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Old 09-09-2005, 07:53 AM  
BigRedChief BigRedChief is offline
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N.O. Survivor Stories start to come out. A couple of paramedics tell their story

Hurricane Katrina - Our Experiences
By Parmedics Larry Bradsahw and Lorrie Beth Slonsky
EMSNetwork News
Tuesday 06 September 2005
Two days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, the Walgreen's store at the corner of Royal and Iberville streets remained locked. The dairy display case was clearly visible through the widows. It was now 48 hours without electricity, running water, plumbing. The milk, yogurt, and cheeses were beginning to spoil in the 90-degree heat. The owners and managers had locked up the food, water, pampers, and prescriptions and fled the City. Outside Walgreen's windows, residents and tourists grew increasingly thirsty and hungry.

The much-promised federal, state and local aid never materialized and the windows at Walgreen's gave way to the looters. There was an alternative. The cops could have broken one small window and distributed the nuts, fruit juices, and bottle water in an organized and systematic manner. But they did not. Instead they spent hours playing cat and mouse, temporarily chasing away the looters.

We were finally airlifted out of New Orleans two days ago and arrived home yesterday (Saturday). We have yet to see any of the TV coverage or look at a newspaper. We are willing to guess that there were no video images or front-page pictures of European or affluent white tourists looting the Walgreen's in the French Quarter.

We also suspect the media will have been inundated with "hero" images of the National Guard, the troops and the police struggling to help the "victims" of the Hurricane. What you will not see, but what we witnessed, were the real heroes and sheroes of the hurricane relief effort: the working class of New Orleans. The maintenance workers who used a fork lift to carry the sick and disabled. The engineers, who rigged, nurtured and kept the generators running. The electricians who improvised thick extension cords stretching over blocks to share the little electricity we had in order to free cars stuck on rooftop parking lots. Nurses who took over for mechanical ventilators and spent many hours on end manually forcing air into the lungs of unconscious patients to keep them alive. Doormen who rescued folks stuck in elevators. Refinery workers who broke into boat yards, "stealing" boats to rescue their neighbors clinging to their roofs in flood waters. Mechanics who helped hot-wire any car that could be found to ferry people out of the City. And the food service workers who scoured the commercial kitchens improvising communal meals for hundreds of those stranded.

Most of these workers had lost their homes, and had not heard from members of their families, yet they stayed and provided the only infrastructure for the 20% of New Orleans that was not under water.

On Day 2, there were approximately 500 of us left in the hotels in the French Quarter. We were a mix of foreign tourists, conference attendees like ourselves, and locals who had checked into hotels for safety and shelter from Katrina. Some of us had cell phone contact with family and friends outside of New Orleans. We were repeatedly told that all sorts of resources including the National Guard and scores of buses were pouring in to the City. The buses and the other resources must have been invisible because none of us had seen them.

We decided we had to save ourselves. So we pooled our money and came up with $25,000 to have ten buses come and take us out of the City. Those who did not have the requisite $45.00 for a ticket were subsidized by those who did have extra money. We waited for 48 hours for the buses, spending the last 12 hours standing outside, sharing the limited water, food, and clothes we had. We created a priority boarding area for the sick, elderly and new born babies. We waited late into the night for the "imminent" arrival of the buses. The buses never arrived. We later learned that the minute the arrived to the City limits, they were commandeered by the military.

By day 4 our hotels had run out of fuel and water. Sanitation was dangerously abysmal. As the desperation and despair increased, street crime as well as water levels began to rise. The hotels turned us out and locked their doors, telling us that the "officials" told us to report to the convention center to wait for more buses. As we entered the center of the City, we finally encountered the National Guard. The Guards told us we would not be allowed into the Superdome as the City's primary shelter had descended into a humanitarian and health hellhole. The guards further told us that the City's only other shelter, the Convention Center, was also descending into chaos and squalor and that the police were not allowing anyone else in. Quite naturally, we asked, "If we can't go to the only 2 shelters in the City, what was our alternative?" The guards told us that that was our problem, and no they did not have extra water to give to us. This would be the start of our numerous encounters with callous and hostile "law enforcement".

We walked to the police command center at Harrah's on Canal Street and were told the same thing, that we were on our own, and no they did not have water to give us. We now numbered several hundred. We held a mass meeting to decide a course of action. We agreed to camp outside the police command post. We would be plainly visible to the media and would constitute a highly visible embarrassment to the City officials. The police told us that we could not stay. Regardless, we began to settle in and set up camp. In short order, the police commander came across the street to address our group. He told us he had a solution: we should walk to the Pontchartrain Expressway and cross the greater New Orleans Bridge where the police had buses lined up to take us out of the City. The crowed cheered and began to move. We called everyone back and explained to the commander that there had been lots of misinformation and wrong information and was he sure that there were buses waiting for us. The commander turned to the crowd and stated emphatically, "I swear to you that the buses are there."

