Nevada Volunteers

August 15th, 2015

Watching Rick Mathieu's WFAA-TV Dallas interview-gone-national from the flooded New Orleans 7th Ward

Watching Katrina Vicariously from Rancho Dr. & Lake Mead Blvd.

August 29, 2005

Warehouse District "Dodge a Bullet" - 8.29.05

Four years ago today I woke up to watch the Hurricane Katrina national news coverage. I was happy to hear that New Orleans “dodged the bullet”; that the bowl had not filled up; that the levees had held. The only damage I saw on TV was a truck crushed by bricks from a New Orleans CBD building wall. Then came the looping looting footage in heavy rotation. It was reminiscent of the 1977 NYC Blackout, the 1992 Los Angeles Riots, the 1999 Seattle WTO Riots. Nothing new here, just history repeating itself. It was time to get busy with my Southern Nevada business of life. The weather man was predicting 113 degrees today. One could say this was our daily natural disaster, the summer heat wave season.

August 30, 2005

Lower Ninth Ward - 8.30.05I woke up Tuesday morning, August 30, 2005, to my usual routine of checking my email and there it was. AOL Breaking News, “New Orleans is 80% underwater.” What! My heart just dropped. It seems that the yesterday’s headlines were a pre-mature assessment of the situation. I immediately went to turn on KLAS-TV, the Las Vegas CBS affiliate. They were still showing the “looping looting” footage of the same men “liberating” the same flooded food and athletic store. I switched channels to the NBC affiliate KVBC and saw the “looping looters.” I switched to the ABC affiliate KTNV, again, the same “looping looters.” It was like the Rodney King beating tape. These same people were being shown over and over so much that I had family members and friends tell me those people down in New Orleans were all criminals and they are getting what they deserved. I am talking about like-long African American card-carrying Democrats. The nation was being desensitized by the media’s “looping looting” policy. I then realized that the Big 3 networks are not providing me with what I need, which was the facts about what has happened to the other 99.9% of the New Orleans people.

Even though my cable was turned off  a few weeks earlier, I still had access to the Internet. But four years ago, high speed video streaming was not the norm as it is today. So I went to visit my business associate Darlene Russell who had it on FoxNews, and there it was. The Big One. The Biblical proportion. The disaster to beat all disasters. Look at New Orleans. A major American metropolitan area was underwater.

August 31, 2005

Superdome - 8.31.05It’s now Wednesday morning 8.31.05. The local news is covering a Las Vegas restaurant owner at the Orleans Hotel Casino who is from New Orleans; a French Quarter business owner who is stuck in Las Vegas; and of course, the “looping looters.” I begin search news websites such as CNN, USA Today and FoxNews, and still cannot tell what is happening down there. Then I catch a breaking news on local television and it’s Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco talking about the Superdome. I said to myself, ok, all of the New Orleans people must be at the Superdome. The Gov was flanked by Sen. Mary Landrieu and Sen. David Vitter. Now, I have always prided myself on keeping up with national politics. But I had never heard of any of these public servants. Anyways, I’m listening to Gov. Blanco press conference, mostly paying attention to  body language.  I saw nothing but terror. I got scared for her.  I then started to wonder where was New Orleans’ mayor who I now know to be C. Ray Nagin, another political name knew to me.  Later on that day, I read on the Internet that Pres. George W. Bush did a low-altitude flyover of the Gulf Coast; and, yes, those same “looping looters.” What is really going on? I need more info…

September 1, 2005

Morial Convention Center - 9.1.05Spent most of last night trying to follow what was happening in New Orleans on the Internet. It was the same old news. It was almost like an information vacuum. Where were the rest of the people? I had finally gone to bed. It was now around 10:00 am PDT on Thursday, 9.1.05. Then it happened. In the rush to feed the appetites of a global audience, including myself, MSNBC turned its photo-journalist Tony Zumbado into a reporter and put him on the air live. He had just come from a tour of the Morial Convention Center, and began to describe to the world what he saw. As he gave a heart wrenching account of what he saw inside the convention center, the news producers were rolling tape of what he and his sound man shot and recorded earlier.

My heart just dropped. I could not believe what I was seeing. It was like I was witnessing a slow agonizing death, live and in living color. I immediately saw a relationship between the “looping looters” and the disaster victims whose ages appeared to range from newborn to centenarians.  The so-called looters were feeding the people, filling in the void left by the “normal” relief agencies. It was like I was looking at Mogadishu file footage. Refugees in America. “Please help us!” “We need food!” “Where’s the Mayor?”

September 2, 2005

Buses leaving N.O. - 9.2.05Another sleepless night on the Internet searching for news stories, blog postings and first-hand accounts. It was like the entire (original) O.J. Simpson Trial crammed into four days. The hot desert sun rose again. It was now Friday, September 2, 2005, and I was back at it looking for more info monitoring all three networks for breaking news and local AM radio stations. Then out of nowhere I heard New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin’s voice. His WWL-AM interview from the night before was re-broadcast for the world to hear. He was going off. His final words were embedded into my brain “…don’t tell me 40,000 people are coming here. They’re not here. It’s too doggone late. Now get off your asses and do something, and let’s fix the biggest goddamn crisis in the history of this country.” I thought the Mayor was talking to me. This is when I first began thinking about what I could do from Southern Nevada to help. This was unbelievable. This is so sad…

September 3, 2005

MSY west tarmac - 9.3.05It’s Saturday, 9.3.05. I am still tuned in, but feeling numb to this life and death reality show ratings bonanza. The television is now focused on Louis B. Armstrong International Airport, where they appear to be flying evacuees out to Houston or somewhere. I then switch back to NBC and see Campbell Brown interviewing this little boy named Charlie at the Morial Convention Center. He was looking out for his grandma and great aunt I believe. This young man would go on to say something that would haunt me, “we just need some help out here, it’s so pitiful, what we going to do”. After a week of nonstop viewership, listenership and readership, I was overwhelmed and just lost it for a minute. All I could think of was that immortal scene from a Good Times episode when Esther Rolle’s character “Florida Evans” found out James Amos’ character “James Evans” was dead, …damn, daamn, daaamn!”. I decided to step back, so I crossed the street and went inside the Texas Station Hotel Casino in North Las Vegas and attempted to do some unwinding and celebrating, for it was my birthday. But, I could not get what that little boy said to Campbell Brown out of my head. It was then I began to strategize on how I would support the relief effort. I began preparing to shut everything down and head to Galveston and Houston to volunteer. I felt like I was joining the Peace Corps. I just could not sit out here in my home at the corner of Lake Mead Blvd. & Rancho Dr. and continue to watch what I considered at the time to be a genocide. I had to do something. I had to go help somebody…

Joining the Katrina Relief Efforts: Leaving Las Vegas…


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