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Hullabaloo


Thursday, September 01, 2005

 
They Are Invisible

Maybe this will show Michael Chertoff that evacuating wasn't a matter of people stubbornly refusing to obey a mandatory order. These people are rich and white:

BLITZER: The disaster, what's unfolding in New Orleans, elsewhere in the Gulf as well, the situation, especially, especially worrisome in downtown New Orleans. We have on the line now Phyllis Petrich. She's stranded in one of the hotels in New Orleans. Phyllis, where exactly are you?

PHYLISS PETRICH, STRANDED IN NEW ORLEANS: I'm at the Ritz Carlton on Canal Street in the French Quarter.

BLITZER: How long have you been there?

PETRICH: We arrived here actually for holiday on Thursday evening and we were evacuated to the Grand Ballroom by the middle of the night Sunday. We have been on rations since then. They have evacuated some of the hotel. There are about 300 people left. The Ritz is trying to get buses in here. FEMA will not let them in. They got a group out last night. And of the three buses that got out, FEMA commandeered one of them. We have no idea where they've taken those people. We're in dire straits here. There is no electricity. The sewage is backing up. As I said, the water supply is running low.

We do have a team here of infection diseases doctors that were here for a conference who have set up a small infirmary to care for the cases of dysentery and vomiting that have come up, as well as other people who have had some illnesses. But all of those medications are now being depleted, and I don't know that anyone is aware that we're here. I realize we're not top priority on anyone's list, but we are here and we are in dire straits, and we need someone to know that we're here, to come in and help to get us out of here.

BLITZER: Do you have enough food and water right now, Phyllis?

PETRICH: Well I don't believe we have very much food left at all. I know that we didn't have any lunch today. We had just a little biscuit or a cookie for breakfast and all we're each being given is a glass of water.

BLITZER: And it's impossible for you simply to leave the hotel and walk out. Not only are there floodwaters there, but it's dangerous, the violence, the looting, the snipers. It's a very dangerous situation.

PETRICH: It is a very dangerous situation. Fortunately, the Ritz has been wonderful. Apparently they have a lot of off-duty policemen that they have access to, that are guarding the hotel with shotguns. They themselves are afraid to go outside, because policemen are being shot at. And it is very, very difficult situation here. And I just don't know how we can impress upon people what is really going on here. I think people just don't have a concept, and it's being glossed over, it's being handled so poorly, it just amazes us to hear what's going on outside. That people just don't understand just the seriousness of the situation.

BLITZER: Where are you from, Phyllis?

PETRICH: I'm from Maryland right now. I actually live in Wisconsin, but I'm a long-term job assignment in Maryland.

BLITZER: If your family if your friends are watching, what would you like to say to them? PETRICH: That I am alive and well at this moment. I don't know what will happen in the future, but I am alive and safe for the time being, and I just want to get home to them.

BLITZER: Are you traveling by yourself or do you have children with you?

PETRICH: With my husband. We came here to celebrate our anniversary. And it's one we will not forgot for many years to come.

BLITZER: Well, Phyllis, good luck to you. We'll certainly pass on your concerns to authorities and try to make sure that people don't forgot that these hotels, including the Ritz Carlton Hotel in the French Quarter, are endangered right now.

PETRICH: I know, and it would be a different situation if we had made the choice of our own volition to stay here. We could not get out. Once the storm started to hit the airlines shut down immediately. And none of us could get flights out. We would have left if we could have, but we could not and that's why we're in the situation that we're in.

BLITZER: One final question, Phyllis, before I let you go. Are there any law enforcement authorities, National Guard, police, first responders, FEMA officials, anyone at the Ritz Carlton Hotel trying to help any of you.

PETRICH: Not that we have seen. No. Not at all.

BLITZER: They're invisible right now.

PETRICH: They are invisible. We have no idea where they are. We hear bits and pieces who can get information in that the National Guard is around, but where? We have not seen them. We have not seen FEMA officials. We have seen no one.

BLITZER: Well, if it makes you feel any better, we're told that they're on the way. We don't know how long it will take to get there. They're deploying thousands of troops. But it clearly will take some time for them to get to the scene where you are. Phyllis, we'll talk with you. And good luck to you, your husband and all your friends. I'm sure you've become friendly with a lot of these people at the Ritz Carlton Hotel.

PETRICH: ... absolutely wonderful people. There is a group of British nationals that have gotten to BBC. And we're hoping that with us, trying to get to as much people as we can, they will understand just how dangerous and, you know, difficult the situation is for everyone here.

BLITZER: All right. Thank you very much, Phyllis. Good luck. We'll check back with you. Phyllis Petrich, like so many others, about 300 people, she said, stranded now at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, and no help in sight, at least not now, and they're running short of food and water.


Even the Ritz-Carlton is out of food and swimming in shit.

Let's hope these folks don't have to go out and try to rustle up some food and water. The president said there is zero tolerance for "looters." According to Is That Legal, fellows at the American Enterprise Institute agree with Peggy Noonan that looters should be shot:

I think shooting looters is a compassionate way to protect the safety and well-being of law-abiding citizens. Time after time it has been shown that the way to prevent deadly anarchic riots is to take firm decisive action to prevent matters from getting to a tipping point.


Yes, a little summary justice does go a long way toward "preventing matters from getting to the tipping point." Except, of course, it doesn't. What is needed is a large, visible police and national guard presence directing rescue activity and keeping order. Why that isn't happening is the real question.

I seem to remember something in the recent past --- a war torn city perhaps --- that also dissolved into chaos and anrachy when the authorities failed to provide security. Somebody important said "stuff happens" and "freedom is untidy." Where was that again? It's right on the tip of my tongue...

If at first you don't succeed, clap your hands and do exactly the same thing over and over again.



Update: Some of the "right" people are looting, too. Should they be shot, Peggy?

Five days after Susan Dewey arrived in New Orleans to celebrate her birthday, she was so desperate to get out that she banded with hundreds of other tourists to hire 10 buses for $25,000 to rescue them.

After waiting hours, they learned government officials had commandeered their buses to evacuate others.

[...]

The hurricane hit Monday. The flooding and looting began Tuesday. By Wednesday, Dewey was stealing to eat.

She said hotel staff encouraged guests to loot a nearby store for food, so that's what Dewey and her boyfriend did.

"I had Power Bars, I had nuts because there were a couple (hotel) rooms open, and we raided their mini bars," Dewey said.

That day, police went door-to-door to order local residents out of the hotel and to the New Orleans Convention Center, Dewey said.

The handful of managers left at the hotel told guests they had booked 10 buses for $25,000 to evacuate them and those from the Crowne Plaza Astor Downtown. Each passenger paid $45. The hotel staff began lining up elderly and ill people outside about 7:30 p.m.

"I couldn't count how many wheelchairs you saw," Dewey said.

The guests waited until 9:30 p.m. when a manager told them the buses were confiscated by the military.

Also planning to leave on one of the buses was Bill Hedrick, a Houston oilman, and his family, including his mother-in-law, who uses a walker.

"We kept hearing they were coming, they were coming," he said. When the crowd learned the buses would never arrive, "everyone was totally stunned," said Hedrick, who moved on to the convention center.

Dewey said she was ordered to head to the convention center




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