I was a member, along with member Don Cross, of the TN1 DMAT strike team that made it into New Orleans in time to start the evacuation of the residents on I-10 at the Causeway Bridge. My team commander and I approached the area first to get an idea of what we would be dealing with (we were sent to investigate "two docs with fifty patients in need of help"). When our eyes adjusted to the floodlights, we saw before us 50 critical, 250+ semi-critical patients, and 3000 others standing on the side of I-10 looking at us like we're the Second Coming. My commander looked at me and said, "well, we're in it now" and along with the rest of the strike team, organized the LZ to allow two copters to land at once and the loading of the five mile long convoy of buses and ambulances (yes they were there) and got those people out. It was truely the proudest thing I ever have done.
After spending two days at the airport loading evacuees and then being sent to the Superdome for another few days to finish out the export of residents for the downtown area, I had my first opportunity to have a hot shower. I figured that would be the right time to have my 'good cry' (I was the only female on the strike team), and to my surprise, I was too tired! I just stood there thanking the Gods of plumbing that invented the showerhead and heated water!
I ended up going back to New Orleans again for the Mardi Gras Surge and still felt the bitterness and disappointment. I asked one guys who was working on a sewer line in downtown NO if the water damage was that bad downtown. His answer floored me, "oh no, we just been needing the sewer fixed for years and now the Feds are paying for it so we don't have to!"
Words can't describe just how pissed off I am knowing how so many are still waiting for the basic necessities in life like shelter, food, and clean water! They didn't deserve any of this!
Some of the basic needs are still not met on the Mississippi gulf Coast, but it's not drawing attention because all of it is focused on New Orleans. The storm didn't cause the damage that the city took, the levee failure did. and before anyone says that "if it weren't for the storm"....
It's been known forever and a day that the NO levee system was designed to take a Cat 3 storm. Katrina, although listed as a Cat 3, (The records for NO Weather only showed Cat 3 winds... Ours showed Cat 5 before they blew away) had a surge that has NEVER been seen in any category of hurricane before. The Feds had poured money into the levee system for years to keep it up. Unfortunately, the money went to the New Orleans Levee Board. It's probably the most corrupt organization that the City has ever fronted.... Absentee jobs for relatives of board members, private planes... the list goes on like a cancer.
And all the blame is heaped on the Feds....
Look at the housing crisis... It's even worse here. All the public housing was torn down within weeks of the storm, even though half of it was virtually untouched by flooding. What little rental housing is available, tje owners have taken the "I'm gonna get mine" attitude and priced it astronomically. Of all the apartment complexes in Hancock County, only 2 have reopened for occupancy... at damn near triple the pre-Katrina costs. The rest have basically been left to rot, and will have to be razed with public funds.
I could go on, but you already made the basic point... the people here, and in New Orleans don't deserve or need this. My main complaint is that New Orleans is getting the media attention and Mississippi isn't.
I'm going to copy over some posts I made on another site for Firefighters regarding my area, which have not been deemed newsworthy except by our small local media. It may shock you more than you already have been....
I am not from the area but like so many others, I was made aware through the media and other sources [www.incidentpage.net]. But after two years of posturing by our government, I feel ashamed in the eyes of the rest of the world. How can we send money overseas and not care for our own people? If they were middle class whites and not poor blacks would our response have been different? Authorities have known for years that this type of incident was ripe to occur, given New Orleans' location below sea level and between two major waterways. Yet Louisiana, Mississippi and other affected parts of the South have not recovered. And this year additional storms have hit the area and still our government doesnt respond appropriately. What is the problem? Politics? Pissing contests? What?
It's become a case of "...the squeeky wheel..." Many of my team members spent weeks (and in a few cases, months) provide care in the outlying parishes that are completely gone, just like Mississippi and it's the same thing, NOLA gets the funding that rightly needs to go to others. God help them if they miss Mardi Gras! Nagin is the biggest, most corupt idiot God ever gave two legs. If you can find the article that ran in Vanity Fair about "Nagin's heroic trails.." it mentions that when Bush arrived at the airport to see the devastation, Nagin requested a "quick shower first" and ended up taking twenty minutes showering "because it felt too good and the President could wait"!
