Thursday, September 08, 2005

September 6, 2005

“Oprah in New Orleans” (ET):
“This makes me so mad! This should not have happened!”

September 6, 2005

Simon and I were trained as Red Cross case workers today. We process the paperwork of evacuees and award them "Client Assistance Cards" which work as tax-free pre-paid credit cards to help people get on their feet. I was nervous about admitting that we are from New Orleans because I though we might not be able to work (on the sign-up sheet, you check a box answering whether or not you "received damage" from the disaster. I puquestiontion mark. Of course we DID, but ours is so little, relatively speaking.) It seems, though, that they will take who they can get. The demand is CRAZY, and there is little to no proof that people are who they say they are. At any rate, today I saw, and processed Client Assistance Cards for:
Dawanda and son of Uptown New Orleans: $910
Anna Polk and husband of St. Bernard, who were rescued from their roof and who smelled of mold: $910
Dawn Carter, husband, and son of Gentilly Forest: $1280
Dawin of Kenner: $665

The woman who taught us traininginig course was Elaine Sheldon. She was clearly tirtearyarym, but strong, like a tough and tender mother. I will write more about this later, I hope.

What an exhausting day.

September 7, 2005

“Memo Shows FEMA Chief Delayed Asking for Help With Katrina”

Red Cross said on The O’ Reilly Factor last night that they were not allowed inside the city because of a “local decision.”

Forced evacuations now expected to be carried outÂ… beginning sometime today. A question, though, is how many people will come under this category.

“More pumps are arriving day by day from various places across this country and also from countries like Germany and Holland.”

“Are people going to be forced to go to other states or forced to live on a cruise-ship? People are anxious to get settled.” --Houston. “People say that they are getting the runaround, that no one is talking to them.”

“You can’t do that! They need to let us really know what is going on. We can’t be running around like chickens without heads.”

“Dome-City” has its own zip code.

Katrina will probably wind up costing the economy about 400,000 jobs.unprecedentedp as an unprecendented rebuilding begins, estimated at 200 billion dollars. Much of this depends on how hard Katrina hit the energy infrastructure. All of this as Wall Street watches the weather—Tropical Storm Ophelia off of Florida.

September 7th:

Day two of Red Cross volunteer work.

When we arrived, a young and new volunteer came to me asking for help with a woman who needed medical attention and the appropriate forms for her children. Strangely enough, I knew just what to do, and so I spent 15 minutes with a 23-year-old mother of two. She rattled off a list of ailments, finally declaring, "I've got lots wrong with me!" She wanted depression medication, ADHD meds for her son, asthma inhalers, and therapy for her youngest son, who had cerebral palsy. She looked wild-eyed and tired, and I simply jotted down notes:
"Suffers from depression" and "Needs asthma medication" and "Requires treatment for cerebral palsy." But I knew that the nurses at the Red Cross were overwhelmed, and that she would likely not get the help she wanted. Her older son (the one with ADHD and "a slight speech impairment," which I left off his form,) kept saying, "excuse me, Miss, excuse me," and then, "We need strawberry milk."

Among the people whose forms I processed were two cousins who'd been to three different shelters in two states. They were thuggish dudes from the 8th Ward, covered in tattoos and scarred. Mike had a gold canines and two teardrops tattooed on his face. His arm was wrapped in shiny scars that could have been dog bits or knife wounds, who knows. He called to me, "Sarah--can you help us?" and then corrected himself: "I mean, MISS Sarah." I said that as shouldrleansknown, they shold have knoen better than to call me simply, Sarah, and I asked them to wait. When I was done with Miss Mary (more on her later,) I called over to Mike, who wore a hat that said, "Ready to Die."

"Okay, Mr. Ready-to-Die," I said. "Let's go." They got a kick out of that. Ready to Die is a record label, I guess. Anyways, Mike's cousin,Kadeem, showed me his gunshot wounds from being in New Orleans post-Katrina. He'd been shot Orleansback by the New Orleans SWAT team, who he seemed to forgive for being "stressed out and trigger happy." His wounds were stitched up in puckered cresents, and I asked if he needed additional medical attention, but he said all he wanted was a job and a place to live. In fact, after I'd told them I was from New Orleans, Mike asked how they could volunteer, too. He said so many people had helped them and they wanted to do something too, more than sitting around in a hotel room, waiting. Kadeem was medicated and tired and wanted to go. I didn't ask him to tell me what happened. In fact, I began to feel angry at some of the other volunteers, who seemed to be more interested in collecting stories than in helping. One man, in particular, was recounting some of the "crazy tales" he'd heard. "I could write a book," he said, and I wanted to tell him to go fuck himself. An elderly woman was still having her work processed and this asshole reminded me of fucking Anderson Cooper--all of New Orleans, his pathetic charity case.

Where was it yesterday that I heard someone say that pity is a form of fear?

My favorite moment of the day was shared with Mary Adams, a 78-year-old widow who kept saying to me, "I didn't even want to come down here! My daughter made me! I'm independent! I'm weird! I just want to live alone!" She owned a home on N. Rocheblave, and had left behind her dog, Lucky (there was a long story attatched to Lucky.) I mentioned ways of her finding out about Lucky--perhaps the SPCA, but it seemed she didn't want to think about him. She said a neighbor might be looking after him, but she couldn't be sure because he was "crazy enough to stay" and her other neighbor was tied to an oxygen tube for her emphysema.

Mary writes poetry. ("I'm weird! I just want to live alone!") She writes limericks, too, and she told me this one:

There was an old lady, said WHY
can't I look in my ear with my eye?

If I put my mind to it,
I'm sure I can do it!

You never can tell 'till you try.

Oh, she made me smile. I hope I hear from her again. Mary is New Orleans. Fiercely independent. Weird. A bit arthritic, but don't mind that!

SIGH! Back to the Red Cross...

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