Saturday, September 03, 2005

Haley Barbour to worried Hattiesburg officials: "I hope y'all work something out"

Aside from Nagin and Blanco in New Orleans, the government officials in the Gulfcoast continue to demonstrate a remarkable lack of understanding of the situation for average citizens. This is from the Hattiesburg American:

"In Hattiesburg, where officers have been fighting looting and enforcing a curfew, officials have tried all week to find out when or if the city will get more help from other law enforcement agencies or from the National Guard. The help began arriving Thursday night in the form of 40 MPs - eight to work with Petal police, six for the Forrest County Sheriff's Department and the rest with Hattiesburg, said David Wynn, Hattiesburg police chief...

Gov. Haley Barbour said two battalions of military police from the Alabama National Guard have been ordered to Mississippi and the Pennsylvania National Guard will send 2,500 soldiers this weekend. The MPs will supplement 96 Hattiesburg officers split into two shifts working 12-hours a day, Wynn said. Lamar County Sheriff Danny Rigel asked for 25.

On the way into the Forrest County Emergency Operations Center, Barbour talked to Steve Dyer and David Lawson, co-owners of Lil' Butcher Shoppe. The men wanted to give away the store's meat before it spoiled and had come to the EOC to ask about security for the distribution. "We don't want things to get out of hand," Lawson said. "We're trying to do something good for the community."

As Barbour made his way toward the emergency operations building, Mayor Johnny DuPree told him of a similar request from a bank president who needed to cash checks for employees but was afraid of being robbed.

"I hope y'all work something out," Barbour said to DuPree. When questioned about his remark, Barbour said Hattiesburg already has National Guard troops on hand. Wynn and DuPree said the few National Guard troops who arrived in Hattiesburg on Wednesday are distributing ice and water, not helping with law enforcement."

Joe DeSalvo, Rosemary James and Faulkner House

Joe and Rosemary made it to their home in South Carolina.

I was worried. When I last saw Joe, he was saying that he wouldn't have time to leave town after securing all the rare books at Faulkner House. Then he gave me money so that I'd be able to make it out of town. I was down to about forty bucks and never would have made it without the loan. Like many of the even poorer folks in the city, I was waiting for a paycheck that didn't come til the end of the week. I was lucky enough to know someone who could help.

Thank you Joe!

Friday, September 02, 2005

Oh yeah...and today is my birthday

A week ago I was sitting with Andy Young and planning our birthday party, which was going to take place tonight in her French Quarter apartment. Some of her Egyptian friends had offered to roast a lamb for us.

Today, I keep forgetting that it is my birthday at all. But I'm glad that I'm here to have forgotten it.

Stupid Face

The President is on TV now, nodding and altering--just slightly--the expressions on his face as he pretends to listen to a variety of updates on the situation. His main concern seems to be the destruction of Trent Lott's house, but he promises that a bigger and better one will replace it. Seriously...these were among the first words out of his mouth. He also said something about preventing violence by feeding people. He also wants people to know that the Gulf Coast has been "obliterated"--apparently he didn't know that until today.

So, what song do you think he was singing in his head as he pretended to be concerned?

From New York to New Orleans

I'm too tired to make a link:

From Atlanta

For now my only goal is eventually going to sleep.

I got to Atlanta today after 11 hours of traveling a route that should have been four hours. My mind is scrambled. I'm not sure how much of this will make sense.

Saturday night, a friend called to say that I should have a hatchet to chop through the roof if my house flooded. At four or five am I woke up and found a map had been posted online detailing the flooding that would occur with a category five storm. I gathered the dogs and left, frantically trying to beat the official evacuation order. I had heard that in Ivan people were trapped on the highway for 24 hours. I made it to Hattiesburg, MS, where I stayed with a former student, who welcomed me and my three dogs even though her main concern was protecting her elderly cat. The whole way up to Hattiesburg, I noticed how many cars were packed with nothing but pets. Frequently, on my right, I noticed two cars: a man in a pickup with a Chow Chow and a minature pincher followed by a woman in a hatchback with cages of parrots and other exotic birds. I assumed they were all traveling together.