I have spoken with many who now live in our area, moving here since they lost everything. One of them told me that when she tried to find out when she could expect funding to rebuild her home, the FEMA rep told her that all funding is being directed to NOLA first since the city wants to re-build and it's "been deemed, under pressure, more important." The FEMA rep also told her that he didn't agree, but had been told not to comment anymore or he would lose his job.
The public outcry hasn't been directed in the right area. Yes, it was horrible that the levees broke, but they have been told for thirty years that although they are high enough, the underlying supports were not adequate and two years before NOLA was granted a Homeland Security grant of $3 million to re-enforce the buried supports and instead, re-fitted the causeway bridge to be flood-proof (that's why it floated away when the lake reached it). They decided it was more important to keep supply lines intact rather than protect the lives of their citizens. Remember the Hurricane Pam tabletop done in 2004? It was decided that over 100,000 people would not make it out of the city in the event of a Cat 3 hurricane and that 36,000 lives were deemed, "an exceptable number of deaths."!
It breaks my heart that so many have been forgotten in Mississippi and Alabama. Were are their celebratees holding children up to cameras crying crocadile tears about the injustice? Oh that right, It's not news-worthy since it's filled with nothing but retirees and hicks! But then, whose to blame? the government? After being blasted that they were trying to direct help to those who needed it, but were force to re-direct supplies because the news-whores illustrated the "color" of the horror. FEMA? Who having ready the largest team response since 9/11 ready to deploy two hours after Katrina made landfall, had to wait over fourteen hours for the govenor of LA to get her nap in before she allowed federal response teams into the state! The News Media? When we sat on the side of the interstate waiting on word to bring supplies and assistance into the Convention Center only to be told that the area was too dangerous and the PD had "closed the area off" and would not allow anyone in (this included the Red Cross who were told that since it was not an official shelter, they were not allowing them in either).
I've become so cynical about the whole "truth in the news". Just look at the slant of the reports coming out of Iraq and Afganastan. Nothing is said about the good and the rights being done. I've stopped reading the newspaper, limit watching the news, and really question if I really care what is said by the media. I was there and I know what my eyes and ears showed me.
Perhaps our rage should be with the Bush Administration. One of his first travesties in office was to fail to renew the National Association of Broadcasters Code of Ethics. This allowed, among other things, cable television to deteriorate into the condition it is in today, where advertising rules and programming takes a back seat. Where coverage of Brittney Spears exceeds that of the Iraq War. Where filming of our troops coming home dead or wounded is no longer allowed, where everyone has a camera and Big Brother is watching everything. After Katrina, Bush got on national TV and encouraged everyone to pray. This is not the response of someone in a position of leadership.
Is there anybody left in this country who cares anymore? Other countries offered aid to the US but were turned away. We can send money to Africa and Nicaragua and even Israel but not the Southern US. Where are our priorities?
Steve, you're not on track here. The President and his cabinet has very little to do with the response that has occurred. You want to blame the government, then put it where it belongs, on the US Congress, with their "feel good" doctrines that are just so politically correct.
The race card was played from day one in this disaster. Hence, the "Chocolate City" comments from Mayor Nagin. The fact is that the minority of New Orleans in fact were proportionally affected by the storm and it's secondary damage, the levee failures. By the way, the minority of New Orleans is Caucasian... These statements are fact, look it up.
As far as Mississippi, if we hadn't had Haley Barbour as our Governor at the time of the storm, we'd have gotten very little support from the Federal system. After all, we're just a bunch of uneducated rednecks living in tar paper shacks... Who cares about them?
The big issue over the recovery in this area should be getting the infrastructure back into operation, and housing online for the residents. Instead, it's been sidetracked by special interests that were not in any way affected to the degree that the people on the coast were. Case in point, the "GO ZONE" tax incentive program was designed to get small businesses back on their feet. It morphed into a handout program for lawyers and businesses that were either minimally affected by the storm, and the Zone was expanded to areas where just a few trees fell... In Mississippi, it extends through Starkville, an hour below Memphis!
