I do not use BrainBlog for personal commentary about non-neuroscience issues. Please pardon me while I do so right now.
As a hurricane of this proportion approached a city so ill-configured to deal with it, we had a president more concerned with draining the last few days out of a five-week vacation, riding his wee wittle bicycle, and then spending the day of landfall to give a speech trashing the way Bill Clinton handled the first Word Trade Center bombing (ignoring the history and reality that Clinton succeeded in dealing with it in a way that puts the current "president" to shame).
Saturday and Sunday in New Orleans saw little actual on-the-ground planning that I could discern being out there on the streets. The only information anyone could get was to go to certain places where local buses would collect people to take them to regional shelters in advance of integration at the Superdome. The Mayor went on TV on Saturday evening to give an interview where he was honorably blunt at telling people to get out of town, but was dumbfoundingly silent on the hows and wheres. So was his Office of Emergency Preparedness when I contacted them - about the only word they seemed to know how to mouth was "Superdome" and we've all seen how well that worked out.
On an 18-hour exodus generally westward, northward, southwestward, and westward again and ending in Houston on some of the main routes out of (and, hence, into) New Orleans, the following was the only evidence we saw of pre-positioning of emergency resources heading toward the city:
- A total of two (count 'em, two) National Guard troops in one pre-hummer jeep, directing traffic under an overpass.
- One presurmed caravan of two (count 'em, two) medium-sized, unlabelled white trucks led by a car with whirling lights and trailed by same - I guessed the lack of identification probably meant it was a Fed thing like FEMA.
- A Salvation Army tent gathering point set up at the first highway visitors center across the Texas border. (Not moving, of course.)
- One FoxNews mobile camera truck.
- No heliocopter or air traffic at all.
- No rail traffic at all (e.g., those military trains you sometimes see carrying equipment)
Other than that, there were only police channeling traffic from closed exits. To say we were speechless whenever we tried to understand this as we continued outbound is an understatement.
And everything else since then, of course can be seen on television. People dying on the street for lack of oxygen and lack of water and a Bush administration that spends 10 minutes of a news conference spieling off on meaningless number after number of things they promise to get there sometime soon. "Magnificent," gushed the Director of Homeland Security. Bullshit. A tragedy on the ground - a vacuum of leadership in the offices of the government.
Anthony H. Risser | hurricane katrina | new orleans