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barbtries a blog
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
The ICC Discussion forum #15715.1
i've copied the following in its entirety because it
came from a delphi board...if i am violating anybody's
copyright against their will, please advise and i will remove it.

i think it is vital that this information be distributed...

Hurricane Katrina - Our Experiences
Sep 6, 2005, 11:59
By Paramedics Larry Bradsahw and Lorrie Beth Slonsky

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

[California] Two days after Hurricane Katrina
struck New Orleans, the Walgreen's store at the
corner of Royal and Iberville streets remained
locked. The dairy display case was clearly visible
through the widows. It was now 48 hours without
electricity, running water, or plumbing. The milk,
yogurt, and cheeses were beginning to spoil in the
90-degree heat. The owners and managers had locked
up the food, water, pampers, and prescriptions and
fled the City. Outside Walgreen's windows, residents
and tourists grew increasingly thirsty and hungry.

The much-promised federal, state and local aid
never materialized and the windows at Walgreen's
gave way to the looters. There was an alternative.
The cops could have broken one small window and
distributed the nuts, fruit juices, and bottle
water in an organized and systematic manner. But
they did not. Instead they spent hours playing
cat and mouse, temporarily chasing away the looters.

We were finally airlifted out of New Orleans two days
ago and arrived home yesterday (Saturday). We have
yet to see any of the TV coverage or look at a newspaper.
We are willing to guess that there were no video images or
front- page pictures of European or affluent white tourists
looting the Walgreen's in the French Quarter.

We also suspect the media will have been inundated
with "hero" images of the National Guard, the troops
and the police struggling to help the "victims" of
the Hurricane. What you will not see, but what we
witnessed, were the real heroes and sheroes of the
hurricane relief effort: the working class of New
Orleans. The maintenance workers who used a forklift
to carry the sick and disabled. The engineers, who
rigged, nurtured and kept the generators running. The
electricians who improvised thick extension cords
stretching over blocks to share the little electricity
we had in order to free cars stuck on rooftop parking lots.
Nurses who took over for mechanical ventilators and spent
many hours on end manually forcing air into the lungs
of unconscious patients to keep them alive. Doormen
who rescued folks stuck in elevators. Refinery workers
who broke into boat yards, "stealing" boats to rescue
their neighbors clinging to their roofs in floodwaters.
Mechanics who helped hot- wire any car that could be
found to ferry people out of the City. And the food
service workers who scoured the commercial kitchens
improvising communal meals for hundreds of those stranded.

Most of these workers had lost their homes, and had
not heard from members of their families, yet they
stayed and provided the only infrastructure for
the 20% of New Orleans that was not under water.

On Day 2, there were approximately 500 of us left
in the hotels in the French Quarter. We were
a mix of foreign tourists, conference attendees
like ourselves, and locals who had checked
into hotels for safety and shelter from Katrina.
Some of us had cell phone contact with family and
friends outside of New Orleans. We were repeatedly
told that all sorts of resources including the
National Guard and scores of buses were pouring
in to the City. The buses and the other resources
must have been invisible because none of us had seen them.

We decided we had to save ourselves. So we pooled
our money and came up with $25,000 to have ten
buses come and take us out of the City. Those
who did not have the requisite $45.00 for a
ticket were subsidized by those who did have
extra money. We waited for 48 hours for the
buses, spending the last 12 hours standing outside,
sharing the limited water, food, and clothes we had.
We created a priority boarding area for the sick, elderly
and newborn babies. We waited late into the night for
the "imminent" arrival of the buses. The buses never arrived.
We later learned that the minute the arrived to the City limits,
they were commandeered by the military.

By day 4, our hotels had run out of fuel and water.
Sanitation was dangerously abysmal. As the desperation
and despair increased, street crime as well as water
levels began to rise. The hotels turned us out and
locked their doors, telling us that the "officials"
told us to report to the convention center to wait
for more buses. As we entered the center of the City,
we finally encountered the National Guard. The Guards
told us we would not be allowed into the Superdome
as the City's primary shelter had descended into
a humanitarian and health hellhole. The guards
further told us that the City's only other shelter,
the Convention Center, was also descending into chaos
and squalor and that the police were not allowing anyone
else in. Quite naturally, we asked, "If we can't go to
the only 2 shelters in the City, what was our alternative?"
The guards told us that that was our problem, and no they
did not have extra water to give to us. This would be
the start of our numerous encounters with callous and
hostile "law enforcement".

