Thursday, September 14, 2006

More Vignettes from Bec and Dave 9.14.2005

Subject: More Vignettes from Bec and David Date: 9/14 11:07 AM

Hi all,
Wow! Amazing where the email is getting forwarded to. Some of the names on the return emails are so lovely to see and we just sit here grinning. We won't be able to respond to you all personally for a while. Please consider this our gigantic THANK YOU.

The medical issues were handled yesterday. We're just delighted. All those years in film work are really a help right now and the woman who's getting the trucks in with the food is a film producer and PR type herself. We understand each other. More on that later.

We talked to the wonderful Lt. Duane Stulz about the plight of our ten medical issue people. That was day before yesterday. It took a while, but I had shown him the list of medications, dosages and how many of each everyone had. He understood the problem. We went to load up the car and he came up to us and said, "Can you get them here by 10AM tomorrow?" Of course we can we figure. He said he'd have a van or something to get them to West Jefferson Medical Center. So we go off to deliver the supplies and on our little route (route is a much more disciplined sounding word than what we're actually doing, which is driving around in a grid) and on our way we stop at each of the ten "medical issue" people's houses and set it up to pick them up in the morning. We had them scheduled for pickup at 8:30, 9:00, and left time for anyone who couldn't manage it. Luckily we did.

David dropped me off at the distribution center while he went to get the folks. Lt. Stulz tells me he has somehow wrangled 4 ambulances to take them down there. They don't really NEED ambulances, but it was all he could get and we didn't care. It was a miracle. I go sit under a tree and wait to escort them as they are dropped off. Moses Page can barely walk, he only has half a foot due to diabetes and he's a large man, so I got to order a couple of cute Army guys around. "Young MEN! I need help getting this man to the medical tent." They came out of the tents lickity split and helped him across the couple acres. Once there the docs checked him and monitored him the entire time as it was hot and it was going to be a wait. Mr. Fink had brought a little overnight bag full of all his meds and his ID. One of the people up on Powder Street, (there were about 6 of them and most of them were on psychiatric drugs) wouldn't come out. This man is a Vietnam Vet with severe PTSD. He just plain wasn't coming out. He's like watching a mole exit a hole, breaks your heart. I tell Lt. Stulz the situation and he says that if we can get the pill bottles from him and his ID that it will be taken care of. So his wife gets to us before the ambulances leave and drops of two huge ziploc bags with his pill bottles and ID in it. It was indeed taken care of. All of these people were shuttled down to the Medical Center and then returned home. After my griping about FEMA, on this one I can't gripe. Apparently FEMA was paying for the medications, which had been a real issue for some of these people.

The little girl, who it turns out is nearly three, not nearly two, came with her grandmother and auntie. We had wrangled a doll for her as she had no toys, then she discovered my cell phone. As I sat under the tent with the patients waiting for the ambulances, she talked and talked and suddenly peals of laughter filled that tent. None of us had heard a child laugh in a long time and we all just sat there laughing with her as she threw her little pigtails back in a pretend conversation. Then I dialed my fabulous daughter, Meg, and Meg talked to her for a while so the little one could hear a voice on the other end. More peals of laughter amid the choppers flying overhead. It was also interesting to note that all the people we had there had gotten dressed up to go. Mr. Fink in what looked like a shirt that he'd ironed, 83 yr old June with full makeup and a black dress and flats. All of them sitting in an army tent in the heat having conversations and dressed up. Looked like a party that had flipped through some parallel universe. Shoulda been couches and cocktails, instead there were Army chairs and baggies full of pill bottles. A really weird image.

So HURRAY, one issue fixed.

Power is going on every day more and more. We actually had a trash pickup yesterday. We couldn't believe it. And we couldn't have been more grateful. The pervasive smell of old food cleaned out of fridges was made worse every day by the heat. Stores are starting to open. Walgreens down the Westbank Expressway is open. We walked in, bought milk! And the ATM cards were working. I told David we looked like okies who'd never seen a store before! We bought two dozen eggs and two gallons of milk. Really valuable commodities. Our neighbor, Mr. M was thrilled to take one of each. He had found an open Popeye's Chicken somewhere, we have no idea where and had brought us some chicken the night before. Best we ever had! We've been looking out for each other when it comes to supplies of any kind. Gas is not a non-issue, but way less of an issue. Stations were opening all up and down the Westbank Expressway. Home Depot is open, looks like Lowes will follow suit soon. We had the Jefferson Parish passes in our car but didn't need them. We don't know anyone who HAS needed them yet, but we keep them here just in case.

Cop from Raleigh, NC comes up to me and asks if we're working with animal rescue. I say yes there's a loose bunch plus the SPCA. He says there's a dog in a yard, a pit bull no one can get near but him. I give him a number and he gives me a hug.

Truckloads of MRE's. David is asked to please try to get them distributed. He and some Army guys are loading them by the case into people's pickup trucks. There are literally tons of them! David said one guy warned him off of the black bean burrito. I said that later to a group of Army guys and wound up with a hilarious version of "The Disaster Area Food Critic." They're all telling me which ones are good, which ones are bad, having arguments because the beef stew really isn't TOOOOOO bad if you put hot sauce on it and how the addition of hot sauce to the packets was the biggest boon to MRE eaters ever!