We organized ourselves and the 200 of us set off for the bridge with great excitement and hope. As we marched pasted the convention center, many locals saw our determined and optimistic group and asked where we were headed. We told them about the great news. Families immediately grabbed their few belongings and quickly our numbers doubled and then doubled again. Babies in strollers now joined us, people using crutches, elderly clasping walkers and others people in wheelchairs. We marched the 2-3 miles to the freeway and up the steep incline to the Bridge. It now began to pour down rain, but it did not dampen our enthusiasm.

As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions. As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of our conversation with the police commander and of the commander's assurances. The sheriffs informed us there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to get us to move.

We questioned why we couldn't cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the 6-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their City. These were code words for if you are poor and black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River and you were not getting out of New Orleans.

Our small group retreated back down Highway 90 to seek shelter from the rain under an overpass. We debated our options and in the end decided to build an encampment in the middle of the Ponchartrain Expressway on the center divide, between the O'Keefe and Tchoupitoulas exits. We reasoned we would be visible to everyone, we would have some security being on an elevated freeway and we could wait and watch for the arrival of the yet to be seen buses.

All day long, we saw other families, individuals and groups make the same trip up the incline in an attempt to cross the bridge, only to be turned away. Some chased away with gunfire, others simply told no, others to be verbally berated and humiliated. Thousands of New Orleaners were prevented and prohibited from self-evacuating the City on foot. Meanwhile, the only two City shelters sank further into squalor and disrepair. The only way across the bridge was by vehicle. We saw workers stealing trucks, buses, moving vans, semi-trucks and any car that could be hotwired. All were packed with people trying to escape the misery New Orleans had become.

Our little encampment began to blossom. Someone stole a water delivery truck and brought it up to us. Let's hear it for looting! A mile or so down the freeway, an army truck lost a couple of pallets of C-rations on a tight turn. We ferried the food back to our camp in shopping carts. Now secure with the two necessities, food and water; cooperation, community, and creativity flowered. We organized a clean up and hung garbage bags from the rebar poles. We made beds from wood pallets and cardboard. We designated a storm drain as the bathroom and the kids built an elaborate enclosure for privacy out of plastic, broken umbrellas, and other scraps. We even organized a food recycling system where individuals could swap out parts of C-rations (applesauce for babies and candies for kids!).

This was a process we saw repeatedly in the aftermath of Katrina. When individuals had to fight to find food or water, it meant looking out for yourself only. You had to do whatever it took to find water for your kids or food for your parents. When these basic needs were met, people began to look out for each other, working together and constructing a community.

If the relief organizations had saturated the City with food and water in the first 2 or 3 days, the desperation, the frustration and the ugliness would not have set in.

Flush with the necessities, we offered food and water to passing families and individuals. Many decided to stay and join us. Our encampment grew to 80 or 90 people.

From a woman with a battery powered radio we learned that the media was talking about us. Up in full view on the freeway, every relief and news organizations saw us on their way into the City. Officials were being asked what they were going to do about all those families living up on the freeway? The officials responded they were going to take care of us. Some of us got a sinking feeling. "Taking care of us" had an ominous tone to it.

Unfortunately, our sinking feeling (along with the sinking City) was correct. Just as dusk set in, a Gretna Sheriff showed up, jumped out of his patrol vehicle, aimed his gun at our faces, screaming, "Get off the ****ing freeway". A helicopter arrived and used the wind from its blades to blow away our flimsy structures. As we retreated, the sheriff loaded up his truck with our food and water.

Once again, at gunpoint, we were forced off the freeway. All the law enforcement agencies appeared threatened when we congregated or congealed into groups of 20 or more. In every congregation of "victims" they saw "mob" or "riot". We felt safety in numbers. Our "we must stay together" was impossible because the agencies would force us into small atomized groups.


In the pandemonium of having our camp raided and destroyed, we scattered once again. Reduced to a small group of 8 people, in the dark, we sought refuge in an abandoned school bus, under the freeway on Cilo Street. We were hiding from possible criminal elements but equally and definitely, we were hiding from the police and sheriffs with their martial law, curfew and shoot-to-kill policies.

