Two Katrina stories

In the course of one day, two separate news stories from the Katrina-struck state of Louisiana affected me deeply. One almost made me cry; the other almost made me puke.

The first one is spreading over the internet quickly and it's from September 4th, when the rescue wasn't underway yet. The speaker is one Aaron Broussard, president of Jefferson Parish, just by Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans, being interviewed on NBC's Meet the Press. For people who are saying that this is no time to point fingers, Mr Broussard has the perfect answer:

Why did it happen? Who needs to be fired? And believe me, they need to be fired right away, because we still have weeks to go in this tragedy. We have months to go. We have years to go. And whoever is at the top of this totem pole, that totem pole needs to be chain-sawed off and we've got to start with some new leadership.
Excellent point: if we can all agree that what happened in the first few days after the levees broke (read: nothing) can be categorized as a grade A fuck-up, why are the lunatics still running the asylum? Surely things can't get much worse than this?
Broussard continues, saying also that
FEMA needs to be empowered to do the things it was created to do. It needs to come somewhere, like New Orleans, with all of its force immediately, without red tape, without bureaucracy, act immediately with common sense and leadership, and save lives. Forget about the property. We can rebuild the property. It's got to be able to come in and save lives.
Another good point. Geraldo Rivera, standing in the New Orleans Convention Center with a black baby on his arm, begging Fox News reporters to explain to him why there was a checkpoint on the bridge preventing these people from getting to food, water and medicine, made the point implicitly: property is apparently more valuable than human life. If I lived in New Orleans and was lucky enough to have gotten out, I would have urged any of my fellow New Orleanians to break into my home, take my supplies, steal my car and drive it the hell out of there.
But wasn't local government also to blame? Why didn't the mayor of New Orleans evacuate everybody well in advance? Again, Mr Broussard has the answer.
MR. RUSSERT: Hold on. Hold on, sir. Shouldn't the mayor of New Orleans and the governor of New Orleans bear some responsibility? Couldn't they have been much more forceful, much more effective and much more organized in evacuating the area?
MR. BROUSSARD: Sir, they were told like me, every single day, "The cavalry's coming," on a federal level, "The cavalry's coming, the cavalry's coming, the cavalry's coming." I have just begun to hear the hoofs of the cavalry. The cavalry's still not here yet, but I've begun to hear the hoofs, and we're almost a week out.
As we know now, those hoofs did not belong to the cavalry, but to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. And as a first sign of the horror that was to follow, Mr Broussard had the following story to relate.
The guy who runs this building I'm in, emergency management, he's responsible for everything. His mother was trapped in St. Bernard nursing home and every day she called him and said, "Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?" And he said, "Yeah, Mama, somebody's coming to get you. Somebody's coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody's coming to get you on Friday." And she drowned Friday night. She drowned Friday night. Nobody's coming to get us. Nobody's coming to get us. The secretary has promised. Everybody's promised. They've had press conferences. I'm sick of the press conferences. For God sakes, shut up and send us somebody.
This death cannot be attributed to meteorology or to an act of God. This man's mother died because of gross incompetence or, to use another term, as some have suggested, criminal negligence. And there will be thousands of stories like this. Is this not a time to point fingers? Like hell it isn't. People died by the hundreds, maybe thousands, through sheer incompetence. The issue is not preventing such mishaps in the future, the issue is bringing the assholes responsible now to justice now.

On to the next story, this one a bit less known. The small city of St Gabriel, Louisiana, population 6000, is home to a makeshift morgue in a local warehouse. CNN's Christiane Amanpour reported that refrigerated trucks full of bodies were driving into town. Not all the townspeople were happy with this development, citing a possible drop in property value, as well as health risks, as reasons. Personally, I'd pay good money to live in a town that did its bit in the disaster relief. Or rather, I might have, until Amanpour interviewed one Ms Theresa Roy, owner of a small grocery store. Ms Roy remarked (video here):

I'd rather have them here dead than alive and, you know, at least they're not robbing you and you don't have to worry about feeding them.
That's true. The dead three-year-old girl being driven to your town in a truck might otherwise have held you up at gunpoint and forced you to hand her all the chewing gum you had. It's a good thing she's dead, isn't it.

Ms Theresa Roy, it is a rare thing for me to hate a fellow human being, what else a total stranger, but you have managed to make it happen. Your remark was revolting in any context, but at a time like this, it is particularly loathsome. What you said next was ironic in the most bitter way possible:
They have to go somewhere, these are people's families. They have to have, they still have to have dignity.
They do indeed, Ms Roy. But you just took it away from them. I hope the ghosts of all of those dead people come to haunt you in your dreams.

Posted by cronopio at 01:10 PM, September 08, 2005