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I just got back from a FEMA Detainment Camp

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posted on Sep, 6 2005 @ 12:59 AM
I'm extremely depressed to report that things seem to only be getting sadder concerning the people so devastatingly affected by Katrina last week. Two car loads of us headed over to Falls Creek, a youth camp for Southern Baptist churches in Oklahoma that agreed to have its facilities used to house Louisiana refugees. I'm afraid the camp is not going to be used as the kind people of the churches who own the cabins believe it was going to be used.

Jesse Jackson was right when he said "refugees" was not the appropriate word for the poor souls dislocated due to Katrina. But he was wrong about why it is not appropriate. It's not appropriate because they are detainees, not refugees.

Falls Creek is like a small town that is closed down about 9 months out of the year. It is made up of cabins that range from small and humble to large and grandiose, according to how much money the church who owns the cabin has. Each cabin has full kitchen facilities, bathrooms and usually have two large bunkrooms - one for women and one for men. The occupancy of the cabins varies according to the church. This past week the Southern Baptist association of Oklahoma offered the facility as a place to house refugees from the Katrina disaster. Each church owning a cabin was then called to find out if they would make their cabin available. Churches across the state agreed.

I started my journey by loading six large trash bags full of clothes in the back of my beetle buggy. I then went to the local Dollar General and purchased various hygiene products, snacks and even a set of dominoes and a deck of cards. I had my daughter take her own shopping cart and go and select her own items that she wanted to take. I told her to imagine herself without anything in the world and then select what she would need to live every day.

We then met up with my elderly parents who had gone to the Dollar Store themselves, and to the grocery store and had spent WAY too much of their limited social security on the venture. But that's okay. We ended up having to take both vehicles on the 150 mile round trip because they were both pretty full. My son showed up and wanted to go. He drove my parents while my daughter and I rode in my car.

To say we all left with excitement would be appropriate. My 78 year old mother is a "fixer". She loves to help people and she absolutely needs some one to dote over. That she was about to be able to help some people who had lost all in their lives had her feeling physically healthier than I've seen her in days. I was glad to get the chance to actively do something other than donate what little I can to some faceless charity hoping it would get to the people who needed it. I felt glad I could do some small something that might cut through the helplessness I've felt over this situation. Both of my kids were eager to assist.

The only odd thing that occurred prior to setting off happened while I was gassing up in our small town. My daughter was pumping the gas and a lady she knew pulled up to an adjacent pump. My daughter started telling her where we were going and that we were taking things to the refugees. The lady told my daughter that she had been told the Red Cross was not allowing any one to deliver supplies. When I returned to the car from paying for the gas my daughter informed of this. I told her that the Red Cross would not be preventing the members of our church from entering our own cabin, so it really didn't matter. It was at that point we decided to stop back by the house and get my daughter's camera so that she could take pictures if required.

From the moment I heard about Falls Creek being scheduled to receive refugees I had two thoughts run through my mind:

1. What a beautiful place to be able to stay while trying to get your life back in order.

2. What a terrible location to be when you're trying to get your life back in order.

The first thought is because Falls Creek is nestled in the Arbuckle Mountains of south central Oklahoma. One of the more beautiful regions of the state. It would be a peaceful and beautiful place to try to start mending emotionally, and begin to figure what you're going to do next.

The second thought comes because Falls Creek is very secluded and absolutely no where near a population center. The closest route from Falls Creek to a connecting road is three miles on a winding narrow road called "High Road" (It gets that name for two reasons - it's goes over the mountain instead of around it like "Low Road" does, and it's where the teenagers of the area go to party). The road has not a single home on it for over 3 miles. After battling that 3 miles over mountains, you'll find yourself about 5 miles from the nearest town, Davis, Oklahoma, population ca. 2000. This is no place to start a new life.

A few pictures headed toward Falls Creek over High Road to give you a feel of the seclusion.

All of sudden the landscape changed from picturesque mountainous rural America, to something foreign to me as we approached the rear gate of the camp. Two Oklahoma State Patrol vehicles and four Oklahoma Troopers guarded the gate. We started through and they stopped us.

"Can I help you, ma'am?"

