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[personal profile] pecunium
In another life I was a newspaper reporter. I wasn't willing to go where the jobs were (Topeka) and so I gave it up.

People, esp. those in the Army, mistrust the press. I try to explain to them what it was to be in that calling (and like priests and soldiers, it's a calling; one has to give up so much in the search for that piece of the transcendant, and today's triumph wraps tomorrow's fish. In all those ways of life the undertone is, "Yeah, but what have you done lately).

Teresa, at Making Light (where I sent so many of you almost a month ago), has a Story from the Times-Picayune, which I will drag out from now to my dying day, when I need to explain it.

Heroes from the Newspaper Tribe

…McCusker, Pompilio and I pulled up to the St. Claude Avenue Bridge in our truck, stinking of swamp water and the cigarettes I had been chain-smoking. The bridge over the Industrial Canal marked the dividing line between deluged and merely flooded.

I had been there the day before, Monday, with photographer Jackson. We’d found only two police boats running rescue operations for the thousands of people trapped in attics and on roofs. A rescue volunteer had offered to take us out on a third boat.

We floated through the Lower 9th Ward, past the house of the legendary Fats Domino, where a group of men yelled to our boat from a second-story balcony. We passed them and scores of others who screamed for help on our way east to St. Bernard Parish, the white working class suburb where people had fled after school integration first took hold in the 9th Ward in 1960.

Returning from St. Bernard with a deadline looming, we rode on a boat full of rescued people, a dog and a duffel bag full of cats one woman had smuggled onto the boat without the captain’s knowledge. The memory that sticks out most: We had to duck to avoid hitting stoplights that had towered over the street.

Now on Tuesday, refugees, many elderly and handicapped, hobbled and wheeled themselves across the bridge to the corner of Poland and St. Claude Avenues, the dry side of the bridge that had become a rescue boat launch. We found hundreds of people who had been rescued, then abandoned into a whole new struggle for survival. Filthy, soaked and stinking, they lined up behind three National Guard trucks that couldn’t begin to make a dent in the growing crowd. Those that did get taken out would end up in the Superdome or at the Convention Center downtown, which would become their own dark scenes of terror and suffering.

People mobbed us, competing to tell us their stories, hoping to let relatives know they were alive and authorities know they might still die without help. Pompilio and I interviewed a weeping Daniel Weber, a rotund man perched on a black barrel in the muck. I’d never seen a man so broken. He had watched his wife drown and then floated for 14 hours in polluted floodwaters on a piece of driftwood.

“I’m not going to make it,” he told us. “I know I’m not.”

When we got back in the car, Natalie said to me, “I know it may sound inappropriate, but I love my job on days like this.”

It struck me as perfectly appropriate, I told her. We were this man’s only lifeline to plead for help from the outside world. …


Read it, and weep.



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