September 19th, 2005


Hurricane Katrina - Our Experiences

Courtesy of ddrgirldotcomOriginal source ] on, a website for EMS (emergency medical service) related information.  The authors, Larry Bradshaw and Lorrie Beth Slonsky, are paramedics themselves; they were attending an EMS conference at a hotel in New Orleans when Katrina struck the city.

Hotel, eh?  Hmm, is it gonna be another scratch-belly account by yet another rich tourist who got promptly evacuated while dozens of locals were dying downstairs, of what he's seen from his hotel room window?

Read on.

Hurricane Katrina - Our Experiences

By Paramedics Larry Bradshaw and Lorrie Beth Slonsky

Two days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, the Walgreen's store at the corner of Royal and Iberville streets remained locked.  The dairy display case was clearly visible through the widows.  It was now 48 hours without electricity, running water, plumbing.  The milk, yogurt, and cheeses were beginning to spoil in the 90-degree heat.  The owners and managers had locked up the food, water, pampers, and prescriptions and fled the City.  Outside Walgreen's windows, residents and tourists grew increasingly thirsty and hungry.

The much-promised federal, state and local aid never materialized and the windows at Walgreen's gave way to the looters.  There was an alternative.  The cops could have broken one small window and distributed the nuts, fruit juices, and bottle water in an organized and systematic manner.  But they did not.  Instead they spent hours playing cat and mouse, temporarily chasing away the looters.

We were finally airlifted out of New Orleans two days ago and arrived home yesterday (Saturday).  We have yet to see any of the TV coverage or look at a newspaper.  We are willing to guess that there were no video images or front-page pictures of European or affluent white tourists looting the Walgreen's in the French Quarter.

We also suspect the media will have been inundated with "hero" images of the National Guard, the troops and the police struggling to help the "victims" of the Hurricane.  What you will not see, but what we witnessed,were the real heroes and sheroes of the hurricane relief effort: the working class of New Orleans.  The maintenance workers who used a fork lift to carry the sick and disabled.  The engineers, who rigged, nurtured and kept the generators running.  The electricians who improvised thick extension cords stretching over blocks to share the little electricity we had in order to free cars stuck on rooftop parking lots.  Nurses who took over for mechanical ventilators and spent many hours on end manually forcing air into the lungs of unconscious patients to keep them alive.  Doormen who rescued folks stuck in elevators.  Refinery workers who broke into boat yards, "stealing" boats to rescue their neighbors clinging to their roofs in flood waters.  Mechanics who helped hot-wire any car that could be found to ferry people out of the City.  And the food service workers who scoured the commercial kitchens improvising communal meals for hundreds of those stranded.

Most of these workers had lost their homes, and had not heard from members of their families, yet they stayed and provided the only infrastructure for the 20% of New Orleans that was not under water.

On Day 2, there were approximately 500 of us left in the hotels in the French Quarter.  We were a mix of foreign tourists, conference attendees like ourselves, and locals who had checked into hotels for safety and shelter from Katrina.  Some of us had cell phone contact with family and friends outside of New Orleans.  We were repeatedly told that all sorts of resources including the National Guard and scores of buses were pouring in to the City.  The buses and the other resources must have been invisible because none of us had seen them.

We decided we had to save ourselves.  So we pooled our money and came up with $25,000 to have ten buses come and take us out of the City.  Those who did not have the requisite $45.00 for a ticket were subsidized by those who did have extra money.  We waited for 48 hours for the buses, spending the last 12 hours standing outside, sharing the limited water, food, and clothes we had.  We created a priority boarding area for the sick, elderly and new born babies.  We waited late into the night for the "imminent" arrival of the buses.  The buses never arrived.  We later learned that the minute they arrived to the City limits, they were commandeered by the military.

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Call for a Studymate

Last night I was digging through my years-old Piston—the renowned textbook on Harmony ]—when realized how rusty my understanding of the material have gotten.

I need to brush up my skills, and that means studying the book once again.  But here's the thing: Although this is an excellent and thorough textbook, it's also incredibly dry.  (I know this from my first experience with the book.)  A good teacher or discussion mate is essential to fully benefit from this book, which means:

I am looking for a studymate for this textbook and perhaps Schoenberg's Theory of Harmony too, which is a philosophical textbook/essay on the history of western harmony, explaining why things are done in the way they are, as opposed to Piston's approach—how things are done.

Who's up?