Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Trying to Wash Us Away

h/t Scout Prime

You know...every damned day something comes along--indeed, today, SEVERAL things--that causes my outrage alert level to go off the scale. Let's start with this:

Ten months after Hurricane Katrina, three New Orleans firefighters who first witnessed and videotaped the breach at the 17th Street Canal came forward with their story after a Congressional investigation told them to stay silent.

At daybreak, Katrina was roaring and visibility was next to nothing. Nine firefighters were riding the storm out inside the Lake Marina Tower couldn't see much but heard plenty.

“The wind coming through back here...was like a freight train coming through there," said Captain Godron Case. "Howling; the noise it was making."

Shortly after 9 a.m., Captain Paul Hellmers, an 18-year veteran of the NOFD, said he saw something he wasn’t expecting: water rising in the back parking lot.

“I would say about 10 minutes after we saw it rising, I was pretty certain that the levee had to be breached cause it was rising at such a rate,” Hellmers said.

Hellmers grabbed his video camera and went up to a top floor stairwell. While the building swayed, he searched but couldn't see the breach until visibility cleared enough for him to zoom in a half a mile away. That’s when he found the water pouring in.

“When I saw that, I'm sure my coworkers had the same reaction.. My heart just dropped, even though I knew the levees were breached before that,” Hellmers said. “Seeing it, and just knowing the fate of the city was sealed.”

Captain Joe Fincher described the sight as “surreal.”

“You took it in and you wondered how high the water was going to be in the city,” he said. “My first instinct when we saw the levee break was this is bigger than 9-11. I thought the fatalities would be in the thousands, if not the tens of thousands, you know; it was heavy.”

“Heavy,” Fincher said, because it was their neighborhood; their homes. Just a couple of days before Katrina, he videotaped his Lakeview house for insurance purposes. But now it was filling up with 10 feet of water.

The floodwaters also destroyed the Lakeview home of Captain Case. He didn't see it happen, but he had firefighters on his crew watch from above as the water swallowed their homes.

“I guess it would have to be torture to know that you can see the water rising on your house and not being able to do anything about it,” Case said.

But as the water kept rising, the firefighters knew what their role would be: rescuers.

“Soon as we saw the water come into the parking lot I'm thinking, ‘people are going to be dying soon.’ That was my first thought,” Hellmers said.

By early afternoon when the winds calmed enough, the firemen swam out to find a boat, which still sits along in the condo parking lot wall to this day.

Capt. Case hotwired it and they made the first of many life saving trips into the neighborhood near the breach.

First, Here's Scout's question, and it's a good one: Why were they told not to talk?.

Second--whether or not it was "bigger than 9/11," this was an event that DEMANDED--and still demands--a genuine response from the national government. But the response of the government has been and remains pathetic, particularly by standards Team Bush set after 9/11.

Third, if you've got the time, read the WWL article again, and consider: when Team Bush and their legion of twits blames people for "living there," sure, there's plenty of good old fashioned Southern Strategy involved--which is appalling and ugly enough. But they're also poking a burnt stick into the eyes of people like these firefighters/first responders, who literally watched the inundation of their homes while risking their lives and working like hell rescuing people. That's not merely kicking folks while their down. That's spitting on heroes.

But that's just part of a day's work for the sick fucks who run the national government.

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