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A First Hand Report From the Scene

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posted on Sep, 9 2005 @ 09:17 PM
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I just read this off my e-mail, couldn't find it on a quick site search, and am going to break the rules and post it in its entirety. It is just so gripping to read about what these terrified people had to go through to get evacuated!

Hurricane Katrina - Our Experiences
By Paramedics 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 windows. 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 bottled 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 they arrived at 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 past 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 day, 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) 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.

I'm sure that someone will jump in and say, oh they are union, and from CA, so they must be lying, but I don't think so.




posted on Sep, 9 2005 @ 09:37 PM
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i had to stop reading around the middle, it got too hard to take. but I'll get back to it.

Thanks for this information.



posted on Sep, 9 2005 @ 09:46 PM
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Good post Icarus.....it's sad that their little tattered band had more humanity that those who had sworn to "protect and serve", but encouraging to see that 'mob mentality' is not an automatic response to disaster.

I hope their story is told and retold.....it needs to be heard.



posted on Sep, 9 2005 @ 10:07 PM
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w0w...

i read it all and i am amazed and in anger...

as i read this i thought, "the grapes of wrath"...

this story is amazing and should be made into a book (filled with only the truth) or this story should be spread around to the many...





posted on Sep, 9 2005 @ 10:14 PM
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I'm sorry, but why the hell is everybody falling out over a bunch of visitors hold up in the dry-lands of the French Quarter?


Heads up! do a little bit of research on the systemic oppression and the last known african-american enslavement camp called Algiers! For pete's sake center on what is important. The majority of the "new orleans diaspora" will be traced back to Algiers. The last great enslaved community of the United States. Through the systematic oppression levied via slum lords, drug lords, food stamp racketeers, money launderers and loan sharks these people have been led, for generations, to expect nothing more than the dole they were given - and then immediately taken from them. They are now in the very perilous, yet strangely hopeful positon of getting a new life - IF WE'LL JUST WATCH OUT FOR THEM.

Katrina has caused untold human suffering and loss, and possibly the greatest liberation we will see in this country in our lifetimes.

...we had people underwater, in their attics, or displaced without food and water for days - from ALGIERS, and they were drowning long before the levies broke. God help us if we don't throw them a lifeline now.

I HAVE EDITED OUT COMMENTS THAT I MADE THAT WERE A BIT **HATEFUL SOUNDING**.

[edit on 9-10-2005 by Valhall]



posted on Sep, 9 2005 @ 10:19 PM
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Valhall...

what your saying is that this storm is a good thing because it killed these negative people and made the negative people "get a new life"???


EDIT:

darn, i quoted you wrong...

EDIT again:

val...

are you anti-european???






[edit on 9-9-2005 by they see ALL]

[edit on 9-9-2005 by they see ALL]

[edit on 9-9-2005 by they see ALL]



posted on Sep, 9 2005 @ 10:22 PM
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Soficrow,

I know what you mean. I am a grown man, and I keep tearing up and choking up over all this over and over again, it is just so overwhelming!

We, all of the caring people of this world, must seize this moment and carry this day to make sure that in the future we are truly prepared to respond properly and with the correct intent to catastrophic events such as this.

Please take a look at the poem I have dedicated to those lost in NO in the Short Stories forum. It isn't much, but it seems to fit.

Hang in there, we need you.



posted on Sep, 9 2005 @ 10:27 PM
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My bad if this is bunk Valhall. I got it from somebody I know well, and wouldn't expect mis or dis from, but you are right, I should have done a providence on it before I posted it. Take it down if you want, you are the FSME, but please stop freaking out, you are scaring me.