I informed him we're here to deliver supplies to *our church's name* cabin. He stood silent and stared at me. My daughter turned and snapped a picture of his vehicle - very conspicuously.

I smiled at him and he asked, "Do you know where that cabin is located?"

I informed him I did. He looked at me a bit longer and then said, "Ok" and stepped away from the car. They stopped my parents' vehicle as well, but I assume my son informed them he was with us. They let them pass.

We made our way through the narrow streets toward our church's cabin.

We noticed that the various church cabins had numbered placards on them that normally weren't there.

We arrived at our cabin and started toting the clothes in. We finally found a group of men upstairs in the dorms trying to do something alien to them - make beds. They had almost completed the room of bunk beds and told us we could go over to the ladies' dorm room and start on it. We lugged our sacks of clothes back down the stairs. Then we got the first negative message. "You can't bring any clothes in. FEMA has stated they will accept no more clothes. They've had 30 people sorting clothes for days. They don't want anymore." My mind couldn't help but go back over the news articles that have accused FEMA of refusing water in to Jefferson Parrish, or turning fuel away.

We lugged the bags of clothes back to the car. We then turned to bringing in our personal hygiene products. That's when we learned our cabin had been designated a "male only" cabin. Approximately 40 men, ranging from age 13 on up would be housed there. We started resacking the female products and sorted out everything that would be useful for men.

We lugged the bags of female products back to the car. We asked if they knew of a cabin that had been designated for women. The "host" (the hosts are Oklahoma civilians who have been employeed??? by FEMA to reside at each cabin and have already gone through at least one "orientation" meeting conducted by FEMA at "BASE" which is some unknown but repetitively referred location within the camp) told us he believed McAlester cabin was dedicated to females. He then explained there were male, female and family cabins designated.

We then started lugging in our food products. The foods I had purchased were mainly snacks, but my mother - God bless her soul - had gone all out with fresh vegetables, fruits, canned goods, breakfast cereals, rice, and pancake fixings. That's when we got the next message: They will not be able to use the kitchen.

Excuse me? I asked incredulously.

FEMA will not allow any of the kitchen facilities in any of the cabins to be used by the occupants due to fire hazards. FEMA will deliver meals to the cabins. The refugees will be given two meals per day by FEMA. They will not be able to cook. In fact, the "host" goes on to explain, some churches had already enquired about whether they could come in on weekends and fix meals for the people staying in their cabin. FEMA won't allow it because there could be a situation where one cabin gets steaks and another gets hot dogs - and...

it could cause a riot.

It gets worse.

He then precedes to tell us that some churches had already enquired into whether they could send a van or bus on Sundays to pick up any occupants of their cabins who might be interested in attending church. FEMA will not allow this. The occupants of the camp cannot leave the camp for any reason. If they leave the camp they may never return. They will be issued FEMA identification cards and "a sum of money" and they will remain within the camp for the next 5 months.

My son looks at me and mumbles "Welcome to Krakow."

My mother then asked if the churches would be allowed to come to their cabin and conduct services if the occupants wanted to attend. The response was "No ma'am. You don't understand. Your church no longer owns this building. This building is now owned by FEMA and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. They have it for the next 5 months." This scares my mother who asks "Do you mean they have leased it?" The man replies, "Yes, ma'am...lock, stock and barrel. They have taken over everything that pertains to this facility for the next 5 months."

We then lug all food products requiring cooking back to the car. We start unloading our snacks. Mom appeared to have cornered the market in five counties on pop-tarts and apparently that was an acceptable snack so the guy started shoving them under the counter. He said these would be good to tied people over in between their two meals a day. But he tells my mother she must take all the breakfast cereal back. My mother protests that cereal requires no cooking. "There will be no milk, ma'am." My mother points to the huge industrial double-wide refrigerator the church had just purchased in the past year. "Ma'am, you don't understand...

It could cause a riot."

He then points to the vegetables and fruit. "You'll have to take that back as well. It looks like you've got about 10 apples there. I'm about to bring in 40 men. What would we do then?"

My mother, in her sweet, soft voice says, "Quarter them?"

"No ma'am. FEMA said no...

It could cause a riot. You don't understand the type of people that are about to come here...."

