The Times-Picayune for today. Fascinating stuff. For instance…
1. “Want Answers? Don’t Ask FEMA.” reads one front page headline. Reporter James Varney says “…getting FEMA to release any information has proven a maddening process….” FEMA says it has to protect the privacy of all the people it’s helping. Local officials cry, “Can’t you at least tell us who is at the various locations around the country so we can contact them?” Nope; sorry.
2. “Jeff chief admits disaster plan flawed.” Jefferson Parish president Aaron Broussard has purchased a full page ad in tomorrow’s paper to defend his behavior during and after the hurricane. He’s tried this before, but to little effect. Paper says he’s spending $38,000 of the parish’s tax money to buy four such ads. On the levee this morning, an 84 year old neighbor stopped me to say, “I’m campaigning for Aaron Broussard.” I knew he was setting me up. “For what office?” “Dog catcher.”
3. “Officials knew about weak soil under levee.” Diagrams in the top center of the front page show how the flood walls beside the canals were built atop peat, which is decayed organic matter from long ago. Soft, soft, soft. Back in 1981, soil samples were taken and the truth was learned. Just 8 years ago, that soft soil became part of a lawsuit filed by a construction company against the Corps of Engineers. No one can plead ignorance. Except the truly ignorant.
This area of the world is the delta of the Mississippi River. There’s not a rock or a hill within a hundred miles. The ground is soft, the streets are terrible. So we drive pilings down until we hit something solid, then we build our structures atop them. At least, that’s the plan. When they were building one of our churches on the West Bank, some years back, the builder said they had to tie a chain on the pilings to keep them from disappearing into the soft soil. Then they built their church. There are major cracks in the walls of that house of worship at this very moment. Anyone remember what Jesus said about building on the Rock and on the sand? Matthew 7.
4. “Harahan considers allowing trailers in city’s driveways.” Everywhere you look, a trailer sits in driveways, giving the owners a place to stay while their storm damaged homes are being repaired. Some are FEMA trailers. You see them in front of mansions as well as bungalows. We may have heard our last joke around here about trailer trash. But the little community of Harahan, on the river just under Metairie, fears that somebody’s relatives may move into those trailers. Like that’s going to hurt anything after Katrina.
5. “Undocumented worker investigation continues.” Agents from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Department descended on the Belle Chasse Naval Air Station below New Orleans and checked the papers of the hundreds of workers at post-hurricane projects. They found ten aliens. No, not martians. Just your normal humans who were not authorized to be in the USA. The other day, agents detained more than 100 illegal workers at a Birmingham-based company doing business in Belle Chasse. There’s a report that some companies are firing their US citizens and hiring these who will work for next to nothing. Everyone loses.
6. “Shelter bride held in groom’s stabbing.” Now to the National Inquirer news. No, page A-8 of the Times-Picayune. A couple who were married last month at an evacuation center up in Mansfield had a fight. Husband A.J.Cooper said, “We had drunk a few beers and then all of the sudden (Angel) got mad about something and she grabbed a knife and juked me in the chest.” Punctured lung. Attempted murder. Jail.
7. Ad: “Attention Pastors!!! There will be a meeting of pastors from all denominations at Celebration Church 2701 Transcontinental Drive in Metairie 12 Noon Tuesday October 25 lunch provided.” Pastor Dennis Watson reaches out to his colleagues. Great idea.
8. “Budget surplus a pleasant surprise for state.” Louisiana ended the fiscal year on June 30 with $252 million, and just now found it out. Better save it; we’ll be needing it. There will not be any tax money to speak of coming in from this part of the state for a long time to come.
9. “N.O. murder rate falls victim to storm.” The last official killing was recorded on August 27, two days before the hurricane. In spite of the rumors of crime and mayhem following the storm, there were no killings. At least, officially. The article did not say if there were any unofficial slayings. So far this year, we’ve buried 202 citizens, compared to 212 this time last year. Of course, it’s hard to have killings when you have no population.
10. And here is the article that blew me away. “School gets failing grade from crew.” The folks back home who sent their National Guardsmen family members to New Orleans think they carried guns and protected the streets and rescued the drowning. That’s true. But they did not stop there. I know guardsmen (and guardswomen) who mudded out churches and repaired them. Today’s article tells of some under the leadership of Army Sergeant John Hanson who cleaned up one of our schools. O.P. Walker High School was not appreciably hurt by the storm or looters. The reason it needed cleaning is that it was already in deplorable condition. “As about 250 guardsmen work to clean and straighten up 23 relatively undamaged schools across the district…most of the work soldiers are doing…is maintenance and cleanup that needed to be done before the storm, often the result of years of neglect.”
Sgt. Hanson’s men hauled off seven dumpsters of junk from that school. “All of it, he said, was in the school before the storm.” They painted over the graffiti. They repaired the bathroom facilities. They cleaned the custodian’s office of–ready for this?–whiskey bottles and used condoms. Noting that the emergency doors were bolted throughout the building, Hanson said, “There is no way in hell I’d send a child to this school.”
Shame on us for letting conditions like this stand. Thank you,Guardsmen.
11. “Local funeral homes coping.” Over 1,000 of our citizens died from the storms, and the funerals are just now being held. Problem is, many of the cemeteries and funeral homes are shut down or limping along on partial staffs. I have no idea which ministers are doing the funerals.
12. This was not in the newspaper, because it happened this morning at 11 o’clock and was reported on tonight’s news. City and parish leaders held a town hall meeting in flood-ravaged Lakeview today, in the parking lot outside a large Catholic church, sharing information with those able to attend. Two thousand people arrived with fire in their eyes. It was not a pretty sight. When will power be restored? From 4 to 6 months, said the Entergy official. What are we to do in the meantime? Try to cope. Do the best you can. One or two of the schools are re-opening. That’s good; where are we to live while we send our child back to school. No one knows.
Mayor Nagin and Saints owner Tom Benson continue their war of words and insults. A letter to the editor blames the mayor of San Antonio for trying to woo our football team away. Another writer says to go ahead and tear down the damaged historical buildings in our city, that what makes New Orleans special is its people. An editorial avows since it is now proven that former FEMA director Mike Brown lied to Congress when he testified recently, he should be charged with perjury; congress needs to take a stand. Governor Blanco says that after the city flooded and the White House asked her to turn over control of the National Guard to the president, she refused because it infringed on her authority.
Things continue to be tough in New Orleans. However, Sunday morning pastors will stand in pulpits all over this area and tell people about a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who can put people’s lives together again from the inside out. It’s the one message of all messages people need to hear. Afterward, we’ll walk outside and pick up the work of rebuilding where we left off Saturday night, but with a new hope and confidence. We’re not alone. We can do this.