Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

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( 'Nother Solent is this blog's good twin. Same words, searchable archives, RSS feed. Provided by a benefactor, to whom thanks.
I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)

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Sunday, September 11, 2005
An account of rescue work in New Orleans. Kerry Buttram, who I know as one of my fellow-contributors to the Biased BBC blog, writes:
I rarely forward emails but thought that you might find this of interest as you discuss the breakdown of civil order in New Orleans. I have no doubts about the genuineness of this email (see below) but have no way of verifying it. I do not know either "Eric" or "Rhonda".

Despite the best efforts of agenda-driven journalists paint the bleakest of pictures, many good things are happening here in Katrina's wake. Millions of dollars are being raised as reported, but mostly through non-governmental channels. Many people in our community here (upstate South Carolina) are seeking to house refugees. Our congregation of 1,600 received an offering this past Sunday which came to $74,000USD. One of the men in our church was on a trip to Houston, TX the other day. He invited a family he met in the hotel to come to stay in his home so they could look into the job market here since they've nothing to return to in New Orleans. This is being multiplied from coast to coast.

The next part of the email was this introduction:
The following message comes from a Louisiana State Patrol officer who also serves in drug enforcement with the FBI. He is writing to his sister Rhonda in Maryland who attends the same church as our son, Daniel. His sister shared it with us in order to help others understand what's really happening on the ground. It speaks volumes to the heroism of those who are doing the work instead of talking about it. They deserve our prayers and support because the hardest work is still ahead.


This is the account itself:

I just returned from an operation in New Orleans and thought I would pass this information on to you to give to your friends. I worked the area between Causeway and Canal/Carrollton, and area between Veterans Blvd. and Airline. I do not remember seeing the church, but I can tell you that everything in that area is covered with 5 - 15 feet of water, depending on the block. As of now deceased persons are being left in place, due to the mission being the recovery of the living. Estimates on the death toll are a guess as of now, but will probably be in excess of 10,000. I'm making a guess based on the amount of live persons we are pulling out. I spent the last three days there and only found 5 deceased persons. Our fear is we will find a majority of the fatalities in the attics of homes once they are able to start pumping water out. The situation is like nothing I have ever seen. The devastation is something I am unable to explain.

The lack of leadership in New Orleans almost makes it non-existent. When we arrived over 100 New Orleans P.D. officers had already walked off the job. Rapides S.O. found other NOPD officers looting a store full of stereo equipment. The governor and mayor haven't tried to provide any leadership, they just constantly blame the federal government. FEMA was doing good about providing funds, but has failed to coordinate a true rescue mission. When my team arrived Wednesday we had to fight with everyone to get a boat in the water. That day we were only able to rescue 23 persons. On Thursday we arrived and were told we couldn't launch boats for a rescue because the local governments were saying the military was taking over. We had someone inform us there was about 300 persons trapped in Lafayette School, and the local authorities & FEMA still told us we were finished. I knew the military would be another 24 hours to muster so we decided to fight. We informed them that we were launching our boats to go get those people, and they would have to shoot us to keep us out. Luckily, my team of 12 was more heavily armed than they so we won the stand-off.

We traveled about 2-3 miles on Airline from the Causeway and began locating people; that was at 9 am. Eight hours later, we had rescued a little over 600 people from the Airline area. We rescued a 1 week old baby whose mother was in shock and refusing to bring the baby out. We were finally able to get them both out. We located approximately 700-800 more persons at Lafayette School and an apartment building. We couldn't get them out because the light was gone and we can't navigate a boat in this type of environment at night. We looted an abandoned store of all its food and water and took it to them. We promised them we would be back at sunrise.

That night we were ordered back to Monroe, because we were told we were needed there for all the refugees that were being bused there. They even sent a Captain to make sure we didn't ignore orders like we so often do. I believe there was probably another reason, because most of the law enforcement presence from around the state disappeared overnight. We offered to take our vacation time and stay, but the sheriff made us return home. My guys and I are crushed, because these people were counting on us. We made them a promise and their lives are reliant on that promise.

Pray for these people! These types of situations never disturb my guys, but this time is different. We all feel like we are responsible for these people. There was a lot of crying on the way home, and my guys never cry. We may head back Monday with our personal equipment and tell them we are taking our vacation now. Pray for these people! Pray for my guys! Pray that God will have a true leader rise up to help get the ongoing operation on track. There are probably 200 - 300 boats that never make it to the water every day because they are waiting for someone else to give them permission to save lives. Pray that men will stand up and be men!

I have added paragraph breaks to make it easier to read but not changed it otherwise. Of course I have even less means of verifying it than Kerry does, but I tend to think that there are fewer dishonest people making up stories of admirable behaviour than dishonest people making up stories of horrors.