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War on Truth  From Warriors to Resisters
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See their original article
The Real Heroes and Sheroes of New Orleans

Published with permission
September 11, 2005

A Response to Comments on
"The Real Heroes and Sheroes of New Orleans"

by Larry Bradshaw and Lorrie Beth Slonsky

Thanks for all the wonderful and warm words of support and comfort that
folks have sent our way. It is very much appreciated.

Our apologies for the delay in responding. We lost our laptop (our only
computer) while in New Orleans. We literally got out with the clothes on our
back. Consequently, we have very intermittent access to the Internet on our
friend's computers. We have been overwhelmed by the response: 700-plus
e-mails, the phone machine is full, etc.

As to people's questions and comments:

1. Someone wanted corroboration on the rented buses. We do not know the name
of the bus company. Ronald Pincus, the vice president of the Hotel
Monteleone, found, booked, and fronted the money for the busses. By the way,
we cannot say enough good things about the Monteleone workers and about the
vice president. All went way beyond the call of duty and were simply

We have heard that there were several media reports about our commandeered
buses. We had no electricity and, therefore, no way to see or hear those
reports, so we are unable to direct you to those links. However, there were
500 of us waiting on those buses, so I expect others are sharing similar

On the question of the buses: We do not necessarily think that it was wrong
for the military to commandeer our buses, if those buses were used to
transport those in more need, such as the sick and injured inside the
Superdome. Just because we had cash does not mean we should get to buy our
way out ahead of everyone else. But because there was little coordination
and less communication by FEMA and the military, we do not know, and will
presumably never know, to what use those buses were put.

It is interesting that Mr. Pincus was able to get on the phone and quickly
find 10 buses to come to New Orleans, while FEMA took days to rustle up any
buses. In our opinion, FEMA should have commandeered every bus within two
days' drive of New Orleans and used them to quickly ferry out those who were
stranded throughout the Gulf states.

2. That leads into another question that was put to us; "If you had those
kind of resources, why didn't you get the hell out before Katrina hit?"
Those of us who did not make it out before Katrina hit came from three

i. Those like ourselves who were visiting (tourists/conference attendees),
had return airline tickets and were unable to change our flights or had our
flights cancelled. In our case, we kept calling Southwest Airlines every
hour to try to get an earlier flight, without success. Southwest kept
assuring us that our scheduled flight (pre-Katrina) would go ahead, only to
find that it was cancelled at the very last minute.

ii. About half of our group were employees of the hotels, who management
begged or ordered to report to work to keep the hotels and the
infrastructure running. To blame those same workers for not getting out
sooner seems unfair.

One example: We came across a young woman crying hysterically on the street.
Once we calmed her, she was told us she was a 911 dispatcher who had been
ordered to stay because she was an "essential service" worker. Two days
after the hurricane, she was driven to the city center and dropped off near
the convention center, with no water, no toiletries, no nothing, and her
bosses drove onto Baton Rouge.

iii. The remainder were locals and tourists who couldn't get their cars out
of the downtown parking garages. New Orleans has scores of rooftop parking
lots that use an elevator (requires electricity) to take the cars up. In
anticipation of flooding, many people opted to put their cars in these
rooftop garages, only to find themselves stranded when the power went out.

3. Regarding corroboration of our story: No, unfortunately, we did not have
any video or audio tape recorders. We saw some individuals with video
cameras, but most of their batteries had long since died. (By the way, we
did write down most of the identifying number of Gretna Sheriff's patrol car
that forced us out of our freeway encampment--D522 or D552).

We know that thousands of New Orleanians were prevented from crossing the
same bridge out of the city and can corroborate that gut-wrenching,
heart-ripping, depressing experience. That was an experience that no one can
forget or forgive.

The same holds true for the long, tedious, dehumanizing "refugee processing"
at Lackland Air Force Base. That treatment continues. On Monday, our
neighbor received a call from a friend who had been airlifted to San
Antonio, and who was undergoing similar "refugee processing," before
entering the facility at Kelly USA. We certainly hope that the treatment
inside the facility improved. We do not know one way or the other, as we
never went inside (contrary to media reports).

4. We have been asked why the sheriff's deputy took our food and water. We
do not know. Perhaps he thought he should remove it so we wouldn't return?
Perhaps he is just an evil person? We do not know what was going on inside
this individual's head as he screamed and cursed at us.

But you can be sure that the food and water did not go to waste. Someone got
to eat those C-rations and drink that cool water. It was not us, and it was
not the tired, thirsty and hungry New Orleanians who wandered back and forth
between the Superdome and the Convention Center, looking for something to
eat or drink or feed to their kids.

For the record, we do not have a dislike for sheriff's deputies. We both
have very cordial relations with a number of San Francisco County Deputies
and work quite well with them all the time at the San Francisco General
Hospital. The deputies are in the same union as us, SEIU Local 790, and we
collaborate well.

5. Regarding "c-rations." Yes, they are technically called MRE (Meals Ready
to Eat). We had never heard of that term until we encountered them spilled
on the freeway. We did not think anyone would know what an MRE was, and we
grew up with the term "c-rations," so we opted for that term in the article.
By the way, MREs are actually delicious (there are vegetarian versions). We
have heard that they can be ordered online and last for five years. We
strongly encourage anyone who lives in an earthquake or flood zone to
consider buying a case.

6. About looting. Contrary to some media reports, we did not lead a band of
affluent Europeans to loot a Walgreen's. Over time, we did benefit from some
of the food and water taken by others. In hindsight, we wish we would have
collected more first aid supplies and over-the-counter medications from some
of these stores to distribute to those in need.

7. A couple of folks charge us with being ideological in writing about our
experience in New Orleans. That may be true, if by ideological, you mean:

-- Human beings should be treated with dignity, respect, and humanity; or

-- People should not have their freedom of movement restricted purely on
the basis of their skin color; or

-- Human beings should not be lied to by persons in positions of authority,
herded around like rats, forced to live in sewage and filth, and then shot
at for trying to walk out of New Orleans.

But we wonder if it isn't our critics' ideology that is the problem here.
You grew up believing that sheriffs don't behave as we have described, and
that law enforcement officers don't steal food and water in a disaster
setting, or shoot at hurricane survivors. You may also find it difficult to
fathom that a law enforcement department openly and systematically
discriminates against African Americans.

So when events like ours go against your preconceived ideas, you want to
dismiss our experience, rather than change your ideas.

We can understand that our story is shocking. We do not know if we would
have believed the story ourselves, if it hadn't happened to us. We guess
that is why we wrote about our experiences in the first place. We were so
shocked and bewildered and outraged and confused when we encountered this
treatment and witnessed this brutal racism.

Whatever you think about what happened to us in New Orleans, we only hope
that we can all work together to expose injustice, challenge racism, hold
the Bush administration accountable for its actions and inactions, and, most
importantly, collaborate to build a better world for all of us.

We witnessed some terrible horrors in New Orleans, but we also caught a
glimpse of what is good and great in the human spirit.

Thank you,

Lorrie Beth and Larry

Thanks to Socialist Worker for forwarding this response to us for publication.


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