Orleans Breaking News
Sunday, September 04, 2005
OUR OPINIONS: An open letter to the President
Dear Mr. President:
We heard you loud and clear Friday when you visited our
devastated city and the Gulf Coast and said, "What is not working,
we're going to make it right."
Please forgive us if we wait to see proof of your promise before
believing you. But we have good reason for our skepticism.
Bienville built New Orleans where he built it for one main
reason: It' s accessible. The city between the Mississippi River and
Lake Pontchartrain was easy to reach in 1718.
How much easier it is to access in 2005 now that there are
interstates and bridges, airports and helipads, cruise ships, barges,
buses and diesel-powered trucks.
Despite the city's multiple points of entry, our nation's
bureaucrats spent days after last week's hurricane wringing their
hands, lamenting the fact that they could neither rescue the city's
stranded victims nor bring them food, water and medical supplies.
Meanwhile there were journalists, including some who work for
The Times-Picayune, going in and out of the city via the Crescent City
Connection. On Thursday morning, that crew saw a caravan of 13
Wal-Mart tractor trailers headed into town to bring food, water and
supplies to a dying city.
Television reporters were doing live reports from downtown New
Orleans streets. Harry Connick Jr. brought in some aid Thursday, and
his efforts were the focus of a "Today" show story Friday morning.
Yet, the people trained to protect our nation, the people whose
job it is to quickly bring in aid were absent. Those who should have
been deploying troops were singing a sad song about how our city was
impossible to reach.
We're angry, Mr. President, and we'll be angry long after our
beloved city and surrounding parishes have been pumped dry. Our people
deserved rescuing. Many who could have been were not. That's to the
government's sham e.
Mayor Ray Nagin did the right thing Sunday when he allowed those
with no other alternative to seek shelter from the storm inside the
Louisiana Superdome. We still don't know what the death toll is, but
one thing is certain: Had the Superdome not been opened, the city's
death toll would have been higher. The toll may even have been
It was clear to us by late morning Monday that many people
inside the Superdome would not be returning home. It should have been
clear to our government, Mr. President. So why weren't they evacuated
out of the city immediately? We learned seven years ago, when
Hurricane Georges threatened, that the Dome isn't suitable as a
long-term shelter. So what did state and national officials think
would happen to tens of thousands of people trapped inside with no air
conditioning, overflowing toilets and dwindling amounts of food, water
and other essentials?
State Rep. Karen Carter was right Friday when she said the city
didn't have but two urgent needs: "Buses! And gas!" Every official at
the Federal Emergency Management Agency should be fired, Director
Michael Brown especially.
In a nationally televised interview Thursday night, he said his
agency hadn't known until that day that thousands of storm victims
were stranded at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. He gave
another nationally televised interview the next morning and said,
"We've provided food to the people at the Convention Center so that
they've gotten at least one, if not two meals, every single day."
Lies don't get more bald-faced than that, GeeDubya.
Yet, when you met with Mr. Brown Friday morning, you told him,
"You're doing a heck of a job."
There were thousands of people at the Convention Center because
the riverfront is high ground. The fact that so many people had
reached there on foot is proof that rescue vehicles could have gotten
We, who are from New Orleans, are no less American than those
who live on the Great Plains or along the Atlantic Seaboard. We're no
less important than those from the Pacific Northwest or
Appalachia. Our people deserved to be rescued.
No expense should have been spared. No excuses should have been
voiced. Especially not one as preposterous as the claim that New
Orleans couldn't be reached.
Mr. President, we sincerely hope you fulfill your promise to
make our beloved communities work right once again.
When you do, we will be the first to applaud.
Copyright 2003 NOLA.com. All Rights Reserved.