Sunday, September 18, 2005

Eye Witness

Reunited with some old girl friends of mine from college last night. About 15 of us gathered at one of the girl's houses. She'd married a doctor and her house was just beautiful. Most of my friends were now married. Some with their first child, one with two little boys.

One friend, Amanda, was in town. She's been studying medicine at Toulane University in New Orleans. Everyone gave their full attention to her account of her own experience with the hurricane. She had evacuated the Saturday before. The mayor had made it mandatory that all citizens leave the city that Friday before the storm hit. Cars and people carrying bullhorns had gone through the streets telling people they must leave. Anyone who could should get out with their own means. Those who couldn't were offered rides. Still, some people stayed.

No one anticipated the lootings and rapes. Apparently there is a very violent 500 member gang down there (one of the most violent in the nation) that was scattered during the emergency. Amanda thought it ridiculous to blame the mayor or FEMA for a slow response. Apparently national guard troops had already been stationed there, despite media reports, but had to deal with the violent outbreak first before attending to all the other emergency rescue operations. And when they did attempt to rescue they were shot at with machine guns.

Amanda said Kanye West and Rev. Jesse Jackson playing the slow response out as racially driven was absolutely deplorable. We both don't always agree with Bush or his policies, but to call him a bigot is just completely uneducated (ever heard of his best friend Condi Rice?). Playing the blame game also solves nothing and only increases tensions. She also wished the media would focus less on the racially charged superstars and focus more on the people who've come forward to help, and on how well-behaved and considerate most of the victims have been (aside from the violent gangs) even under such extreme hardship and hunger.

She told us about going back to visit her apartment. She was assigned as a volunteer emergency medical doctor (even though she's a student). She went with one other guy from class to get the rest of her things. Her truck had been flooded, but the water had gone down some, and her apartment had about three feet of water left to drain. She's only in Utah for the week and then she's going to Texas. She's been placed with a nice couple in Houston and will be finishing the semester, along with most of the rest of her classmates, at Baylor.

I was really glad she was there last night to recount her tale, to let me and the other girls know that the people down there did have plenty of warning, that they were offered a way out, that they are being taken care of, why there might be so much violence afterward, why there seems to have been such a slow response, and about the reality of the situation vs. the sensationalization of the media. Though I must add there's a good reason why the things she wants to be represented on more in the news are not necessarily being reported. If a news person says,"don't worry, everything's fine, the people are helping each other" viewers wouldn't be as interested, or worried, about the situation. And I thought you readers might want to know her account, too. From her lips, to my keyboard, to your eyes.

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