I turn and walk out of the room...lugging all the healthy stuff back to the car. My son later tells me the man went on to say "We've already been told of teenage girls delivering fetuses on buses." My son steps toward him and says "That's because they've almost been starved to death, haven't had a decent place to get a good night's sleep, and their bodies can't keep a baby alive. I'm not sure that's any evidence some one should be using to show these are 'bad people'."

We then went to the second dorm room and made up beds. When we got through and were headed outside the host says to me and my daughter, "How did you get in here?" I told him we came in through the back gate. He replies, "No, HOW did you get in here? No one who doesn't have credentials showing is supposed to be in here." (I had noticed all the "hosts" had two or three badges hanging around their necks.) I told him it might have had something to do with the fact my daughter was snapping pictures of the OHP presence at the gate. He then tells us, "Well, starting in the morning NO ONE comes in. So if you have further goods you want to donate you will have to take them to your local church. They will collect them until they have a full load and then bring them to the front gate."

Me and my two kids then walked over the hill to the camp's amphitheater.

First - just another OHP car...

The amphitheater is full of clothes (but I'm not sure I'm seeing enough for 5000 people for 5 months).

But there was Oklahoma Department of Safety truck and a military vehicle...

and a cell phone tower (which fretling didn't get a pic of...grrr). Falls Creek, because it sits in a "bowl" surrounded by mountains, is notorious for no cell phone coverage.

There were buses coming in the front gate at about a rate of 1 every 2 or 3 minutes. We could hear them below us as we walked back up the hill. We could also see their white tops through the trees. We figured these were busloads of refugees arriving, but we never saw these buses in the camps, nor were any refugees visible at the camp while we were there.

We then loaded back into our vehicles and headed toward the cabin we had been told was for women so that we could off-load our appropriate products. When we arrived there was no one in the cabin so we preceded to unload our vehicles and take the merchandise in to the cabin. A horde of "hosts" who had been hovering at a nearby cabin head toward us.

"Can we help you?"

I explained to them what we were doing.

"Uhh... you can't just leave donated goods in the cabins. FEMA has stated they want all supplies to go to their central warehouse. They said they have had far too many supplies come in and they need to handle them. You can't leave ANY clothes."

I just stared at them.

One chubby-checker, after several moments of pregnant pause broken only by the sound of my 82 year old dad continuing to shuffle boxes out of the back of his car (GO DAD!), says "I'll call "BASE" and confirm what should happen here."

I continue to stare.

He pounds out the number on his cell phone and when some one picks up he chickens out and just asks "I need to verify that cabin 11 is a female only facility." When he hangs up he says that it is and I respond, "Well, good, we'll get on with this then." It's at that point my son pulls me aside and says, "Every damned one of them have the same phone. That's what the comm tower is for at the amphitheater. Now we know how FEMA runs through billions, they've given every one of these people a Cingular phone when walkie-talkies would have worked just fine."

We off-load our goods into the McAlester cabin. Fretling takes pics of the buckets of toys that have been donated by citizens for the kiddos coming this way.

And a dorm room:

We then start out of the camp. I tell my daughter I want to go out the main gate this time. Here is what we saw on the way out:

Just another OHP car...

This cabin was apparently commandeered by a group of people in navy blue jumpsuits with insignias all over them. You can see them in the left side of this pic. But they were standing all over the place on both sides of the narrow street.

This is just one OHP car in a long line of them parked along the side of the street.

Three firetrucks parked along the river.

Talk about a surreal moment...troops (unknown if Regular or National Guard) have taken up residency in the Durant First Baptist Church cabin very near the main gate of the camp.

Two things to point out in the pictures above...we passed a row of about 6 or 8 ambulances parked in the street just in front of the troop cabin, and the large tent on the top of the hill...we have no idea what that is for.

Main gate completely blocked by OHP vehicles as we approach:

More OHP vehicles parked at the rear gate as we pass by:

Now I'm starting to understand why it doesn't matter that this location is not conducive to starting a new life.

[edit on 9-6-2005 by Valhall]

[edit on 22-4-2006 by SkepticOverlord]

posted on Sep, 6 2005 @ 01:11 AM

We have people coming to San Jose and San Francisco. I wonder if it will be much the same.

This should be an ATSNN story IMHO.

