complacency and storms
a friend, originally from northern california now living in new jersey, was visiting her brother in florida when katrina passed it by. she said, growing up in california and now living in new jersey where storms are scarce, she sorta panicked when the winds started rattling their house's walls and knocked out power. "but yanno what? those floridians, they told me, 'nah, it's just category one, it's not so bad.' the lights went out, and they went, 'it's not so bad.'"

in illinois, the cities of rockford and peoria are waiting for evacuees. they've been told, two days in a row, that as many as 150 to 600 are flying in tonight, we're coming in two hours. the volunteers say, all right, we'll be here, we've assembled already. last night the rockford newspaper ended up calling milwaukee, because the evacuees apparently headed there instead. earlier this week, some evacuees didn't know they were headed to chicago until they were airborne. no one told rockford and peoria the evacuees were headed another way. centers and volunteers and mountains of clothes and food are waiting in those two cities, and city officials are asking federal officials to please at least give them warning.

the times-picayune paper in new orleans called for the firing of the entire staff of the federal emergency management agency because of their sluggish response. the agency accepted volunteers from new york, ohio, michigan, wisconsin, iowa, texas, the carolinas and illinois. but instead of assigning them to places they were needed, they were lectured on sexual harrasment and given FEMA fliers to hand out. "we were sent to promote FEMA," an illinois paramedic said. "that's not what we came there for." he said he and his partner stayed one more day in case officials change their minds and assign them to relief centers, but it never happened. they returned to chicago.

katrina's wake is staggering. my mind can't wrap itself around a submerged new orleans. it reminds me of the wake of mount pinatubo, how rains also sent lahar down her slopes to bury entire villages and forever change the rice field landscape. friends blame racism and circumstances that kept the poor in their place, how maybe the south really is so different it is harder to relate to them. geologists warn that new orleans and the gulf cities are below sea level, so when the water receeds, exposing 60, 40 more percent of the city, be prepared for what lies beneath murky, toxic water. maybe no one was prepared for this magnitude in the south.

i am unhappy that there were several chances for me to visit new orleans, but i never took the chance. i'm amazed that it looks like the entire population of new orleans would have to be bused several hundred miles away - but confused as to why residents needed to leave the state altogether. there must be several communities in louisiana itself ready to take on new orleans residents. water is being pumped from the city back to the levee by the hundreds of gallons by the hour. macabrely, volunteers found many dead, some clogging the pumps, some lying serenely under debries, some rising to the surface after being dislodged. i wonder what the city will look and feel like after this massive flood.

many evacuees didn't know where they were going until they boarded the plane, bus or train to take them to their new cities. colleagues joked that they used to live in new orleans, now they live in rural cities adjacent to alton, belleville, east st. louis, and how would they adjust. compared to them, lucky the few that were sent to chicago and milwaukee. the expectation is that they won't stay in their adopted cities for very long, their new cities are temporary, so they weren't asked if they had a city preference.

but it never happens that way - many people who came to chicago after escaping new orleans never want to go back. it makes sense, because unless you are truly uncomfortable, if you really wanted to leave, you would have gone a long time ago, no matter. there's this one holdout living on bourbon street who says he doesn't want to leave. "we have food, water, lots of MREs. we have juice, energy drinks, energy bars. we have more beer than water. we were able to flush a toilet with beer," he said.

on a stopover flight to memphis last tuesday, sadness hung over the airport like a heavy blanket in summer's height. memphis is one of the other cities evacuees were first sent to, other than houston and cities in georgia. the airport buzzed along as fast as it could to accomodate regular flights and the influx of evacuees.

when we landed in chicago, the busy airport absorbed the hanging, shocked sadness, absorbed the rushed panic. i didn't get to see any of the evacuees, some who might have taken a free flight, but they were in my mind.

"we're here to help!" yelled michigan police on boats to seemingly abandoned houses nearer the coast. they rescued one elderly woman. in illinois, piles of donated goods wait at the southern chicago suburb of tinley park. loyola university chicago is taking transfer students from loyola new orleans. i think i'll drag a friend to visit the center this weekend.
Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

welcome, and thank you for boarding the ulanmaya transit express. tickets, please. mind the gap as you depart. have a pleasant experience.

05/01/2004 - 06/01/2004 / 06/01/2004 - 07/01/2004 / 07/01/2004 - 08/01/2004 / 08/01/2004 - 09/01/2004 / 09/01/2004 - 10/01/2004 / 10/01/2004 - 11/01/2004 / 11/01/2004 - 12/01/2004 / 12/01/2004 - 01/01/2005 / 01/01/2005 - 02/01/2005 / 02/01/2005 - 03/01/2005 / 03/01/2005 - 04/01/2005 / 04/01/2005 - 05/01/2005 / 05/01/2005 - 06/01/2005 / 06/01/2005 - 07/01/2005 / 07/01/2005 - 08/01/2005 / 08/01/2005 - 09/01/2005 / 09/01/2005 - 10/01/2005 / 10/01/2005 - 11/01/2005 / 11/01/2005 - 12/01/2005 / 12/01/2005 - 01/01/2006 / 01/01/2006 - 02/01/2006 / 02/01/2006 - 03/01/2006 / 03/01/2006 - 04/01/2006 / 04/01/2006 - 05/01/2006 / 05/01/2006 - 06/01/2006 / 06/01/2006 - 07/01/2006 /

gromit is curious

Powered by Blogger