Thursday, September 04, 2008

Gustav evacuees in North Alabama

Today I worked at an evacuee shelter set up by the American Red Cross at Calhoun Community College in Limestone County, Alabama. There were 320 evacuees from New Orleans and Lake Charles, Louisiana that have been sheltered there since last weekend.

While I was there I helped serve lunch, passed out underwear, and listened to evacuees. The evacuees were very frustrated that they were being held in North Alabama so long after their mayors had given them permission to return home. I cannot blame them for that.

It was interesting to note the different approaches to mandatory evacuations that were reportedly taken in Lake Charles and New Orleans. The men I spoke with from New Orleans said that they were placed under martial law and that everyone was compelled by the government to evacuate. They were told that if they did not come willingly they would be handcuffed and taken to jail. They even said that officers would enter homes of people who were unwilling to leave and force them to evacuate.

The man I talked with from Lake Charles said that they were not literally “forced” to evacuate but that they were strongly urged to evacuate and told that they would be responsible for their own demise if conditions turned dangerous.

It was a very interesting opportunity to observe people. While I could certainly sympathize with the desire of everyone to return home, I was also disappointed with the “entitlement” mentality of some. I spoke with a military policeman with the 231st Military Police Batallion from Prattville who told me that a lot of people complained about the cots they were sleeping on. He said that these were the same cots that he and his men slept on every night that they were on assignment and that they really were not that bad. What did these people expect, a sleep-number bed?

The National Guard MP also told me that he didn't have too many problems other than some people suffering withdrawals. One man I spoke with was particularly upset because he could not get a beer. The MP said that he was pretty sure that drugs were being sold at the store on the corner near the place the evacuees were sheltered. He didn’t seem too concerned about that as long as people did not come back and cause problems at the shelter.

One man, after he finished eating, came back to where I was serving and said, “Y’all need to throw this s#*t away!” After we served everyone I tried the food myself. It was not like eating something prepared by Emeril Lagasse, but it was edible.

One of the funniest comments I heard was a gentleman who told me that we should have provided red beans and rice. I agreed that it would have been a good idea, especially if they had brought some alligator meat with them to go with it. A beignet for dessert would have been a nice touch.

I have to give kudos to the Red Cross volunteers. I thought they did a tremendous job as did the other community partners. I am, however, very disappointed in the fact that these people are not being taken home sooner. Once the mayors gave permission for people to return home, those buses should have been cranked and the people should have been on their way home. I understand that it might be Saturday before they get to leave. When they do finally return, it will be a long trip home. It supposedly took 24 hours for the buses to make it from Louisiana to North Alabama.

I had several people inform me that they will never evacuate again. One told me they would rather be taken to jail. As I was leaving for the day a lady was screaming and begging to be driven to the nearest Western Union.

Let’s just hope that Ike and all of his brothers and sisters stay out of the Gulf of Mexico.

Nice article in the Athens News-Courier


Michael Detwiler said...

The culture of the entitlement spirit is alive and well in New Orleans and other places due to, in large part, the welfare system. People don't, unfortunately, appreciate what is given to them. When you EARN something through hard work, you appreciate it.

Mike Wilhelm said...

In the late 1960's President Johnson declared war on poverty. We lost. Ok, back to weather now.....

Steve Miller said...

That's fine if they don't evacuate again. We took a little over 1500 of them and within 3-days 25 of them were in the Oklahoma City jail.
I understand there are more under lock-up now and the other evacuees have left to go back home.
Seems like there would be a series of remote hills in N LA we could drop them off on with some food and tents and let them do what they're gonna do...
This is harsh but I'm sick of the hand-outs; all for nothing but a slap in the face.

Mike Wilhelm said...

I agree Steve.

Thankfully these folks were leaving this morning. I actually passed the buses with their police escort on the interstate this morning.

I was told that the Limestone County Sheriff, Mike Blakely, spoke to the group and told them that the cots at the Limestone County Jail were not as comfortable and the food was worse.