[edit on 9-9-2005 by Icarus Rising]



posted on Sep, 9 2005 @ 10:29 PM
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Originally posted by Icarus Rising
My bad if this is bunk Valhall. I got it from somebody I know well, and wouldn't expect mis or dis from, but you are right, I should have done a providence on it before I posted it. Take it down if you want, you are the FSME.


maybe you are the one right, sir...

i liked the read...





posted on Sep, 9 2005 @ 10:33 PM
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Originally posted by Icarus Rising
My bad if this is bunk Valhall. I got it from somebody I know well, and wouldn't expect mis or dis from, but you are right, I should have done a providence on it before I posted it. Take it down if you want, you are the FSME.


Well, foremost, I can't take anything down, ic. No, I'm not calling it bunk. I do question the weird occurence of entire passages already being attributed to European visitors who made it out ( and by the way, I don't believe they were in the French Quarter but in the W Hotel, if I'm remembering right).

My point - not to diminish the unacceptable lack of response your original post was pointing at - is that there is a much greater suffering that has occurred. I can't hold much sympathy for some tourists (no matter where they came from) over the residents of an oppressed community who were either driven out prior to the flood and left to almost die in the Superdome/convention center, or who held out and lived days in their attics while the world jacked-off.

My comments are personal outrage at the continuing lack of concern for the people of Algiers, but not directed at you specifically.



posted on Sep, 9 2005 @ 10:47 PM
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Completely understood. I'm not into this nearly as deep as you are, I'm still stuck on being horrified over the whole fiasco in general, and you are right, there is a long history here of repression of a people that now may actually have some hope, like you said, if we handle this right.

Carry on.



posted on Sep, 9 2005 @ 11:00 PM
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This is the part that through a flag for me:


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 they arrived at the City limits, they were commandeered by the military.


This was almost exactly recounted by a couple who made it out and back to Britain. But now that I think of it, maybe this California couple was also part of the people in the same hotel. Maybe this is a second accounting of the same ordeal. (By the way, are these the same "out of towners" Nagin was bashed about because he placed them further in line above the local people? Not sure, but it could be.)



posted on Sep, 9 2005 @ 11:03 PM
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I did a google search for: Paramedics Larry Bradsahw and Lorrie Beth Slonsky and found this same story carried by several doz. sites....after reading Val's post , I did a search on Snopes for these same people and found zip. Maybe you could tell us where they have been 'debunked'....Val?

I didn't get the "poor poor us, we're worse off than the people that drowned' that Val seemed to get from it......I thought the main point of the story was the "shot at by law enforcement" in a city where there were numerous reports of just the opposite.....and " we weren't allowed to leave, even when we tried to just walk out" when we keep getting the question "why didn't those people just walk out??"

Most EMT's I have known were credible witnesses, you know, level headed in times of stress......if anything, it seems like they should have been drafted into service by the sheriff's dept, rather than shooed away...

Unless it is a total fabrication, it is one of undoubtly hundreds of personal stories and as such, surely has some merit?? If I have been duped, I humbly offer an apology......



posted on Sep, 9 2005 @ 11:08 PM
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Originally posted by Valhall
This was almost exactly recounted by a couple who made it out and back to Britain. But now that I think of it, maybe this California couple was also part of the people in the same hotel. Maybe this is a second accounting of the same ordeal. (By the way, are these the same "out of towners" Nagin was bashed about because he placed them further in line above the local people? Not sure, but it could be.)


right val...

these could be the same group of people talked about here:

www.abovetopsecret.com...





posted on Sep, 9 2005 @ 11:47 PM
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I could care less what nationality they were or if they were visitors,personally if this was written by a visitors point of view i`d suggest going on holidays in a 3rd world country before going to America you`ll be better looked after if caught in a disaster.

ALL affected are equally deserving of assistance.

And i find your comments quit surprising Val.

We had Aussie tourists that were caught in all of this some groped sexually in the dome harassed etc who also HELPED with your own US citizens where they could and i`m offended by the fact that you consider them less than your locals.



posted on Sep, 9 2005 @ 11:54 PM
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I've read two different accounts involving a pair of Canadians who were also in this group of people.

The first one which echoes the original post:


First the federal government took the buses they had hired to evacuate them.

