor in getting someone to help the mother because women tend to understand the immense panic when one's children are in danger.), officers finally began paying attention and 1 even put the mother, her son and their dog (why didn't anyone tell me I typed 'god' instead?!) into his patrol car and drove them to the Houston AstroDome. It had been a full 24 hours since anyone had even listened to this mother so I'm sure she was relieved to be reunited with her daughter (reminder: who was only 2).

That woman's son, and many other children for that matter, are dying from something highly preventable: dehydration. Mothers and fathers are having to choose between their lives and that of their children, a choice no parent should ever have to make. (And definitely an experience I pray/beg/plead I am never faced with almost daily.)

We've seen footage like this in Niger, Rwanda, recently in Iraq following a panic induced stampede, Afghanistan, in Indonesia/Thailand after the tsunami and in many other counties as well. Each and every time FEMA and the UN have been on the ground before the storms are even over.

Why the long wait for our very own country? A place that would take 2 days to get to by car alone? How come Mayor Rudin has to call "leaders" out to get his city help? Why does he have to angrily tell our legislative branch to get off their asses and help? Why did it take 5 days for them to do anything in the first place?

Yesterday and today the situation has been becoming ever more clear: the "have-nots" as Tim Russert stated, were left behind and, of course, are suffering the most. Their have-nots? no car, no extra trust fund, no swelling checking/savings account, they relied heavily on public transportation.

What has steadily happened over the last 40 years, is white people have been moving out of the bowl-like city of NO and into higher, more resourceful areas; a case of white-flight if you will. This left the proportion of residents in NO, who just happen to be black, in "the bottom."

If anyone recalls Toni Morrison's book, Sula, you'll remember this same sentiment is echoed in Medallion, which I believe began to be called "The Bottom" because that's where all the black people seemed to have been centered after the white people figured out that being on the mountain was like being on top of the world and since they were on top in societal perceptions, it was only fitting that they be on top of the world, literally, as well.

(Before I forget, buses have finally arrived at the Convention Center to begin evacuations of the people stranded there. Thank-fucking-goddess! Hopefully those mothers, children and elderly will have a greater chance of survival now.)

My Sociology prof said this morning in class, "If this isn't a perfect example of a sociological breakdown, then I don't know what is."

There is nothing, nothing for these people to ground them. And then to be treated like they don't matter because they are black? I had honestly thought the US was better than this at this point in our lives. At least so much so we'd help each other out in a time such as in NO without resorting to fights, fires and guns so quickly.

Bernadette Washington, a woman who was interviewed as they waited at a service station in Baton Rouge after their bus stopped there for a rest, has 5 children and a husband. Should they suffer simply because they are black? No, because that wouldn't be fair to them as people. Mrs. Washington also said something which I thought profound: "To me," said Bernadette Washington, "it just seems like black people are marked. We have so many troubles and problems."

Perhaps, but they are also problems embedded deep within society, problems that are now being forced to an unignorable front.

This, yet again, gives credence to Sydney's rant about hating white people.

She will absolutely love this next line then.

My prof told us about something she heard on one of the local radio stations this morning, one out of Charlottsville I believe. The caller, a white good 'ol boy, suggested that we turn all news/personal cameras off, get a bunch of good 'ol boys in there with loaded shotguns, and start shooting them all. Not all the people in general, just those caught looting.

Yeah, what was the phrase Sydney used again? Oh, right: "I fucking hate white people!"

On CNN this morning, my prof also told us about an aritcle titled, "Relief workers confront 'urban warfare." Of all the interesting places, it is listed under the Weather section. geesh.

In other news, the FEMA Director has gone on record to say something like, "Well, it was their fault because they didn't get out."

FEMA knew this storm was coming straight for NO and MI a few days before it actually blew ashore. Why weren't relief efforts mobilized beforehand, making trucks/helicopters/planes ready to go the minute the storm was over? They had relief to tsunami victims within 2 days.

Why weren't buses or other forms of transportation made available so the 100,000 persons left behind could get out as well? The city has buses and trollies so they could have easily piled as many as could fit on those and head out.

And now, because of poor planning, the shit is hitting the fan, big time.

10,000 more guardsmen have landed in NO. Police officers were turning in their badges instead of sticking to their oaths, claiming that they lost everything, their life isn't worth the mess. One woman reported an officer telling her it was "every man for himself."

Something that needs to be said, that many have been saying for years: Where was Bush when this happened? Still in D.C. Only today is he taking a tour to survey the area. Only yesterday did he denounce the relief efforts as unacceptable. I am slightly enjoying this part of the coverage because the choir who reads my blog know this about Bush anyway, ;). I'm almost positive he won't get anywhere near the Superdome or Convention Center at a time when "his people" need to hear from him the most. He has no leadership skills (or perhaps no desire to lead such a diverse group, most who won't swallow his lies?), it seems, and enjoys sitting back on his haunches whenever disaster strikes.

I feel like I've skipped all over this but, to be honest, I'm having a hard time pinning it all down. When I think of the children dying in their mothers arms simply because they need water, I'm heartbroken. It's depressing really. I haven't been sleeping all that much because I've been watching the news and reading everything I can (almost) on the internet.

To me, this equals the horror of 9/11 except that after the buildings were struck and then collapsed, we still had people trying to help each other because we were united against a definite enemy: terrorists. We knew then that it was clearly a case of us vs. them. In NO, it's only us and our governments lack of reponse to blame.

We are our own worst enemy it seems.

(I can't believe I forgot about this. Feed the Children has a Kids' Stuff Shoe Box Gift we can all do in our very own houses. You take a shoebox and fill it with items for school, play or for infants. It's that easy! Then you mail it in to them, along with a $5 donation to cover transportation costs and voila! You've helped another child have a happy day!)