posted Dec 27, 2005
Many made fatal choice to stay behind [dead nola.com link]
The anecdotes of voluntary decisions not to evacuate contradict the perception in some quarters that whose who didn’t get away from the strike zone were essentially trapped against their will, doomed by a belated evacuation push that made little use of buses and no use of trains in a city with a high incidence of households without private cars.
The evacuation faced withering criticism from some Republican members of Congress during a Dec. 14 hearing. “You are quick to talk about the inadequacy of the federal government. Please talk about New Orleans’ inadequacies,” U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., told Gov. Kathleen Blanco.
Local emergency response officials say the rhetoric obscures an important truth: that the removal of 1.2 million people from southeast Louisiana, 80 percent of the population, was one of the most successful evacuations in U.S. history, far better than Houston’s snarled effort ahead of Hurricane Rita three weeks later. Officials credit a contraflow plan retooled by the Blanco administration after a disastrous trial run for Hurricane Ivan a year earlier.
The proportion of people fleeing Katrina far surpassed the 34 percent who said in a University of New Orleans survey, released in July, that they would “definitely” leave in advance of a Category 3 hurricane if urged by public officials to do so. As it made landfall, Katrina was exactly that, a Category 3 storm, but hours earlier meteorologists had warned of a potential Category 5 storm, a sharp stimulus to an intensified evacuation.
Most of the MSM and the Republicans who grilled Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin want the rest of you to believe that New Orleans and the state of Louisiana abandoned hundreds of thousands of people in the metro area—poor, disabled, elderly and not—to die out of ignorance, incompetence, heartless racism and “corruption,” a word thrown around by Congressional Republicans as if there is corruption only in Louisiana or black city mayors, not in House majority leaders or lobbyists or government contractors. Almost all the finger-pointers, congressional and otherwise, have no experiential understanding of evacuation, especially of living in an area that calls evacuations of some sort at least once if not three times in a 6-month period. To get 80% of people to do anything, much less anything as drastic, stressful and uncertain as leaving their homes and 99% of all they know, own and love, is something to be applauded. If 80% of my students turn in an assignment, I’m pleasantly shocked. If 80% of faculty showed up for a meeting, the provost would serve champagne! If 80% of people used turn signals or condoms or acetaminophen correctly [dead nola.com link]—shit, if 80% of registered voters bothered to vote!
There were folks, black, white, poor, rich, in between, who didn’t want to leave their homes, their pets, their city, who “simply said God would take care of them.” I mourn all those losses and feel them weighing down the air around me but when your great-auntie says God will spare her or take her Home, what can you say or do?