Thursday, August 17, 2006

"She survived the storm.
She didn't survive the rescue."

While a flurry of lawsuits is inevitable as the one year anniversary of both Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood approaches, I felt obliged to call out this one for attention. The story of Ethel Freeman was an iconic one in the weeks that followed the collapse of the U.S. government's levees. It came to signify all of the failures that compounded to create the single largest tragedy in United State's history.

Ethel Freeman, dead of neglect outside the convention center

(Before you go all 9-11 on me, let me suggest the attack on the World Trade Center could only compare if the federal government had known all about it, had perhaps even given the conspirator's free flying lessons. The fact that government at every level so completely failed us is what makes this, in my mind, the nation's greatest tragedy.

In 9-11, no FEMA official stood in the road and told rescuers they could not go forward because it was too dangerous, or because they did not have their paperwork in order. National Guardsmen did not barricade themselves behind doors because they had not food to give to the survivors outside. The victims were not left dead in the streets of Manhattan to be collected like the bodies of dogs.)

For those who have forgotten, here is a story on the lawsuit her son has filed against the city and state. Another suit against the federal government is pending.

The elderly woman died sitting in her wheelchair outside the city's convention center, which was overwhelmed with desperate evacuees. Her body, pushed to one side and covered with a poncho, became a widely noted icon of the botched hurricane response.

Freeman's lawyer, John Paul Massicot, said the mother and son were instructed to go the fetid convention center -- even though there was no aid available and no way out. "Let's not forget, she survived the storm. The storm didn't get her. She didn't survive the rescue," Massicot said.
If you want to talk to me about Spike Lee and his increasingly famous half-a-dozen minutes out of four hours listening to people in the Ninth Ward argue the levees were sabotaged, scroll back up and take a good hard look at that picture.

Or this one.

Or this one.

I could go on and on and on...

When you are done looking at these images, really studying them, get back to me.

Then you can talk to me about Spike Lee.

I see the same mindless B.S. criticisms of the movie are getting to you too. I’ve been sitting here fixated on figuring out how some people can be so blind to such obvious injustices.

Well spoken, well said, and very effective use of those images and stories.

Very well said! Keep up the good work.
"The victims were not left dead in the streets of Manhattan to be collected like the bodies of dogs."

If you realy wanted to be graphic, or tasteless, you could have said, left to be eaten by dogs. I'm sure you've seen the photos that Robert Lindsay posted--just google worst Katrina photo sequence, but it's pretty disgusting.

Sometimes you make feel guilty for concentrating so much on local government.

Was it tasteless to use tasteless as an adjective in that first sentence?
One can't look at those images without being profoundly wounded for life, without being saddened, and at the same time, stirred into a howling rage.

But my reaction is deeper, as I suspect it is for others, to probe the reasons why it happened.

I hope Spike Lee has realized his responsibility to answer those questions honestly while he has people's attention for four hours.
Partly as a result of some discussion over at Schroeder's, I've been thinking about this, trying to figure out why this still moves me so (why I'm still obsessed with it?) a year later. Obviously, it's partly due to the fact that my son (who is, in my mind, still my baby) is living in it, but that's not all of it. In fact, it might not even be primary. I think it's that I've realized that it was intentional, that our government chose it, chose to let those levees be substandard, chose not to let folks know that, chose to give incorrect flood maps that resulted in un or under insuring tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of people, and then chose - CHOSE - to let those people sit on those rooftops and in the Convention Center and in the Superdome and on I-10 and in those sweltering hospitals for days and days and days. They could have come. They could have brought water and food. The media had no problems getting in. ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, Fox, TWC - they got in just fine. The government, the calvalry, didn't ride in for the rescue because somewhere someone didn't want to. As much as I'd like to believe that it was just incompetence, I can't and that's where it's changed me. I was jaded before. I hated Bush before he was elected, but this is new since Katrina, well, since The Aftermath, and what's happening today is no better than what happened then. It's the same thing, just harder to see.

Another great post, Mark. I haven't seen the film (obviously), but I can't get those images from a year ago out of my head.

I would love to put this up at The Democratic Daily as a guess blog. Email me and let me know if you would agree to it.

Schroeder, I am still waiting on you to give one too.
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"And when we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcome, but when we are silent we are still afraid. So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive." -- Audie Lorde

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