Land is being snapped up by speculators ready to build million dollar condos, marinas and other pleasure resorts while the people that lived here for generations are forced out. Where's the equality in that? And don't wave the finger at the government, it's greedy people that are fueling this nightmare. Another way to make a buck off someone else's misfortune.
Only Anderson Cooper and Robin Roberts have really done anything as far as national media in my area. All the rest? New Orleans... The celebrities haven't come here, although a soap opera did do good things in Biloxi. We just aren't the politically correct cause of the day here in Mississippi and that's all there is too it.
Greetings from the Frozen North. I almost forgot about the casinos, which seem to have emerged nicely back on their feet. Any of the wealthy operators come forward with offers of cash or supplies? What about the local politicians?
On the local level, the politico's are pretty much in the same boat as the rest of us. The casinos did some things for out of area responders, but I don't know of anything that was done locally, other than getting jobs up and running as soon as they could... but that's a double edged comment...
The people on the coast, Hancock and Harrison Counties voted to allow DOCKSIDE gaming. After Katrina, the state legislature changed the law to allow land based casinos in the Counties that had voted in gaming previously... up to 700 yards from the water. This to get state coffers filled with their portion of the proceeds. No vote, no input from the local residents, just an administrative law stuffed up our collective alimentary canal.
The biggest help and donors have been the faith based organizations. Specifically, the Mennonites. My hat is off to those folks. They ask for nothing but the opportunity to help those in need, and they do wonderful work. I take a few seconds each time I see a member of the sect to thank them for their good work.
Dennis Leary's organization has done some wonderful things for the Pro departments, but their rules don't allow anything for Volunteer units. That's not meant to be a slight, it's just the way it's set up. We've been lucky enough to have received mountains of equipment and support from the Eastport (NY) and Flanders (NY) fire Departments, and without that support, we'd be out of service, probably permanently.
I'm lucky. Although I no longer have a retirement fund (I rebuilt with it), I have a home.
I guess I'll add my remarks to these stories. I am a Fire Chief in N. Central, FL. I have been here since 1999 and all that we ever seem to get, not complaining here, is some wind and the rain from most of the storms to hit FL. Anyhow, originally Katrina was to enter the Gulf from Key West and then predicted to turn North and then East and was actually shown to come right over Suwannee County. Being that this was going to be the closest we've ever come, since I have been here, to getting hit, the wife and I discussed what we were going to did should Katrina hit us. We decided that we would stay and ride it out. I don't know what would have happened because, as we all know, Katrina decided to screw over everybodies minds and made a bee-line for AL, MS and LA, but not before messing up some areas of NW Florida. Yes, there was a Katrina disaster declared for FL as well.
Once the shit had hit the fan and the govt. realized that they were going to be overwhelmed, the US Fire Admin., another piece of DHS, was asked to call for Volunteers from the Fire Service to work for FEMA. The request was for 2 man teams from each dept. so my son, who is a member of my dept. and I volunteered as a team. We were instructed to report to Atlanta, GA for training. Upon our arrival in Atlanta I was delegated to form a unit of 4 two-person teams. We "recruited" another three teams, one from MI, one from CO and a third from NH. From there we commenced our training in Community Relations. After 5 days of training I was assigned to Command a Task Force of 100+ Firefighters, Paramedics, EMT's and rescuemen and deploy to the Joint Field Office (JFO) in Baton Rouge and await deployment to New Orleans.
While in BR, our TF, Task Force 93, was assigned to do CR work in the neighboring parishes and seek out victims from the NOLA area. We continued to do that until MOTHER decided to have some more fun in the form of Hurricane Rita. My TF and I rode out Rita while living in tents just outside BR in Port Allen. They actually moved us to the Fairgrounds, still in tents mind you, for fear of our safety... RIGHT. Now we were really overwhelmed, two major storm and not enough people. As it turned out, parts of my TF were deployed to the Shreveport area, part to East TX and some to Lake Charles, LA as an initial response from FEMA. I and the remainder of TF-93 deployed to New Orleans, as originally planned but because we were no longer a "complete" TF we joined up and became part of TF-83 in the Algiers section of NOLA.
