Friday, November 25, 2005

Crappy Thanksgiving

It was a very emotional Thanksgiving as I was excorting an elderly black woman in to the part of New Orleans that is still secured by Military, to see her home and recover what she could. Our spirits were high as we joke and laughed our way to the "forbidden zone".

Residents can ride a "tour bus" through and take still photographs from the bus but are not allowed to get out. When I meet Shirley a few days earlier she said she was going in and they'd have to shoot her to keep her out because she had nothing left to live for. I suggested that she wait a couple days until I recieved my Press Pass which would get us in without getting shot. I now have a legitimate Free Speech TV Press Pass (channel on the dish network). All sorts of press (and fake press) have been allowed in without question.. but we got turned away.

When our rage subsided we contacted FEMA and spent an hour or so on the phone, mostly on hold, only to be left with 2 other FEMA numbers that she should call. FEMA will not give her anything to cover her "stuff" (because she didn't have flood insurance) and she's not permitted to get any of her "stuff" because of health risk. ... It's her stuff and her risk... She was fully prepared with all the protective gear clean up crews are using. They have been routinely giving money to home owners to cover their "stuff" regardless if they had flood insurance or not. .. Low income renters can apparently do without "stuff".

Before taking her back to her daughters for Thanksgiving Dinner we stopped off at the Common Ground distribution center where her sadness and rage melted in front of the stacks of free food available. I met Shirley at the Common Ground Free Clinic but she had been unaware of the distribution center and legal council. She was able to pick up a toy for her grandson and a winter coat as well as a couple of large bags of food and necessities. I left her even more pissed at the government; but joyous, thankful for the solidarity of real people and armed with some free legal advice for her appeal to FEMA. I could tell from our early conversations enroute to the "forbidden zone" that she was feelng like a finacial burden to her daughters family and it made her very happy to walk in with a cache of food at the end of the day.

I tried to get in alone today and was again turned away.

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