Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Louisiana Super Dome and Convention Center not the killing floor they would have you believe.

Everybody loves a good rumor. I think we even spread the most awful ones because of a morbid fascination or as a way of thanking goodness that it is not us in the story. The press however has a responsibility to seek out the truth and investigate. They cannot and should not just repeat the rumors they heard.

No bigger rumors came out than the horrible things that were occurring in the New Orleans Super Dome and at the Convention Center. Hundreds of deaths, rapes, shootings, so bad that the FEMA folks didn't know how they were going to handle the bodies. Well it seems that the Times-Picayune at NOLA.com has busted open these myths, probably out of hometown pride as much as actually trying to report the truth. The headline reads "Rumors of death greatly exaggerated" and lists 6 dead at the SuperDome and 4 dead at the convention center, out of the thousands of people that were forced to take refuge in these places.

My favorite story from the article talks about the truck the FEMA doctor brought in -

Following days of internationally reported killings, rapes and gang violence inside the Dome, the doctor from FEMA - Beron doesn't remember his name - came prepared for a grisly scene: He brought a refrigerated 18-wheeler and three doctors to process bodies.

"I've got a report of 200 bodies in the Dome," Beron recalls the doctor saying.

The real total was six, Beron said.

Of those, four died of natural causes, one overdosed and another jumped to his death in an apparent suicide, said Beron, who personally oversaw the turning over of bodies from a Dome freezer, where they lay atop melting bags of ice.

I guess even the government people believed the rumors. It also appears that the authorities tried to answer as many calls for help as they could but that it sometimes caused difficulties. For instance -

Compass said rumors had often crippled authorities' response to reported lawlessness, sending badly needed resources to respond to situations that turned out not to exist.

There is some good news in all of this. The people that were stuck in these places didn't become the animals the press would have you believe. They mostly toughed out an unpleasant situation, and the helped each other when needed, as in the example below -

On the deck outside the Dome on Sept. 1, the day before buses arrived, preachers took it upon themselves to lead the agitated crowd in prayer and song.

"Everybody needs to help the soldiers," Baldwin recalled one of them saying. "We're all family here."

About 15 others joined the medical operation, as people collapsed from heat and exhaustion every few minutes, Baldwin said.

"Some of these guys look like thugs, with pants hanging down around their asses," he said. "But they were working their asses off, grabbing litters and running with people to the (New Orleans) Arena" next door, which housed the medical operation.

The rest of the article has similar stories. I am glad that the truth is getting out. These stories of the victims turning around and helping their neighbors sounds a lot more like the America I live in than the wild stories from right after Hurricane Katrina went through.

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