The rain slaps on the roof now. A stiff breeze blows when Rita's outer bands spiral through. And its actually really nice outside. Breezy, cool, not like the 120 degree heat and humidity of the last two weeks.
This has been the hardest day for me so far in the two weeks I've been in Louisiana. People are on edge about Rita: where will she go, and what will happen to the people in her sights? I've taken on alot of responsibility, and I realize my recommendations affect the health and safety of other people in our group.
Whether you admit it not, being here has an effect on you. The energy in the air is palpable, as if you can still hear the screams of those lost in the storm. Journeying through other more damaged parts of the city also takes an emotional toll. I haven't encountered anyone who is not dreaming their way through this tragedy that doesn't have the haunted look in their eyes. Relief workers, residents, military, and police all have a certain numb look about them.
That numbness is easy to understand. The tragedy of neglect and fear that took hold here is too much to process in a short time.
Every day brings a new story and a new outrage about what has unfolded here. For instance, one of the Common Ground people discovered a latino community that has not had meaningful contact with any relief organization. FEMA couldn't help, somehow they couldn't come up with a spanish translator!
Or the one about the hospital that was overlooked by rescue teams for almost a week, only to be saved by a wildlife officer who saw someone waving their hand and screaming, "There are a thousand people in here!" A thousand sick and dying people in a public hospital has to wait almost a week to get rescued?
I was told about the young man who tied himself to a telephone pole to fight the flood waters. He didn't make it.
Or how the government agencies can't get their shit together. New Orleans, St. Bernards and Plaquemine parish are financially bankrupt and waiting for the FEMA checks to clear. Uh... checks in the mail.
The most ludicrous evacuation orders. Algiers is voluntary evacuation. Then it is mandatory, but without mayoral support. Then it is voluntary again - all within 24 hours of a major hurricane's landfall! Absolutely outrageous.
Or the slum lords who have evicted people from Section 8 housing while they were gone during the evacuation. Many people complained about returning home and finding their doorlocks changed. Another slum lord prevented residents from taping or boarding up windows. If they did, they would be evicted. That's still happening.
These are just a few things I've heard in the last 48 hours alone. It's very hard to live with. And knowing that Rita is about to cut another swath of the same kind of misery throughout the region.
I'll write more tomorrow. But for now, I need to sleep.