Stan Cunningham who has been heading up the actual nuts and bolts of distribution is an amazing guy. He'll be leaving on Friday. Lily, the woman who's been getting the trucks IN, wants David and I to take over Stan's job. We've told her that we will only if they can't get someone else. We're actually better field producers in this situation, we told her. She cracked up, agreed and said she wants to talk to us today about it. We will take the job, it's monumental, but we'll do it if she can't get anyone else. I told Stan I was going to wear a tshirt that says, "We're only PLAN B!" Church of Christ apparently wants one of their own to head it up and that's fine with us.

Found a house the other day with four kids in it. Ages 3, 11, 14 and their sister 18 is taking care of them. They said they had an auntie who was an adult, but we didn't see her there at all. Not a stick of furniture in the place, no food. We passed their address on to Stan, talked about the issue of social workers. There aren't any. The Army will be going over there to evacuate them probably. They need to be in school.

Schools here MIGHT open in January but no one knows. The Post Office MIGHT be up and running this week. No one actually knows. Welfare checks are lost, payroll checks can't get to the people via direct deposit because some of the banks still aren't quite up to par. The situation is so fluid that from one day to the next, hell, from morning to afternoon, things change radically. The speed with which some things are being done is incredible, then there are other things that just are not being done at all.

The local Firehouse has boxes of MRE's and water. They complain of being bored. We went over there to get information. They had none. We asked them to please check on Bernice around the corner, old and alone, they responded with, "Ask the National Guard." Useless. They're BORED?? There's so much to do here. What is really needed is a central information point. Some place, like a fire house, where there would be FEMA packets for filing for relief, Red Cross packets, info on schools and options for parents with kids, food stamp workers (the nearest place to apply for food stamps is Boutte which is a LONG LONG way if you don't have a car!), social workers, just a general information center. We don't know how to get that done. Everything is separate.

Some of you have asked how to get stuff to the distribution center here. We'll be talking to Lily about that today. We told her how many of you had offered help and wanted it to come directly here to the center. She said she can find a way. It will probably be through the Church of Christ. We'll let you know what we hear.

One liners:
Sign on a local church says on their pre-Katrina marquee "Live in the overflow!"

Sign in the street on a board taken down from a house: Looters will be severely reprimanded, then shot.

Sign painted in huge white letters to be seen from a chopper: Got milk? Need GAS!

We found a liquor store open yesterday way down the Westbank. Got some rum. A happy day. Had been asked by someone to let them know if we found vodka. We got vodka and traded it for mayonaisse that wasn't out of date and had been refrigerated so we could make tuna salad!

Mayor Nagin says, "Property values in Algiers will skyrocket, so if you have a few pennies you might want to invest there!" (Good job, Z and M!)

Guy who lives on our block looks around and says, "There's no reason to stay here." Um, how about picking up a tree branch or six?

We keep wondering whose landfill is gonna wind up with the hundreds of duct taped fridges on every street. These are the fridges that no one cleaned, they just duct taped them and got them out. Meanwhile on a block over from us was a guy who had actually cleaned up 9 fridges on his block. Man deserves a medal.

Last quickie: Moses Page got his insulin. Oh yeah, and Mr. Fink got "the shot, the shot." Moses leaves his keys at the medical center. Lt. Stulz tells David and I and flashes his big blue eyes at us til we are convinced to go down and get the keys. David and I go over to Moses' house and David gets out to tell him that we're going to get his keys. He says, "How did you KNOW?" David just laughed and said, "We know EVERYTHING!" We went to get the keys and came back, Moses was still on his porch asking "How did you know."

Love and Light to you all!
Bec and David

ML, I'll answer your mail asap. We gotta get out of here right now and get moving. Many thanks!
NOTE 9.14.2006

There is still not enough public transporation for people like the ones we met last year to get to medical care easily. The medical care situation here in New Orleans is still abysmal, and not getting much better. If you have a psychiatric patient in your house, you're really in trouble as there simply aren't enough beds in the area for them.

The people on Powder Street, which we called "The Powder Keg" because of the preponderence of psychiatric patients, all family, that lived there, suffered a loss. June, the lady in the black dress under the tent, died of a heart attack earlier this year from stress we were told.

Although we were and remain unattached to any religious group, we truly were impressed by what Church of Christ did. They were here working their butts off trying to help, not trying to convert, and for that they will always hold a special place in our hearts.

As for the landfill, well. . . . . .One was opened in the New Orleans East area and is still a subject of great disagreement and debate. As we drove around we kept wondering why they didn't use the fridges and other debris as some kind of base to stabilize the ground they were going to build levees on. Not being engineers we didn't know then, and don't know now, if that was a feasible idea or not, but it seemed to us that someone should have been looking at an environmentally friendly way to USE the debris rather than just create another landfill. We still wonder about that.

Social services are still an issue. The house that we found the kids in was something that has stuck in our minds since then. We knocked and knocked on that door. Finally, the older boy opened it a few inches and looked out at us, that's when we noticed that there was no furniture in it. The boy was the oldest at 14, and he was hiking his pants up as his 11 year old sister quickly put hers back on. The three year old little boy was just walking around dazed and dirty and probably hungry. Our stomachs were sick as we realized what was happening in that house, and we had no authority to do anything at all about it. After we told Stan what we'd seen, he sent the Army over there, but we were told that if the 18 yr old "auntie/sister"----we were never clear on who she was from the kids-------really existed, that they had no legal way to force those kids out of there as she would be considered an adult. We went back to the house that afternoon and a couple days later and no one answered. We never knew whether they had been evacuated or whether they just stopped opening the door. It haunts us.

Last time I was on Algiers Point, the "Got Milk? Need GAS!" sign painted on the street pavement was still visible.


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