Thursday, September 08, 2005

Tales from the Astrodome

Two of our professors have been volunteering at the Astrodome since the first evacuees (refugees?) arrived. They provide these reports from the evacuees (refugees).

For those who don't click on the links, let me give you the brief synopsis: People who were trapped in their houses after the hurricane passed in the poor black areas of New Orleans were stuck in water anywhere from one inch to one foot deep. They heard emergency/law enforcement officials with megaphones and bullhorns telling the people that they were going to open the floodgates and that up to 20 feet of water was to be dumped on the residents. Within 5-10 minutes, the water level began to quickly rise and got up to between 10 and 20 feet. These people report that they had no time to evacuate, and that many people drowned because they had no --- I guess you'd say choice.

Before I continue, I will say that these are reports, and they appear to be reports from unconfirmed sources, albeit people who claim to have been there. Our Professors' blog emphatically requests that research goes into these stories to decipher how much of it is true.

Now, let me speculate.
1. These stories are true. There were several people who related these tales to the professors. These people were in New Orleans when it happened, and the professors heard it straight from their mouths. The professors actively work at the Astrodome helping these people.
2. These stories are partly true. There are too many sources to discount it. The people don't stand to gain from lying, but their memories are fuzzy due to everything that has happened so suddenly.
3. These stories are false. They are fabricated by people who are frustrated and confused from the excitement over the last few days. Nobody else is around to discount the stories, so they trust they'll be accepted at face value.

If the stories are not true, then the debate ends there. They lied. No more discussion, and shame on them for trying to make a bad situation sound even worse.
However, if the stories are even partly true, it begs the question: What could possibly be so valuable/important that it required the immediate flooding of an area filled with people? What was so important that these people didn't even get the chance to get away before the water came? Was it property? Whose property?
Why did they have to let the water in? Was it to prevent a larger break? If so, shouldn't they have made some sort of effort to get these people out of the area? They must have known they were there, because the officials came by with megaphones to warn them.

Now for a semi-sequitur:
I've seen finger pointing from both ends of the line with regards to who is at fault for what happened, and I still don't know who it is. The best I can gather is that every mistake that any official could have made was made, and a calamity turned into a tragedy (unless calamity is greater than tragedy, in which case reverse it).
I've heard:
That white people suffered more than black people, and vice versa.
That the Mayor should have ordered an evacuation sooner and should have made sure that the super poor got out.
That the Governor refused to accept federal help and refused to turn the National Guard over to the Federal Agencies.
That the Federal Agencies were supposed to take over complete control within 72 hours of the Disaster announcement and they didn't/couldn't
That food, water, and oil were all waiting at the front of the line for the go ahead to get in and help those that needed them, but FEMA refused to authorize/said they weren't needed
That violence, rapes, shootings, looting, and pillaging took place as a direct result of the lawlessness after the storm. I've also heard that these are normal daily occurrences in New Orleans, and it should surprise nobody that a crime-ridden town would still have crime after a natural disaster.
That FEMA screwed up royally under the Clinton Administration with Hurricane Floyd, and so we shouldn't be blaming the Republican Government OR that President Bush and the folks at FEMA should have learned from their previous mistakes and been better prepared.
That the government could have rescued the poor people but chose not to
That had the poor been more self-reliant, they wouldn't be poor and thus wouldn't have been stuck
I've read conservative blogs that call for Brownie's firing.
I've read liberal blogs that call for temperance in the wake of what happened, to trust the President and his staff.

This is the list that I just came up with off the top of my head; I'm sure there's a lot more going on.

I Can't remember who it was who once said that the adversary system of American law was such that one side would embellish their version of what happened and then the other side would embellish their version of what happened, and the truth would be somewhere in between, why can't we all just tell the truth? The author is less important than the message, that maybe it's more important to figure out what happened than it is to make your story bigger than theirs. Perhaps this is the time for people to just tell the truth.
Or better yet, perhaps we should wait until all those who are trapped and hurt and dead are taken care of before we continue the blame game.

1 comment:

Gramma said...

How about if we all just stop yapping and get on with fixing? How does it help to listen to more and more hideous stories or more and more blaming? How did my school librarian help ANYONE yesterday, relating her stories about what she has heard? Glasser would ask, "How is that helping you? If it isn't helping you, what could you do that would help?"