The next days, our group of 8 walked most of the day, made contact with New Orleans Fire Department and were eventually airlifted out by an urban search and rescue team. We were dropped off near the airport and managed to catch a ride with the National Guard. The two young guardsmen apologized for the limited response of the Louisiana guards. They explained that a large section of their unit was in Iraq and that meant they were shorthanded and were unable to complete all the tasks they were assigned.

We arrived at the airport on the day a massive airlift had begun. The airport had become another Superdome. We 8 were caught in a press of humanity as flights were delayed for several hours while George Bush landed briefly at the airport for a photo op. After being evacuated on a coast guard cargo plane, we arrived in San Antonio, Texas.

There the humiliation and dehumanization of the official relief effort continued. We were placed on buses and driven to a large field where we were forced to sit for hours and hours. Some of the buses did not have air-conditioners. In the dark, hundreds if us were forced to share two filthy overflowing porta-potties. Those who managed to make it out with any possessions (often a few belongings in tattered plastic bags) we were subjected to two different dog-sniffing searches.

Most of us had not eaten all day because our C-rations had been confiscated at the airport because the rations set off the metal detectors. Yet, no food had been provided to the men, women, children, elderly, disabled as they sat for hours waiting to be "medically screened" to make sure we were not carrying any communicable diseases.

This official treatment was in sharp contrast to the warm, heart-felt reception given to us by the ordinary Texans. We saw one airline worker give her shoes to someone who was barefoot. Strangers on the street offered us money and toiletries with words of welcome. Throughout, the official relief effort was callous, inept, and racist.

There was more suffering than need be.

Lives were lost that did not need to be lost.

Bradshaw and Slonsky are paramedics from California that were attending the EMS conference in New Orleans. Larry Bradshaw is the chief shop steward, Paramedic Chapter, SEIU Local 790; and Lorrie Beth Slonsky is steward, Paramedic Chapter, SEIU Local 790.
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Old 09-14-2005, 11:37 AM   #31
MrDoggity MrDoggity is offline
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Originally Posted by vailpass
Harper's Magazine, Liberty Post, San Francisco Chronicle, NY Times?? Those fine publications don't have any agenda now do they?
And your EMT buddy says so too, huh?
BFD.
This made-up piece of journalistic crap is so chock full of obvious political commentary that any credibility it might have had is choked to death in partisan dogma.

"Who died and made me an expert on emergency response?" What the hell does that have to do with the issue at hand, namely whether this fable is fact or fiction? I have all the respect in the world for EMTs and am thankful for the work they do but that is beside the point.

So you're an expert on emergency response? Oh my, I guess I'll just have to believe this left-leaning pack of lies since an emergency response expert says I should. After all, a guy pulling down $24K a year plus all the government cheese he can swallow is not to be doubted.

"J-school professors at MU " Impressive, VERY impressive. Right up there withthe Princeton review board. Do they give you a coupon for a free car wash with that "degree"?

Again, the incidents alleged in this bleeding-heart article are very serious allegations that would warrant a full-scale investigation. At some point when things settle down that investigation may occur. Until then this article is so blatantly anti-establishment, so full of obvious political agenda, that it requires any reader with an ounce of critical thinking ability to hold it at bay until proof is rendered.

I'm familiar with your type. Everyone who dares disagree with you is a liar with an agenda. Nice try.

I am not only an expert at the subject, but I've written a book on it and was just quoted by Knight-Ridder newspapers on it. Of course, if you knew how to use Google or click hyperlinks, you'd already know that, wouldn't you?

What are you, 14? You have zero credibility and have presented no facts whatsoever to support your screed.

You're no longer worth my time.

Nice talking to you, genius.
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Old 09-14-2005, 11:40 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by vailpass
After all, a guy pulling down $24K a year plus all the government cheese he can swallow is not to be doubted.
Yeah, EMS workers and the like (firefighters) are really leeching off the government. Just be glad people are willing to do those jobs at those wages to help others in times of emergency.
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Old 09-14-2005, 11:42 AM   #33
Swanman Swanman is offline
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Nice talking to you, genius.
It's great to have you on board MrDoggity, but you need to get with the program. The proper Chiefsplanet spelling is "genious".
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Old 09-14-2005, 11:45 AM   #34
vailpass vailpass is offline
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Originally Posted by Swanman
Yeah, EMS workers and the like (firefighters) are really leeching off the government. Just be glad people are willing to do those jobs at those wages to help others in times of emergency.
You're right that was probably uncalled for. Appropriate edit to follow.
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Old 09-14-2005, 11:51 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by vailpass
Did you really take the time to type the novel quoted above? I sure as hell didn't take the time to read it save for the last paragraph. "Mr. Doggity"? What are you, his gimp?
Clear thinking leads to concise expression. Perhaps a basic writing review class is in order eh sport?
You asked a pointed and detailed question. I provided a pointed and detailed answer. Sorry it required some reading. I know you and the President don't like to be bothered with that kind of thing. Want the Reader's Digest version? OK:

Yeah, I believe most of the accounts in the report are true. It's tragic that it happened, and it makes all levels of government, including the Feds, State, National Guard and Sheriff's Dept look bad. That's just the way the thing shook out.