We walked to the police command center at Harrah's
on Canal Street and were told the same thing, that
we were on our own, and no they did not have water
to give us. We now numbered several hundred. We
held a mass meeting to decide a course of action.
We agreed to camp outside the police command post.
We would be plainly visible to the media and would
constitute a highly visible embarrassment to the
City officials. The police told us that we could
not stay. Regardless, we began to settle in and set
up camp. In short order, the police commander came
across the street to address our group. He told us
he had a solution: we should walk to the Pontchartrain
Expressway and cross the greater New Orleans Bridge
where the police had buses lined up to take us out of
the City. The crowed cheered and began to move. We
called everyone back and explained to the commander
that there had been lots of misinformation and wrong
information and was he sure that there were buses waiting
for us. The commander turned to the crowd and stated
emphatically, "I swear to you that the buses are there."

We organized ourselves and the 200 of us set off for the
bridge with great excitement and hope. As we marched
pasted the convention center, many locals saw our determined
and optimistic group and asked where we were headed. We told
them about the great news. Families immediately grabbed their
few belongings and quickly our numbers doubled and then
doubled again. Babies in strollers now joined us, people using crutches, elderly clasping walkers and others people in wheelchairs. We
marched the 2-3 miles to the freeway and up the steep
incline to the Bridge. It now began to pour down rain,
but it did not dampen our enthusiasm.

As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a
line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough
to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads.
This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions. As the crowd
scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and managed
to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them
of our conversation with the police commander and of the
commander's assurances. The sheriffs informed us there were
no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to get us to move.

We questioned why we couldn't cross the bridge anyway,
especially as there was little traffic on the 6-lane
highway. They responded that the West Bank was not
going to become New Orleans and there would be no
Superdomes in their City. These were code words
for if you are poor and black, you are not crossing
the Mississippi River and you were not getting out of New Orleans.

Our small group retreated back down Highway 90 to seek shelter
from the rain under an overpass. We debated our options and in
the end decided to build an encampment in the middle of the
Ponchartrain Expressway on the center divide, between the
O'Keefe and Tchoupitoulas exits. We reasoned we would be
visible to everyone, we would have some security being on
an elevated freeway and we could wait and watch for the
arrival of the yet to be seen buses.

All day long, we saw other families, individuals and groups
make the same trip up the incline in an attempt to cross
the bridge, only to be turned away. Some chased away
with gunfire, others simply told no, others to be verbally
berated and humiliated. Thousands of New Orleaners were
prevented and prohibited from self-evacuating the City on
foot. Meanwhile, the only two City shelters sank further
into squalor and disrepair. The only way across the bridge
was by vehicle. We saw workers stealing trucks, buses,
moving vans, semi-trucks and any car that could be hotwired.
All were packed with people trying to escape the misery New
Orleans had become.

Our little encampment began to blossom. Someone stole a water
delivery truck and brought it up to us. Let's hear it for looting!
A mile or so down the freeway, an army truck lost a couple
of pallets of C-rations on a tight turn. We ferried the food
back to our camp in shopping carts. Now secure with the two
necessities, food and water; cooperation, community, and
creativity flowered. We organized a clean up and hung
garbage bags from the rebar poles. We made beds from wood
pallets and cardboard. We designated a storm drain as
the bathroom and the kids built an elaborate enclosure
for privacy out of plastic, broken umbrellas, and other
scraps. We even organized a food recycling system where
individuals could swap out parts of C-rations
(applesauce for babies and candies for kids!).

This was a process we saw repeatedly in the aftermath
of Katrina. When individuals had to fight to find food
or water, it meant looking out for yourself only. You
had to do whatever it took to find water for your kids
or food for your parents. When these basic needs were met,
people began to look out for each other, working together
and constructing a community.

If the relief organizations had saturated the City with
food and water in the first 2 or 3 days, the desperation,
the frustration and the ugliness would not have set in.

Flush with the necessities, we offered food and water
to passing families and individuals. Many decided to stay
and join us. Our encampment grew to 80 or 90 people.

