Saturday, September 03, 2005


What's really happening in Houston - Long post

An email from a very good friend of mine, currently living in Houston:

Yesterday, Carol and I went to the Astrodome to volunteer, and I can tell you,things are not good. There's 20,000+ in the astrodome, 7,000+ in ReliantArena, and about 5,000+ just walking around the area. They haven't reallybeen explaining in the news what's it like. I've been watching CNN thismorning and they said there's 15,000 total there. That's flat out way off.

When we got there, there was no signs telling anyone where to go. It took usa while even to find a police officer. There's garbage everywhere, and theonly staff they have is the normal janitorial staff to clean up. There'sliterally thousands of sick, dirty, angry people, and no security presence.

While walking around the astrodome looking for the Red Cross we came across aman slung over a metal gate. He was slouched over in a very awkward position,and people were trying to wake him up, but with no response. People werelooking for a medic or policeman, and there was none around.

We decided to go help in one of the convention halls, unloading supplies, or
Cross, who was supposedly in charge started telling us what they needed. Shehad no idea how to delegate control, or organize people. There were about 20of us, trying to get started, and she was asking us to sign up with the RedCross, so they could send us thank you letters. None of us really cared aboutthat at the time.

So, we're in a hall with roughly 500 people in it. I'm not sure why, but theyhad the people taped and gated off from where we were. This lady asked us ifwe could "maybe just get in a line, by the tape, and kind of try to keeppeople under control." This was not a good sign. We were not there for riotcontrol. Then she decided to close all the service doors because she wasafraid some of the refugees were bringing guns and drugs into the arena. Sheasked some of if we could "man the doors." Again, this was not a good sign.

We needed surgical gloves, there were none. We needed to get some, no oneknew where to get them. No one knew who was in charge, or what the end resultwould be. It was a joke.

We ended up folding clothes that came in through donation organizations, andsorting them for refugees to look through.

Upon leaving, a couple of thoughts entered my mind. One, if a city with theresources of Houston is having these kind of command and control problems, Ican't even imagine what's been going on in New Orleans. Two, "a hungry man isan angry man." If we would've gotten food to these people earlier we wouldnot be in the situation we would be right now. Lastly, I really wonder ifthis was New York, or a more affluent area affected, would the response belike this? Being at school and around town, I hear a lot of people, I'd say a majority of people, worrying if "thugs will take over," or "if crime willrise," or "how many homes will be broken into." Consider this, on the radio,they were saying there are overflows of clothes, food, supplies, and thatpeople need to stop donating. At the same time, they are begging for peopleto come down and help. No one wants to be hands on. And being there, I'mtelling you, most of the volunteers are black. I hate to say this, but ifthis had happened to 100,000 middle-class white people, I just don't thinkthings would be like this. It's sick.

The other volunteers there were begging, demanding more manpower, medical,and service oriented people, and they just were not there. They need much,much more security and medical, not bottled water.

We're going back today to put a day's work in. Courtney's brother Kent is alicensed Emergency Medical Tech., and a medic in training with specialforces. He's on leave from Ft. Bragg for the weekend and is going down tohelp with us. Hopefully things will get better.

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