Next time, I'll give you a bullet list of talking points. 30-second sound bytes should fit better with your attention span.

I am not Mr. Doggity's "gimp." I'm not even sure what that means. I'm his friend, and we've been friends for a long time. About 30 years, actually. I wish I had more friends like him.
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Old 09-14-2005, 11:54 AM   #36
vailpass vailpass is offline
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Originally Posted by MrDoggity
I'm familiar with your type. Everyone who dares disagree with you is a liar with an agenda. Nice try.

I am not only an expert at the subject, but I've written a book on it and was just quoted by Knight-Ridder newspapers on it. Of course, if you knew how to use Google or click hyperlinks, you'd already know that, wouldn't you?

What are you, 14? You have zero credibility and have presented no facts whatsoever to support your screed.

You're no longer worth my time.

Nice talking to you, genius.
Damn right you're done. You are unable to address the issue at hand: whether the incredibly left-slanted article depicting outrageous accusations against government employees is fact or fiction.

Congrats on writing a book, what does that have to do with the subject? The fact that you are so closely tied to emergency workers only points to a possible bias on your part and therefore a lack of objectivity.

Your sad jabs regarding my ability to Google or click hyperlinks undescore your lack of ammunition. If you had an ounce of knowledge concerning literary research methods you would know that Google is far down the list of preferred tools, it's a chainsaw instead of a scalpel.


When I question the veracity of their statements I am not insulting or condemning The EMT profession, as you seem to think. Any author that presents a story as truth should welcome critical questioning as an opportunity to provide proof and to tell their story.
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Old 09-14-2005, 11:57 AM   #37
vailpass vailpass is offline
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You asked a pointed and detailed question. I provided a pointed and detailed answer. Sorry it required some reading. I know you and the President don't like to be bothered with that kind of thing. Want the Reader's Digest version? OK:

Yeah, I believe most of the accounts in the report are true. It's tragic that it happened, and it makes all levels of government, including the Feds, State, National Guard and Sheriff's Dept look bad. That's just the way the thing shook out.

Next time, I'll give you a bullet list of talking points. 30-second sound bytes should fit better with your attention span.

I am not Mr. Doggity's "gimp." I'm not even sure what that means. I'm his friend, and we've been friends for a long time. About 30 years, actually. I wish I had more friends like him WEIRD.
What do you mean most? That's too vague. You need to provide a detailed explanation.
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Last edited by vailpass; 09-14-2005 at 01:56 PM..
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Old 09-14-2005, 10:19 PM   #38
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It's great to have you on board MrDoggity, but you need to get with the program. The proper Chiefsplanet spelling is "genious".
My bad. I won't make that mistake again.
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Old 09-14-2005, 10:21 PM   #39
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Oh, and vailpass:


"Facts have a decidedly anti-Bush agenda" ~ Rob Corddry
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Old 09-14-2005, 10:40 PM   #40
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My bad. I won't make that mistake again.
hey man, welcome aboard...

any friend of george's is always welcome here...



pssst...

pay no mind to vailpass (i think he's a donkey fan, like taco)...
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Old 09-14-2005, 11:07 PM   #41
MrDoggity MrDoggity is offline
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hey man, welcome aboard...

any friend of george's is always welcome here...



pssst...

pay no mind to vailpass (i think he's a donkey fan, like taco)...
Thanks for the head's up!

I've known Sr. Blowfish for more than 30 years. In fact, my wife, daughter and I spent labor day weekend with his parents.

Some of those here representing the scum clogging the filter of the gene pool are fun to whack around like a piņata, I have discovered. I find they are easily identified as those who take an opinion dump, but fail to offer a single piece of corroborating evidence. Yet when evidence is presented to refute them, they go directly to abusive argumentum ad hominem without passing go or collecting $200.
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Old 09-14-2005, 11:28 PM   #42
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don't forget to come over to the main board and post every now and then...

we're not all like *cough* marcbulger and vailpass *cough*...

gotta head out for now...

see you around mr. d...
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Old 09-20-2005, 08:13 AM   #43
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FWIW, this story is back in the news. Heard it on NPR this morning.
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