Thursday, September 08, 2005

Two weeks later...

Not all the people who suffered and died during and after Hurricane Katrina were poor and black. But the images on my television screen for the last two weeks suggest that, in New Orleans especially, the poor, the black, the very young, the very old, the sick and disabled--the VULNERABLE--have born the brunt of the disaster.

During the relief efforts--and the recriminations that are accompanying the relief efforts--let's not forget that the people affected by Hurricane Katrina are persons, individuals, each with his or her own life experiences, dreams, fears, and needs, not mere representatives of a race or class. (Anyone who has ever visited New Orleans will tell you IT is a city of individuals--some will say of "characters"--and proud of it.) Let's not think that for several hundred thousand individuals there's a "one-size-fits-all" solution.

As I listen to press releases and press conferences, I'm struck by the inability of officials to listen to the people most affected by the storm. One story told by a woman with no house, no possessions but the clothes on her back, who had stood in line in heat and humidity for hours to use a phone to register for help from FEMA, ends with the FEMA employee on the other end of the line asking for her FAX number or email address so paperwork can be sent to her.

I’m struck also by the lack of common sense behind large-scale relief efforts. People in a Houston shelter housing thousands of evacuees, people with no financial resources, are told that the Red Cross—and sometime later (always later) FEMA—is handing out debit cards worth $2000. People, including children and the old, who have already suffered horrid conditions prior to their evacuation from New Orleans, form long lines outside in the hot Texas sun. They are joined by folks from other shelters and by folks who have already moved out of the shelters to private accommodations, because there is a lack of information, and they are unsure they will receive the cards if they don’t get into THIS line, into this line NOW. Chaos apparently ensues, enough chaos that the distribution is shut down for the day and police reportedly “lock down” the Astrodome. My goodness, who could have predicted that something like that would happen? Could I? Could you? Yes, I think we could. But the people in charge of the relief efforts could not. Common sense, a lack thereof. Organization, a lack thereof.

Bless the people “on the ground,” the ones directly helping INDIVIDUALS, person-to-person. Listening to them. Giving them what they need, not what the giver WANTS to give. This is the last thing I’ll say on this subject. I’m not there. They are.


Anonymous enjay said...

Hey Wishes! It's very good to see you blogging.

The rigidity of thought continues. Check out this blog:

6:39 PM  
Blogger Wishes said...

Thanks for leaving a comment. I read the neverknwo blog, and I don't know what to say. If true, this goes beyond the inefficiency and, as you say, "rigidity of thought" I've come to expect of FEMA's bureaucracy. But "...what kind of people"?? The evacuees should enjoy the same freedoms as every other citizen... uh... let me rephrase that. The evacuees aren't prisoners and shouldn't be treated as such.
A friend called from San Antonio after reading my blog entry and told me that things are going well there, that evacuees who seemed shell-shocked at first are doing better, that the kids are in school, that many individuals, organizations, and companies have pitched in to help them. She said that some of the evacuees plan to stay in Texas, that they don't want to face another hurricane ever--and this includes one family who returned to New Orleans after Camille.
But the neverknwo story and pictures really disturb me.Could it be that, by isolating evacuees, if that is what is going on in the camp described, FEMA hopes to keep them (that "kind of people") from settling in another part of the country?
I feel that the news organizations are missing the real story about the aftermath of the disaster--both the bad and the good. Let's hope that citizen-reporters keep telling what is really happening at various locations around the country.

1:33 AM  
Anonymous enjay said...

I have no idea how reliable the neverknwo blog is, but what it presents is worrying. It made me wonder if the evacuees are being sorted into "safe" and "dangerous" categories. Although the blog mentioned spaces for families and women, it seemed like it was single men that were being talked about most by the "hosts" (and frequently in the context of potential riots over things like apples). That makes me wonder if this camp, as opposed to those in urban centres, is being set up as a solution to the mythological threat of unemployed young black men, who "everyone" knows to be "that sort of people" and definitely dangerous. Lock 'em up and keep 'em under control...

Oh, and you've got comment spam already....

7:36 AM  
Blogger Wishes said...

Maybe we'll never know the answers to those questions. I hope the blog's author sends a letter to every person who might be able to investigate--or maybe the church leaders will be enough. No one in the Republican Party wants to make the Baptists mad!
As for the spam, thanks for pointing it out. That's what the little garbage can icons are for. Oh, wait, only the blogger can see those. Well, here's a can of Spambegone...

4:35 PM  

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