Sunday, May 23, 2010

Uncaring Chaos


"Looters were hitting pharmacies and liquor and jewelry stores first, then working their way down the buffet table. A rogue group of NOPD cops had actually set up a thieves headquarters on the tenth floor of a downtown hotel, storing their loot in the rooms, terrorizing the management, and threatening to shoot a reporter who tried to question them. New Orleans cops also drove off with automobiles from the Cadillac agency. Gangbangers had converged on the Garden District and were having a Visigoth holiday, burning homes built before the Civil War, carrying away whatever wasn't bolted down...

A half block from a state medical clinic I counted the bodies of nine black people, all of them floating face down, like free-falling parachutists suspended on a cushion of air high above the earth.

We heard stories of gunfire from rooftops and windows. Emergency personnel in rescue boats became afraid of the very people they were supposed to save. Some people air lifted out by the Coast Guard in the Lower Nine said the gunfire was a desperate attempt to signal the boat crews searching in the darkness for survivors. Who was telling the truth?...

Charity and Baptist Memorial hospitals had become necropolises. The bottom floors were flooded, and gangbangers turned over rescue boats that were trying to evacuate the patients. Without electricity or ice or unspoiled food or running water, hospital personnel were left to care for the most helpless of their wards-trauma victims with fresh gunshot wounds, those whose bodily functions depended entirely upon machines, patients who had just had organs surgically removed, and the most vulnerable group, the aged and the terrified, all of it inside a building that was cooking in its own stink.

But a lot of NOPD cops were loyal to their badge and their oath and worked tirelessly alongside the rest of us for the next seventy-two hours...

The Quarter had taken a pounding from the wind and the rain, and ventilated shutters had been shattered off their hinges and the planked floors of whole balconies stripped clean from the buildings and sent flying like undulating rows of piano keys down the street. But the Quarter had not flooded and some of the bars, using gasoline-powered generators, had stayed on the full-tilt boogie for three days-their patrons zoned and marinated to the point they looked like waxwork figures that had been left under a heat lamp."

Note: I suspected that few could describe the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina more graphically and more furiously than crime novelist James Lee Burke in his 2007 release entitled "The Tin Roof Blowdown"

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