From a woman with a battery-powered radio we learned
that the media was talking about us. Up in full view
on the freeway, every relief and news organizations saw
us on their way into the City. Officials were being asked
what they were going to do about all those families
living up on the freeway? The officials responded they
were going to take care of us. Some of us got a sinking
feeling. "Taking care of us" had an ominous tone to it.

Unfortunately, our sinking feeling (along with the sinking
City) was correct. Just as dusk set in, a Gretna Sheriff
showed up, jumped out of his patrol vehicle, aimed his
gun at our faces, screaming, "Get off the fucking freeway".
A helicopter arrived and used the wind from its blades to
blow away our flimsy structures. As we retreated, the
sheriff loaded up his truck with our food and water.

Once again, at gunpoint, we were forced off the freeway.
All the law enforcement agencies appeared threatened when
we congregated or congealed into groups of 20 or more. In
every congregation of "victims" they saw "mob" or "riot".
We felt safety in numbers. Our "we must stay together" was
impossible because the agencies would force us into small atomized groups.

In the pandemonium of having our camp raided and destroyed,
we scattered once again. Reduced to a small group of 8 people,
in the dark, we sought refuge in an abandoned school bus,
under the freeway on Cilo Street. We were hiding from
possible criminal elements but equally and definitely, we
were hiding from the police and sheriffs with their martial law,
curfew and shoot-to-kill policies.

The next days, our group of 8 walked most of the day, made
contact with New Orleans Fire Department and were eventually
airlifted out by an urban search and rescue team. We were
dropped off near the airport and managed to catch a ride
with the National Guard. The two young guardsmen apologized
for the limited response of the Louisiana guards. They explained
that a large section of their unit was in Iraq and that meant
they were shorthanded and were unable to complete all the
tasks they were assigned.

We arrived at the airport on the day a massive airlift
had begun. The airport had become another Superdome. We
8 were caught in a press of humanity as flights were
delayed for several hours while George Bush landed briefly
at the airport for a photo op. After being evacuated on
a coast guard cargo plane, we arrived in San Antonio, Texas.

There the humiliation and dehumanization of the official
relief effort continued. We were placed on buses and
driven to a large field where we were forced to sit for hours
and hours. Some of the buses did not have air- conditioners.
In the dark, hundreds of us were forced to share two
filthy overflowing porta-potties. Those who managed
to make it out with any possessions (often a few belongings
in tattered plastic bags) we were subjected to two
different dog-sniffing searches.

Most of us had not eaten all day because our C-rations
had been confiscated at the airport because the rations
set off the metal detectors. Yet, no food had been provided
to the men, women, children, elderly, disabled as they
sat for hours waiting to be "medically screened" to
make sure we were not carrying any communicable diseases.

This official treatment was in sharp contrast to the warm,
heart-felt reception given to us by the ordinary Texans.
We saw one airline worker give her shoes to someone who
was barefoot. Strangers on the street offered us money and
toiletries with words of welcome. Throughout, the official
relief effort was callous, inept, and racist.

There was more suffering than need be. Lives were lost
that did not need to be lost.

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

also check out: reporters
told "no photos, no stories"

isn't that a violation of one of the bill of rights?
correct me if i am wrong...taken with the decision by FEMA to
outsource Katrina body count to firm implicated in body-dumping, the decision to bar the press from reporting on the recovery seems extremely sinister to me.

supposedly now Bush is
taking responsibility
for the "blunders" that occurred following
katrina. that story i know is bullshit. if this president really took
responsibility for the ongoing genocide in the gulf states he would
step down.

since that is not going to happen, i say let's bring him down.
where is the movement to impeach? where do i go to enlist in
the movement to rid my country of this homicidal parasite? the
administration entirely? heaven knows cheney must go too.

just rambling. just a ramble and a wish and a rant and a rave
and i'm pissed and i'm grieved and i'm shocked over and over and
over but no longer surprised one little bit by just how low they
will go. i can't see that far below i can hardly imagine it.

i'm a liberal. i'm a humanist. i don't believe in a cognizant god.
i'm an american, but i'm a humanist. i do believe in love. i believe
that people are not supposed to kill people! how
do i not be pissed when this is my country tis of thee? where is
the by the people for the people of the people? what happened
to checks and balances, free press, freedom of speech?

i'm distraught, and now i have to go have fun. yeah, it's tuesday,
and i have league. i will shoot pool, and i will smile and laugh, and
smoke and wonder.

peace. amen

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