There we were assigned a multitude of tasks to perform. If it needed manpower, TF-83 was called. We inspected buildings in NOLA for structural stability and "red tagged" any that we felt were unsafe for returning citizens to enter, we provided security to many of the distribution centers operated by the Red Cross and other agencies and the best assignment of all was as Commander of Division 3, TF-83. My division was assigned to work a place called Mardi Gras World. This was a distribution center set up by one young woman, with no affiliations to any organization. She simply went out and begged business entities to donate food, water, ice, etc. and they did. And believe it or not, she lived right here in my home County in FL. I spent many weeks there at MGW until we were asked to stay on longer and get reassigned to DHOPS, Disaster Housing Operations.
Once in DHOPS we were assigned to work as Firefighter/Inspectors in Plaquemines Parish. Plaquemines Parish is that little spit of land that one sees at the "boot" of LA. Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Plaquemines Parish in a small community called Buras. Our assignment there was to inspect the properties of victims of Katrina to see if they were suitable for temporary housing units ie; TRAVEL TRAILERS!! If the property owners had water, power and sewer then we could place a trailer there. Problem was, no-one had all three. Some had water and sewer but no power, some had power but lived in an area where the pumping stations weren't working, etc., etc. It was very frustrating until we started to think like Firefighters again and "improvise", if you will. I spent many months in Plaquemines, eventually becoming the Lead Firefighter/Inspector and it was one of the most fulfilling parts of the whole job. I'm not going to tell war stories just let it suffice to say that I THOUGHT, in all of my years in Emergency Services, that I had seen everything, I hadn't. And boys and girls I'm here to tell you. It was a mess. Finally, after serving 7 months of what was suppose to be a 60 day deployment, I came home. I came home a different person thats for sure.
Ironically, I was only home a few months and I was redeployed to Louisiana, FOR HURRICANE RITA. Everyone heard about Katrina but there was very little ever said about Rita. Let me tell you right here and now, I think Rita may have been worse that Katrina. New Orleans made Katrina what she was but from what I saw in Lake Charles, Rita did some serious damage. Especially to the areas in and around Cameron Parish. That 60 day deployment turned into 51 weeks of inspections in 9 parishes from the Texas border east to Lafayette, LA and south to the Gulf. The scenes from these two incidents will remain with me until the day I die.
Delete Comment Hello to all my brothers and sisters in the service.
My name is Dan and I just wanted to say thank you for allowing me to join your elite group. I myself was in the Navy at the time and was stationed in Pascagoula at the time of our beloved lady friend Katrina. I was sent there 2 weeks before she paid us a visit and at the same time I arrived I joined Fontainebleau Fire Department, and what an awesome bunch of folks. When Katrina hit we lost one our stations, four engines, and a bunch of folks lost there homes due to flooding and tidal surges, including my Chief and Asst Chief. A bunch of folks from the station were displaced, But I was spared because I lived on the other side of the tracks. So I was at the station everyday, helping displaced families find some normality, helping search for survivors, passing out supplies, and answering calls with the handful we had left. What a mess we had down there. I left in December due to a transfer with the Navy, but met the best group of folks I will ever know, walked away with Firefighter of the Year after only being there 5 months and met the best group of folks I have ever known, including the help from our brothers and sisters in the Fire service, Red Cross, and the the wonderful sprit of the community. Thanks to all who gave thier time, and to the departments who donated trucks, especially Madison Township(Ohio) and Highland Village (Texas).
Sent as part of the search & recovery effort with Battalion Landing Team 1/8 (1st Battalion 8th Marines) Spent over a month down there searching mainly in St Bernard's Parish. Stayed until hurricane Rita showed up then we boarded USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7) and followed it to Texas.