Monday, October 03, 2005

On the road in the Southland


On the road in the Southland


What's left of US 90 across Bay Saint Louis
Photo Credit; Subkommander Dred



September 22, 2005
1400 Hours

Dear Folks;
I am currently sitting in the back seat of a rented pickup tapping out this latest missive whilst a capable comrade occupies the command chair of the
Vehicle. Heather, a woman from Ashboro, North Carolina contacted me yesterday via email, hoping to catch a ride down to Waveland. I picked her up around 1000 Hours in Lexington, NC, and now we are both heading westbound on I-85. Indeed, we have been making good time on the road, and are about cross over into Georgia (Sonny Perdue, Governor). We are hoping to make it to the relief site by about 2100 this evening. Though there is a 2000 to 0600 curfew in effect, I am counting on the fact that we are carrying medical supplies for the camp that we may be able to prevail on the local law enforcement agencies to allow us through.
Heather describes herself as a member of the Rainbow family, in much the same way as I am, and knows a few of the folks down there already. As for myself, I talked with Stone last night before I went to bed, and he sounded quite pleased that we were coming down. He assured me that our expertise and equipment will be quite welcome. Apparently, we have reliable intel that they have just opened a dining facility that can accommodate 500 folks at a sitting, and has became one of the relief ‘pods’ working on the Gulf coast. Indeed, I have heard it claimed from reliable sources that all of the local authorities say the Rainbow Family is providing the best eats to be had, far superior to the steady diet of MRE’s that all of the Army, National Guard and cops have been subsisting on prior to the kitchen’s arrival.
More later as it happens.


1850 Hours
Now in Alabama, about 30 miles west of Birmingham. We ran into some heavy rain just past Atlanta, and the sky is threatening more of same, but at present we are looking at some very impressive cloud formations with little rain to speak of. We keep passing a number of flatbed trailers with all manner of heavy trucks and humvees on the back, all heading in the same direction as us. I understand that Rita is now slated to make landfall a bit to the northeast of Galveston, but I don’t think that is going to impact the area where we are going with the exception of some heavy rain, but hopefully no hurricane force wind. As we travel further, the cloud cover is taking on an exceptionally vicious cast. And we are now starting to see signs of Katrina’s aftermath, even this far from the coast. Mostly downed trees along the side of the road.
Heather and I are currently looking for a place to get some good eats. I have tried to satisfy my appetite with a classic Alabama meal (pork rinds and a Dr Pepper) but alas it has only roused my appetite without retiring it. Oh great, we have just pulled up outside of Bates House of Turkey. I wonder if Norman is around.

September 23, 2005
0200 Hours
Heather and I arrived here about 2200 hours, well after curfew, as the very polite but firm young men with machine guns advised us at the roadblock just outside of town. A squad of Florida National Guardsmen backed up by the Florida Highway Patrol are manning a checkpoint several miles outside of town. I pulled the machine over to the side of the road while Heather put in a phone call to Stone. It was here that I first stepped out of the truck, only to step into some of the gooiest, most foul looking and probably toxic mud I have ever seen in my life. The place was covered with it, and the only way they could get this road back open was to send a couple of bulldozers through and push all that foul smelling nastiness to the side of the road, along with whatever car, boat or house was also caught up in this mess, floated to the middle of the road and in the way during the tidal surge. Neither of us was looking at the prospect of spending the night in the truck, and fortunately, the cell phone service was working well enough that we could communicate with our fellows. Apparently, this fellow Stone has some significant juice, as shortly after we called him, a Florida State Patrol cruiser was escorting us down the road. Even in pitch black darkness, the devastation that I could make out was pretty intense.
It looks like they are expecting winds and heavy rain here over the next few days, tropical strength, from the outer bands of Rita, so as a result a lot of the activity here has been suspended, with only a few cops, National Guard and a skeleton crew of volunteers remaining to reconstitute the kitchen and medical aid station when the storm has passed, probably around Monday or so. It was at this point that I made contact with the mysterious “Stone,” a nice Jewish boy with plenty of guts, and his colleagues, Sevensong (7song?) and Lauren with a K. (Yes, that is what she said). The medical tent itself is buttoned up tight, with all manner of medical and surgical supplies stocked in boxes and so completely taking up all of the space available as to make the practice of actually taking care of a patient in the medical tent impractical. Apparently, this is the only place they have to store supplies, and with all the wind and rain we are anticipating, it was thought to be prudent to try to protect what we have. Hopefully, if we don’t get whacked too badly, we may be able to set up and organize the med tent in a fashion more conducive to an effective clinical setting.
Stone, despite his youthful handsomeness, looks like 5 miles of bad road, as he has been rending care as best he could with limited resources, having to rely on his intuition and clinical judgment, sometimes 24 hours a day for the past week. I know of more than a few seasoned EM attendings who would have wilted under that kind of pressure. I am thoroughly impressed by his chutzpah and smarts, and think he would make a good Surgeon General. I shall reserve that post for him when I am finally able to gather the huge army of common citizens, working people, students, farmers, of Proud Negroes and White Trash, of young, old, gay, straight, long hairs, Angry Young Punks, crew cut rednecks…an army of the citizenry, enraged about the loss of individual freedoms and personal liberty, shocked out of stupor to and finally calling for accountability from their elected officials, who all to often do the bidding of their campaign contributors and highly placed friends, as the expense of the commonwealth and our republican form of government. An army that will march upon those who… blah, blah, blah…

But that is another rap entirely.

I have set up my tent, making sure it’s well staked to the ground, and put up a large blue rain tarp over top, which in turn is tied to the truck. If worse comes to worse, I can always hang out in the truck if need be, or one of the many buses that are scattered in the parking lot. It is truly a bizarre and eerily surreal site, as we have made camp in what’s left of a Waveland strip mall. I am too tired to write much more, so I shall sign off for now, and crawl into my sleeping bag.
One last note. It is my understanding that this area is under voluntary evacuation orders, and indeed is the reason why this place is so quiet and dark. There is a distinct possibility of significant flooding, perhaps to rival the tidal surge of 25 feet that swept over this city just a little over 2 weeks ago. This has given me great pause and concern, and while this news is indeed troubling, I refuse to abort this mission. To have driven all this way, only to turn back and run would seem such a cowardly thing to do now. I can not speak for how others may feel about this, and we each have to come to our own decision. I hold no ill will to anyone who feels the need to withdraw from this area, particularly if they are making the decision for a larger group for whom they are directly responsible to. However, as for myself, I feel that to run now would be abandon these folks down here. They have already been abandoned once, by their government, by my government, and I refuse to abandon them now. I am not looking to be a hero about this, but at present my life doesn’t seem all that important. Honor and duty are what this trip is about. Sacrifice. Hardship. Compassion and maybe even Love. If I wasn’t prepared to put myself into at least a little danger, then I shouldn’t have come at all.

Carpe Diem

Later as when I am able.


Your most humble servant,

Subkommander Dred


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