Thursday, September 22, 2005

MEET THE VICTIMS

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By Elaine Meinel Supkis

Is Texas treating the urban poor better than Louisiana? Take a long look at that picture. It is one of the many, many people stranded tonight in Houston. The grandmother is crying, you know. I know, because I enlarged her face to do the art work and had to keep from crying. It is hard, drawing while tears blur things. She is standing at the door of a money checking outfit that ran out of cash and she needs money so she can buy tickets so her grandson can go to safety.

Instead, they will head back into the slums which are inevitably in low lying, near toxic chemical facility affairs.

The news out of New Orleans is that nearly universally, the dead, and there are many, are children and the elderly. Grandsons and grandmas like we see here. I drew a Guardian angel for them because this is all I can do, so far away, so very unable to be really helpful. Right now, our rulers are patting themselves on the back for getting our military into position so they can reoccupy the city after this lovely lady and her sweet son die. Isn't this charming?

FEMA to the rescue...after the hurricane.

It is one thing to read about these poor people, it is another to see them closely, to witness them as what they are: reflections of our own faces. I have saved drowning people. I know their fear. I know what it is like to be in a rip-tide. I have swum in hurricane wild seas (foolishly, I admit). The power of those waves is tremendous, even a fine swimmer such as myself can go down forever if a wave big enough hits and I have nearly done myself in, swimming in hurricane Belle, years ago. Nothing but respect for Mother Nature after that.

And Belle was barely a catagory 2 and this wasn't in the center. This hurricane is way beyond Belle. No one, absolutely no one should be forced to face the fury of Rita of the Impossible. The National Guard used to go about neighborhoods even in the middle of hurricanes, they did this for us, I used to live on the ocean!--it is normal. They didn't do it in New Orleans until after the hurricane long lifted Her skirts and headed north. I have been around the National Guard while they rescue people in a hurricane. While the waves are crashing, there they are, not when the sun is shining.

Sigh.

There are no National Guard combing Houston, looking for the weak, the poor, the stragglers, the fearful, those who ran out of money, gas, transport.

This is a crime.

From the NYT:

Heeding days of dire warnings about Hurricane Rita, as many as 2.5 million people jammed evacuation routes on Thursday, creating colossal 100-mile-long traffic jams that left many people stranded and out of gas as the huge storm bore down on the Texas coast.

Acknowledging that "being on the highway is a deathtrap," Mayor Bill White asked for military help in rushing scarce fuel to stranded drivers.
OK, so it is obvious at near midnight, the "death trap" of the highways is also not being cleared of victims. Nor is the city. Bush announced he has a ring of troops just itching to come in....afterwards. Why can't he and his loopy court and Chertoff see this is murder? For that is what it is, this time around, actually, last time too, as far as I am concerned.

As a person who, whenever storms came, would ready herself to do patrols to prevent people from drowing in the many arroyoes and streams that shoot out of nowhere in the desert during monsoon season, I will assure you, there is training and tools one uses for this purpose.

True story: after I left home and no longer patrolled my parent's ranch area, a man was trapped by a stream I used to barricade. My parents went out with a rope to save him. The sheriff arrived and said he would do it but a TV crew came, too. While they prepared the cameras, the sheriff waited. They then started filming...the man drowning. The difference between myself and my parents is, this would never have happened on my patrols. I am very forceful.

Alas, the needs of others overwhelmed good sense. The family sued, by the way, and won. The sheriff won't be doing that again.

Once, years ago, a huge wave came upon us. I was out on the further rocks, watching the horizon, I saw the black line, yelped and the fisherman next to me yelled, "Run for your life!" for he was a sailor before retiring. As we leapt from rock to rock, we saw two children playing there. Without a word, I snatched up the girl and he the boy and we ran harder than ever, screaming to the parents to run too. They could see the white cap of the wave and began to run, too. The wave overtook us and swept us up to and under the boardwalk. By this time, the girl was clinging hard and I said, "We'll swim out of this, don't worry", squeezed her then I snagged a post and wasn't dragged back down the beach. It sucked hard at my waist but we held on, bruised by alive.

When the ocean does great things, one has to immediately react and do the right thing. The luxury of goofing around, following rules or waiting for orders or like Bush, doing pathetic activities looking as if one is doing something when one isn't at all, well.
Mr. White and the top official in Harris County, Judge Robert Eckels, admitted that their plans had not anticipated the volume of traffic. They maintained that they had not urged such a widespread evacuation, although only a day earlier they invoked the specter of Hurricane Katrina, and told residents that the "time for waiting was over."

Officials also made matters worse for themselves by announcing at one point that they would use inbound lanes on one highway to ease the outbound crush, only to abort the plan later, saying it was impractical.
Arrest this man, arrest all of these people. Gads. I can't believe such stupidity can exist...well, this is what Bush voters are all about: total incompetence.
After crawling only 10 or 20 miles in nine hours, some drivers turned around to take their chances at home rather than risk being caught in the open when the hurricane struck.

Starting Wednesday night and throughout Thursday, the major evacuation routes, Interstate 45 north to Dallas, I-10 West to San Antonio, Route 290 to College Station and Austin, and 59 to Lufkin grew into hundred-mile-long parking lots. Drivers heeding the call to evacuate Galveston island and other low-lying areas took 4 and 5 hours to cover the 50 miles to Houston. And there the long crawl north began in earnest.

The delays were long enough for one ice cream seller on I-45 to do a brisk business on the highway, as drivers left their stopped cars to buy refreshments. Cars overheated and broke down and others ran out of gas, worsening the crush.

"The question is how many people will be gravely ill and die sitting on the side of the freeway," said State Representative Garnet Coleman, Democrat of Houston. "Dying not from the storm, but from the evacuation."
Like a theater on fire. The danger is from both the fire and being trampled to death.
Mr. Coleman's family had tried to leave the city Thursday at his urging - he is traveling on the West Coast - but they gave up after 12 hours of stalled traffic, without even passing the city's outer ring highway.
People die. I hate seeing people die. God save that grandmother. Save that child. I can't bear the thought of their fates.

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