Then their hotels turned them out onto the desolate streets.

They trudged for blocks to walk over a bridge, but officers wouldn't let them cross - and fired a few warning shots over their heads to convince them.

And the night was coming down.

Despairing, dozens of trapped tourists huddled on a downtown street corner and waited for dark.

"I grew up in an upper-middle class family. Street life is foreign to me,'' said Larry Mitzel, 53, of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. "I'm not sure I'm going to get out of here alive.''



Peter Ambros, general manager of the Astor Crowne Plaza in the French Quarter, said, "Guests who bring business to the hotels are treated 10 times worse than the people at the Superdome.''

He helped arrange the hiring of 10 buses to evacuate 500 guests from his and a nearby hotel - at a cost of $25,000.

Then the Federal Emergency Management Agency commandeered the buses and police told the guests to go to the nearby convention center, where a crowd left without food, water or security was growing angry.

The second one:


Two Saskatchewan tourists stranded in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina joined a group of 100 visitors trudging to a highway in hopes of catching a ride away from a city thrust into chaos by water and wind.

Larry Mitzel of Saskatoon and his friend, Jill Johnson of La Ronge, on what had become a holiday in hell, walked 10 kilometres in a torrential downpour carrying all the belongings they could manage. When shots rang out, police told the group to turn back -- they wouldn't find a route to safety there.

I hate it when that happens.



posted on Sep, 10 2005 @ 09:56 AM
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Originally posted by Valhall
I'm sorry, but why the hell is everybody falling out over a bunch of visitors hold up in the dry-lands of the French Quarter?


Val,

I think you are missing the larger point here. What concerns me most about this account is the fact that these people were basically imprisoned in the city and that law enforcement confiscated their provisions and deliberately broke up their camps when they did their best to band together and form a community.

I guess it's time for me to purchase a tin hat now, since it looks like this was a deliberate attempt to intervene in something that was not "allowed" by those running the show and makes my blood run cold.

I am not saying that these people were deserving of better treatment or that the poor people had it coming. I am not saying that we should all cry for the tourists and not the ones who were hiding in their attics. I think we all need to cry for all of us if this is only a dress rehearsal and we don't have tickets for the balcony seats.

Apparently self reliance is considered "too dangerous" and will not be allowed under the circumstances for the next disaster.



This is what I got from this article, but YMMV.

Gardenia



posted on Sep, 10 2005 @ 10:04 AM
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Gotcha. I see ic's concern and your concern.

Has anybody been able to figure out if these folks from California were with the European folks who reported the same account of purchasing the buses and then having them confiscated? Is the "W Hotel" considered in the French Quarter?

If so, then contrary to my first opinion that there might be hogwash at play, it could very well be a quadruple confirmation! Because the first report was from a European couple and then we have this one from a California couple.



posted on Sep, 10 2005 @ 10:08 AM
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Follow up..

Can somebody help me out on this? I'm writing the first pass at the research report and all ready have a butt-load of links to work through, but I was wondering if some one would assist by looking for the ATS member thread that was created last week which had a link to the story about the European couple. I would like to make sure and review these two very similar accounts and see if we can't incorporate this ground zero accounting into our research project.

Thanks for any help you can give.



posted on Sep, 10 2005 @ 01:24 PM
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That sent more chills down my spine than VallHall's detention camp account. It made me scared and highly agnry. I guess around here I don't seem much racisim, but unfortunatly I see it is alive and well.

If anyone is going to be able to come out with the truth of what happened, I believe it will be the people on ATS. The mainstream media will certanily not. I'm sure some reporters know exactly what is going on, but are being suppressed in one way or another.

I have one further question. The mainstream media is claming that help has been delayed by gunshots. Now I'm wondering if the gunshots were actually from the police force and national gaurd, and the people in charge and the media is falsly accusing the vicitims. That fits in with all the lack of help and refusal of help FEMA had instore for the victims.






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