Wednesday, September 07, 2005

This Is Us Crying

I wasn't going to, but I am compelled to Blog About The Hurricane...

My obsession with the Hurricane Katrina coverage has been full-blown; last week I crammed chocolate-covered soy nuts for hours in front of the computer at home--after spending a good deal of workday gloomily surfing in the accounts of worsening destruction.

How is it possible that the catastrophe that nature wrought could so gruesomely downshift from hopeful recovery to horror to complete human demoralization? First I was aghast at the looting: in New Orleans, even blue-clad security guards trolled a sweaty Wal-Mart for free booty, pushing shopping carts piled high, for God's sake, not with food and water but with sneakers and GameBoys and tvs, while at the same time others in Nola clutched at the shingles of their roofs, some having torn holes through for escape, seeking rescue from the dirty, insistent water, and still others filled the soon-to-be hell on earth Superdome.

Finally, now--not immediately, not when they were told they would be, not until after thousands suffered like--well, there is no metaphor that can contain nor define that suffering--now they are being herded west and north, not a Dust Bowl Migration, but a sodden, saddened, soul-sickened Wet Bowl migration.

Then the violence:

Staff members at Children's Hospital huddled with sick youngsters and waited in vain for help to arrive as looters tried to break through the locked door.

That wasn't the worst of it. Accounts so harrowing I won't perpetuate it here.

But what do I know? Nothing.

This is what does make me want to yak:

Fame follows a $3,700 limo trip: It's been a busy week for Kyle Kogan and his family after they fled New Orleans on Sunday, just ahead of Hurricane Katrina on a $3,700 limousine ride back to Chicago. Kogan, whose first year at Tulane University was postponed last weekend, wasn't entirely pleased about the news media attention that followed, according to his mother, Carin.

"Kyle had a terrible headache from the phone constantly ringing," she said. "He said he walked out of one storm and into a media [expletive] storm."Chicago television news teams were there when the limo arrived at their first stop, father Marty Kogan's apartment in Chicago.

Since then, the Kogans received more that 80 requests for interviews, including one from MSNBC's Tucker Carlson, who landed a live interview by satellite Monday night
.

Ooooo, poor wittle Kyle has a headache from media calls because he escaped the hurricane that has killed thousands and destroyed the livelihood of more thousands who now won't even be able to afford a gol-frickin Greyhound bus ticket back to their city that won't re-exist until at least Christmas??

This is where news priorities were on Monday, Tuesday.

By Wednesday night, and by the end of vile Thursday, the media's dawning horror stretched from those shakily holding mikes in and by the fetid, swirling water, to the most stoic of talking heads back in the major urban studios. On Slate.com, Jack Shafer observed the wrath unleashed by preternaturally handsome and calm Anderson Cooper against Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu:

Cooper suspended the traditional TV rules of decorum and, approaching tears of fury, said:

"Excuse me, Senator, I'm sorry for interrupting. I haven't heard that, because, for the last four days, I've been seeing dead bodies in the streets here in Mississippi. And to listen to politicians thanking each other and complimenting each other, you know, I got to tell you, there are a lot of people here who are very upset, and very angry, and very frustrated.

"And when they hear politicians slap—you know, thanking one another, it just, you know, it kind of cuts them the wrong way right now, because literally there was a body on the streets of this town yesterday being eaten by rats because this woman had been laying in the street for 48 hours. And there's not enough facilities to take her up.

"Do you get the anger that is out here? …

"I mean, I know you say there's a time and a place for, kind of, you know, looking back, but this seems to be the time and the place. I mean, there are people who want answers, and there are people who want someone to stand up and say, "You know what? We should have done more. Are all the assets being brought to bear?"

This story, amongst the thousands and taken from Maureen Ryan's media column in the Tribune, describes--still inadequately--the utter hopelessness that smothered that beautiful, brawling, beguiling city, and how it translated viscerally--again--to television:

Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard's appearance on "Meet the Press" on Sunday put everything into perspective, if, by that point, perspective was still needed. "Shouldn't the mayor of New Orleans and the governor of New Orleans bear some responsibility" for the tragic events in that city, host Tim Russert asked Broussard.

"They were told, like me, every single day, the cavalry's coming, been promised the cavalry was coming," Broussard shot back. "I have just begun to hear the hoofs of the cavalry… and we're almost a week out."

And Broussard wept, as veteran CNN correspondent Jeanne Meserve wept on Tuesday after hearing the cries of scared people trapped in their homes.

Through his tears, Broussard put a face on the tragedy. "The guy who runs this building I'm in, Emergency Management, he's responsible for everything," Broussard told Russert. "His mother was trapped in St. Bernard nursing home and every day she called him and said, `Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?' and he said, `Yeah, mama, somebody's coming to get you.'

Somebody's coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody's coming to get you on Friday… and she drowned Friday night. She drowned Friday night!" At that point, Broussard was sobbing.

"I'm sick of the press conferences. For God's sake, just shut up and send us somebody."

Send us somebody.

Who was that somebody?

For some, humans, with arms reaching, carrying, comforting.

But not soon enough.

For others...angels.

Too soon.

It hasn't rained in over two weeks in Chicago. Maybe, since August 29 at least, we've been holding it in. When it does rain, we'll say, This is us crying.

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