Once I got to Hattiesburg, I realized we would be hit by the eye of the storm, but it was too late to move. Early the next morning, the electric went out, and I watched as the sky flashed red in the distance. I had never seen anything like that before.

By noon the eye was above us and we had drunk all of the wine. I laid down for a nap in the living room, while my host went with her cat into her bedroom. I opened my eyes after a huge gust of wind--before my nap the wind had already been bringing down the huge limbs of of the oaks outside our windows. I looked up at the closed bedroom door and saw it bump forward, as if there had been a burst of wind behind it. My dog Brando ran to the door just as my friend opened it from the other side. She was standing, quite still, with her cat in her arms. I leaned forward to pull Brando away and saw that her room was now filled with a tree--the trunk of an oak had plunged through the ceiling, shattered her television and most of the other components on her entertainment center, and narrowly missed her cat.

We spent the rest of the storm huddled on the living room floor. My dogs didn't even know there was a cat near them until the storm subsided. Everyone was still. My friend said she was worried that the rest of the tree would come crashing down on us. I pointed to the window and showed her that there wasn't anything left of the tree. When it was safe, I walked outside to check on friends down the street. Every couple of yards there was another whole tree or power line to climb over, every other house was at least partially destroyed.

I moved to another house later that night, and spent the next days relying on friends and stangers who were cooking the contents of their freezers over fire. There was no electicity, no water, no phones, no TV, no information from the local authorities or federal goverment. FEMA arrived today, supposedly. The Red Cross spent most of Wednesday telling people they could get water at the Coca Cola plant---which proved to be completely untrue. There was no gasoline, and conflicting, maddening reports of which highways were passable and which were not. The National Guard arrived with water and ice, but no one knew where they were distributing it. Then, it turned out that they were only giving one bag of ice and one gallon of water per car. Yet they also requested that no one drive their cars. And the only locations to receive this stuff is outside of town.

At least two people were shot in disgreements about ice.

I left today without knowing if the road I was taking was clear, or if I would be able to get gas along the way. But I couldn't stand the heat any more. The refridgerators were empty, my friends leaving town. And at night, sleeping with the doors and windows open to escape the heat, I began to feel uncomfortable with the people wandering outside.

Where are the police? The National Guard? The military? Even FEMA didn't show up until today and their location was mystery.

And this wasn't even as bad as what is happening in New Orleans.

My heart is broken. I'm angry. And I'm going to bed. But there will be more later.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

A Ken Foster Update

Hi Everyone,
This is Ken's friend Case in Florida. I spoke with Ken today (his phone is finally working, though only intermitenttly) and he asked me to post the following things.
1) He is ok.
2) He is still in Hattiesburg, MS, but as conditions there worsen (no ice, water, a/c etc..) he is heading to Tallahassee.
3) He and the dogs have a place to stay here
4) His words, "It's total chaos. No one is in charge or seems to know what's going on."

He should be available by phone and email soon.

Monday, August 29, 2005

I'd like to sleep through this...

but I can't. Not only that, I'm watching the hideous, gleeful FOX News coverage, in which the newscasters clink their champagne glasses while announcing that New Orleans will certainly never survive. (And what great ratings we'll receive!)

Brando is at the door to my host's bedroom, where she is sleeping with her terrified cat. Brando, meanwhile, is whining, because he thinks she should be sleeping with him. And I think he should be with me in my sleeping bag. The sleeping bag is borrowed, after I tried to go to Walmart to buy an air mattress and discovered that they had closed. (I thought they were all about serving the community!!!)

The maps, even on FOX, look like my street back in New Orleans might be safe from flooding. I really want to go back there, eventually, and find that my street is intact and inhabitable. I miss it already.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

We escaped...

This morning I woke up, looked at the flood map that had been posted online, and decided to bolt. While I was getting the car ready, Sula ran away and I had to chase her five blocks while people who were loading their cars screamed in horror. Afterwards, it was kind of funny. But at the time I was terrified that I was going to have to leave New Orleans with only two of three dogs.

This is what I managed to take: Three dogs, three dog crates, a change of clothes, dog food, some wine and cheese.

Everything else, I think I'll never see again.