In regards to

navy blue jumpsuits with insignias all over them. You can see them in the left side of this pic. But they were standing all over the place on both sides of the narrow street.

Given the repot of 8 ambulances at the location, those blue uniforms look alot like the EMS style worn by our EMT's so they could have been just out shooting the breeze. Perhaps the paramedics / EMT-1's are going to be the camps medical staff.

How close is the nearest medical facility to this camp?

Two last questions: Did you get a fell for the total numbers of troops there and the State Troopers / Highway Patrol (two different signs on the cars so i assume they are seperate entities)

And was the "If you leave you can never come back" edict posted anywhere? I would love to see one of the briefing papers given to the inmates here adn see what exactly FEMA is saying to them. SO much for the land of the free :shk:

posted on Sep, 6 2005 @ 01:12 AM
Wow man. Maybe we aren't so paranoid afterall. Too bad you didn't get any video, I bet Alex jones would give his left one for this story Valhall.
Do you have any media contacts? I could give you some information if you want to take this story and run with it, it might not make clear the mainstream media, but my god you got pure gold there for the independent media.

posted on Sep, 6 2005 @ 01:42 AM
Keep in mind that people will be pissed off and order must be kept somehow. The EMS personel are there to 'check' them over.

Notice the word riot was used a lot, do they know something YOU dont?

Anyhow nice guesture and great story. I just feel you are over reacting a bit, my mother lives in a trailer park north of NO and they have brought some 'refugees' there. There has already been a shooting and a bunch of looting. They now have Sheriffs D's full time in the place I grew up

posted on Sep, 6 2005 @ 01:48 AM
Do you think I'm over-reacting to the idea of being bussed hundreds of miles from what I am familiar with to a place miles from civilization and from which I cannot leave?


do you think I'm over-reacting to the fact that federal agencies are treating people who have done nothing but lose all they ever owned to a natural disaster as if they are criminals waiting to make their next nefarious move?

posted on Sep, 6 2005 @ 01:54 AM
wow, valhall. i'm impressed with your whole family!
your story reads like a 'red dawn' type fiction novel. surreal, indeed.
i've been expecting this type of dress rehearsal for a long time, as many of us tin-foil hatters have. i feel it's only going to get worse, sadly.
goodbye, sweet lady 'america', we barely knew thee.

posted on Sep, 6 2005 @ 01:55 AM

Originally posted by Valhall

do you think I'm over-reacting to the fact that federal agencies are treating people who have done nothing but lose all they ever owned to a natural disaster as if they are criminals waiting to make their next nefarious move?

Look facts are facts, in the Trailer park in which I speak, things are not good. My mother has decided to arm herself as she is scared. Not all of these people are bad but how do you tell? Do you wait until your mother is raped or robbed and then ask to iD the thug? A very few are making this a nightmare and it is sad but people need to be protected, even from themselves sometimes. Until order is established, some freedoms are will not be 5 months either. THey are already letting some go and get their 'government' checks.

Another odd note I was told, only cash is being excepted locally, no CC or checks. I am not sure I believe it, but it is kinda spooky.

posted on Sep, 6 2005 @ 02:01 AM
I'm in Baton Rouge and it is true that most businesses are only accepting cash now. Plus, the crime has indeed increased. There's a bunch of homeless people here who sleep in their cars I've noticed.

posted on Sep, 6 2005 @ 02:51 AM
Wow this is indeed a great story!

You might consider forwarding to NPR news.

I have many friends in Europe following the aftermath of Katerina story.

Would you mind if I forward a link?

posted on Sep, 6 2005 @ 03:07 AM
i have to admit i was very skeptical about these so called fema detention camps but boy was i wrong excellant post valhall

posted on Sep, 6 2005 @ 03:09 AM

I can't believe what I'm reading. They can't leave?? Why the prison conditions? What have these people done but lose everything? I have suspicions about everything I've heard and seen so far. I notice how quickly people are to turn on 'looters' and 'thugs' as they are now known in the rhetoric of this disaster.

It all sounds too familiar because most of the US went down this path when Iraq and Saddam were turned into the scapegoats for 911. Same way to refer to 'muslims' same disparing breath - same way to refer to them as 'animals' and to distance them from us.

