Friday, September 02, 2005

Evac 3: Walking the Earth

Hello again,
Thank you everyone for all your messages – I’ll try to get back to everyone individually as I can. We lost our internet connection for awhile, but then we got the phone back. Again, the land line here is XXXXXXX, though getting through is not easy. Keep trying if you can because getting calls is really great. More and more word is coming in from people we know about how they’re okay, though at the same time we’re getting stories that are much, much worse. Arwen worked at Charity Hospital and knows people that are there. Yesterday she got a text message saying something like “They know we have food and drugs and they have guns.” They apparently locked themselves in, and we heard the National Guard finally arrived there sometime this afternoon, but right after that we saw on CNN that they were still waiting for evacuation, so we just don’t know. Gregory, a friend who was renovating Arwen’s side of the house while Gav and I were working on mine, had to crawl out his roof and wade through two miles of water to get his grandmother, but now they’re in the Astrodome. We’ve heard from many, many people, but others are still not accounted for. There’s a woman staying across the street with her two daughters; her husband is an EMT for New Orleans and we hoped that with Arwen’s hospital connections we could give her some news, but we couldn’t. She hasn’t heard from him since Monday.
Meanwhile, here a grocery store is open and surprisingly calm, so we have food. Plus beer and liquor. Unfortunately, there is no gas available, so we can’t get out. I have enough gas to get maybe a hundred miles but I don’t know if that’s far enough to get to more gas. I’m sure some will arrive soon, but meanwhile we’re stuck. Arwen and Cayne stayed here last night, along with Arwen’s dog and Cayne’s cat, and now they’re trying to make it to Nashville. We siphoned some gas out of an ATV like something out of “The Road Warrior” and got them on their way. We can’t believe how we’ve suddenly become those people you see on tv fleeing a disaster with nothing but a bag of clothes. It’s turning us into Buddhists – no attachments, living just day to day. Gavin found a large aerial photo of New Orleans online and we were able to find my house on it by comparing the photo to a map. It looks like I still have a roof, though clearly all the streets around me are flooded. There was a little white dot in front of my place that we think might be the taxi cab that’s always parked right in front of my house for some reason.
We don’t know what we’re going to do. When we arrived here, we wanted to stay a short time and then get back to the city, but that’s not possible. Obviously, we’ll have to move on as soon as we can and figure out where we’re going. Allison and I haven’t heard anything from our universities; they can’t get any messages out and we don’t know if we have jobs anymore. I hate it that that worries me given the scope of the devastation, but it does. To paraphrase Sam Jackson in “Pulp Fiction,” I guess we’re just going to walk the earth. Wander around, itinerant migrant college professors going from town to town, asking if they need teachers and getting in adventures, like Caine in “Kung Fu.” But with cats.
The offers of places to stay and money and everything keep pouring in and I can’t thank all of you enough for them. We’re actually in pretty good shape here and believe me, I’ll let you know if I need to take you up on those offers. In the meantime, there are so many people in much, much more desperate situations than me, so do what you can for them, too. I’ve heard MoveOn.org is organizing some sort of spare bedroom list so people can offer hurricane refugees a place to stay for awhile, so if you can you could check that out (and why is it MoveOn.org is apparently more on the ball than the government?).
There’s nothing I want to do more than get back to my city and rebuild it, single-handedly and brick-by-brick if necessary, but I don’t know when I’ll be able to. The people theoretically in charge aren’t taking control. Not to harp on this, but where’s the help? They keep saying it’s on the way, but where is it? Where are the swarms of helicopters? Why can’t we manage to air-drop in food and water? Why is the ship that’s supposed to be the command center only leaving Baltimore today? Why are the troops arriving tomorrow (hopefully) instead of last Tuesday? I just saw Mary Landrieu on cnn thanking and congratulating Bush and the rest of the government for their wonderful job, and I just wanted to scream – what wonderful job? There are bodies floating in the streets, there are more people dying by the minute. Not to single her out, but the politicians need to stop kissing each other’s asses and get something done. She said she didn’t want to cast blame, but I will. I blame her. I blame Bush. Especially him, actually, but there’s plenty to go around. I blame the mayor, the governor, senators, representatives, I blame the whole damn government. We knew this was coming. We’ve been saying for years that if the big hurricane hit it would be worse than we could possibly imagine, and nobody did anything. Bush cut the meager millions for fixing Louisiana’s coast and levees while spending 200 billion on Iraq, and Congress let him. But it’s not about what could have been done before, it’s about what should be done now, and so far, that’s virtually nothing. Why? Because the people suffering are poor and mostly black? The FEMA director, whose name I don’t know but when I find out I will burn it into my brain so I can hunt the bastard down, said on tv he wouldn’t judge those who chose not to evacuate, as if those dying and starving in New Orleans and elsewhere deserve what they get. He clearly has no concept of who he is supposed to be saving. New Orleans is full of the desperately, desperately poor, and they didn’t have a way to get out. Choice had nothing to do with it. Not every American owns a gas-guzzling, terrorist-supporting, wildly expensive S.U. fucking V. There was no plan for getting the poor out of New Orleans. Evacuation plans amounted to “get in your car and leave,” and now those who couldn’t are apparently left to die. Nobody can prevent a hurricane, but for everyone that has died since Monday night and for everyone who will die from here on out, that responsibility, that blame lies squarely on the people in charge.
I’m disgusted by the behavior of the looters, but I’m more disgusted by the behavior of the government. We pay them a shitload of money (what? ten times what I get paid? more?) to handle things like this, and they have completely and utterly failed. They sit in their mansions on the hills and say they understand, but their paychecks keep coming while all the waitstaff and bartenders and temp workers and shrimp-boaters, they’re fucked. They’ve been fucked by nature, and now they’re getting fucked again by the very people who are supposed to take care of them. Turns out the politicians have been looting the people for far longer than the last few days.
On a completely different note and tirade, if I hear one asshole like Pat Robertson say anything along the lines of this is God’s punishment on the wicked sinners of New Orleans, then it’s also God’s will that I beat the fucking shit out of him.
I have never lived in a place that had so little and yet offered so much as New Orleans. There are so many things that really are unique to the city that I have only known for a brief time and love dearly and now it seems those things are gone and nobody in charge seems to care. I’m beyond mad, I’m devastated, I’m heart-broken, I have lost all faith, I’m sad beyond words.
Thank you, thank you, thank you everyone for all your offers of help. I will get back in and rebuild my city. Meanwhile, we’re still waiting to be “shocked and awed” by the scope of the rescue effort.
-Dale

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