I am so saddened by your post you cannot believe. Do you think it is possible they are being put there because:

1. The people who were in the floods know better than anyone what really happened? When the news was reporting the riots and looting and this and that - a lot of it distorted - what do you think the ordinary people experienced? If they can't phone and they can't go anywhere, will we ever know? Plus how much brain washing will go on in here? Some of the troops on arriving in NOLA said they were surprised it wasn't anything at all like they were told. In terms of chaos I mean - they called it organized chaos. Not the wild sodom and gamora like place before the destruction that we were told it was.

2. These US citizens who have now experienced the worst, will continue to suffer living in these conditions - what do you think their reaction and their loyalty to their governemnt will be like now? There will be anarchy in their minds and I will put this out to everyone - conservative, necon, lefty and right, christian and non... if you were treated like that - like a common criminal and like a basic animal, because of your economic status and your skin colour - would you be standing there pumping your chest up in pride while the flag waves and 'god bless america' plays in the background??? Pretend you have been starved, pushed around, frightened and have lost everything and NOW you get to go to prison with these Fema Bast****.

What country do you pledge your allegiance to? This is not about country anymore, not when your rights are taken away like this. Not when it is obviously about survival of the fittest - each person is on their own. 'That' is America. The idealism of togetherness and the little man equal to the big man is a myth.

If you had a car you escaped, if you had money you were evacuated, if you are poor your fate was to lose everything, be thought of as a thug by your country and now you get to go to Camp Big Fun for 5 months.

While some of you ask yourselves what is wrong with this? What is wrong with you?? Can you not see this is wrong? Leave your politics aside and think of it in terms of humanity. If these people were such 'animals' how did New Orleans get by from day to day before the flood? For F*** sake it wasn't alcatraz.

This happened for a reason, the looting, the animal desperation, the fear - it causes this. And now those people are paying the consequences for a government who is blaming everyone, especially the poor innocent people.

Don't play into this rhetoric too - think for yourselves. Vall has done a great job showing us, now it is up to you to deny the lies and search the truth about what is happening.

posted on Sep, 6 2005 @ 03:20 AM
Wow man that's really crazy..

I agree with what others said, you should try and take that story to some news sources. I doubt this is the kinda thing FEMA/US Gov would want to be out in the open..but it needs to be!

Times are really changing over in the US...

posted on Sep, 6 2005 @ 03:20 AM

Have all the prisoners of the affected areas been accounted for?
I have read some stories of prisoners being relocated..
But when the levees broke, was there a hurried effort, just to keep them from drowning? in other words, were cell doors just left open?

I'm asking this in light of Val's story, and the fact that security seems on the verge of paranoia..

Is it possible there are some, or even a lot, of hardcore criminals mixed in woth the refugees, and nobody wants to admit it?

posted on Sep, 6 2005 @ 03:24 AM
Ok, so let me get things straight.

Number 1: the camps were empty and there was not a single disaster victim there - and you took no photos of any
Number 2: everyone going to this camp will have next to no posessions or no posessions at all
Number 3: the police allowed you in, and told you that you couldn't leave different types of food or clothing otherwise somebody sometime might consider that to be unfair (that they didn't get the same "treat" their neighbour had) and you couldn't leave food that needed to be cooked so they wouldn't have to worry about accidental fires burning anything down and causing even more grief for the disaster victims and FEMA's reputation
Number 4: there are some ambulances, and EMTs at the "main cabin"- and you took some photos of them
Number 5: there is a fire truck or two - and you took some photos of them
Number 6: staff onsite had cellphone radios and a local satellite tower for communications - and you took some photos of it
Number 7: there are state police at the entrance - and you took photos of their vehicles

Well gosh, you sure got me there. This totally sounds like mistreated hostages in an internment camp. Where are your photos of the barbed wire and minefields?

You were suprised and shocked that they didn't want to accept your clothes and food donations even though they've been saying on the TV and radio and websites for a few days that anyone wanting to donate should "donate money" or volunteer time with the Red Cross or their local church organization(s)?

Could it possibly be that you are jumping to conclusions and over-sensationalizing things similar to what you did with the volcanic activity in Washington state a while back? As I recall you were "extremely alarmed" yet (as all the scientists said it would) it vented some gas and let off a minor eruption.

I'll reserve judgement on these "camps" for a few weeks so I can see just how many of these people complain about conditions or treatment. In the meantime I recommend you, and others, relax a bit and perhaps donate money to a disaster charity.

[edit on 6-9-2005 by CatHerder]

posted on Sep, 6 2005 @ 03:37 AM
Welcome to the 'sue happy' country of the world, folks! So sad that we've stooped to a level that we have to be so careful to not give any sort of reason that may cause a horrendous law suit.

Fresh food? No way, could go bad and cause a major law suit!

No clothes? No way, others may have a better selection which could cause a law suit.

No cooking for themselves? Heck no! Could cause burns or food prepared wrong, which could cause illness guessed it! a law suit.

Can't leave? Nope. Free to come and go could cause a 'stranger' to come onto the grounds who could rape or harm one of the residents. Huge law suit.

I was actually wondering how the law would accomodate the housing of the displaced 'refugees'. I wondered about the potential for law suits and other complaints towards those who 'just want to help'. I guess Val's story above answered my question on how it would be dealt with.

Sure it sucks, but we only have our (sue happy) selves to blame!

posted on Sep, 6 2005 @ 03:54 AM
I'd just like to say thanks to Val for this excellent and personal account of a small piece of this ongoing tragedy; a tragedy which will, for those directly affected by it, continue for months and years after the waters have all dried up and the bodies of those lost are put to rest. Let's not do the usual human thing and forget about those still living once the images and the stories have also dried up from the media. Perhaps we could use this thread to post periodic updates on the treatment and situation of those placed in camps. Is the calm we now see merely the real "eye of the storm" as far as this entire disaster is concerned?

You have voted Valhall for the Way Above Top Secret award. You have two more votes this month.

posted on Sep, 6 2005 @ 04:09 AM
No comments on my prisoner question?
I'm really wondering about this..
Has anyone heard anything?

posted on Sep, 6 2005 @ 04:38 AM
That is friggin WEIRD, Val. By the way, thanks for helping people out like this. Its nice to know that Christian charity is not dead.

The whole story kinda gave me the creeps. But it also shows the massive failure of burocracy. FEMA rejecting your clothing donations, when they probably wouldnt have enough after sorting through what they had? Bill O'Reily, who I seldom agree with, made an excellent point about relying on or trusting the government to help you or do anything for you. Its a farce. FEMA's management of this disaster, plus the blunders of Homeland security show how top heavy, slow, and a waste of space the government agencies are. Apart from the military, the helping hand from the average private citizen has been more effective and better organized. Hell, your church seemed to be doing far more to help the victims/refugees/detainees than the idiotic feds.

Thanks for sharing these pics and the story though. Im begining to think that stories of FEMA detention camps and such aint so crazy after all.

posted on Sep, 6 2005 @ 04:46 AM
Does it seem to strange to anyone else that within a matter of days FEMA has leased this whole place, set up complete communications, security, staff, organized id and housing systems, setup a system of rules which everyone has already been trained to understand, prepared organized buckets of toys for the kiddies, racks of clothes, etc. etc. etc...???

I mean it's not like the church leased out the property last month or even last week, yet the paperwork has all been done and the staff is ready and in place.

For a government agency that didn't even show up until almost a week after the crisis hit, it sure seems a bit odd that something like this would come together so well so soon.

BTW, what exactly happens in 5 months when the lease is up and obviously these people still have no homes, no where to go, haven't been in contact with the outside world in almost half a year and have basically just been held captive under conditions that are similar to a military quarentine facility or POW camp without the torture???

There weren't any any large "shower rooms" with unfamiliar pipes or exhaust fans attached to them anywhere to be seen were there???

Nice post Vall!!!

posted on Sep, 6 2005 @ 04:52 AM
All through the aftermath of the hurricane I was thinking about this before Vall's post. My question is this - what happens after 5 months when those Americans have been de-Americanized so to speak?

No one can say that all they've been through including detaining them so far away from society can be good for them.

Think about the institutionalization people suffer from in prison and mental hospitals, not to mention camps of this nature.

Even under the best conditions and with food and shelter and a warm bed, they will be undergoing who knows what while they are in confinement.

What will happen after?

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