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Tom Coburn is a Big Fat Jerk


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Home of the Barking Moonbat


 

Sunday, September 25, 2005

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.

The extraordinary Times Picayune put New York Times and the rest of the bunch to shame.

Via Making Light:

The Saturday after Hurricane Katrina drowned my city, I sat alone in a rented Jeep in front of the latest headquarters of the Times-Picayune’s “New Orleans bureau”—our fifth in as many days—pounding furiously on a laptop, taking belts of Johnnie Walker Red to beat back tears. I was locked out of the staff’s uptown house, awaiting the return of the tiny team of colleagues that now represented the entirety of the paper’s presence in the city we once dominated. …

[...]

My crying bout that morning had been hardly unique, for myself or for the rest of the New Orleans-based crew. I had watched a woman die on the street. Arkansas National Guardsmen had carted her body away to put with the others inside the food service entrance at the rear of the Convention Center. They’d been murdered, or they’d perished, like the woman in front of me, from simple lack of food, water and medicine—here in America, here in my hometown.

What broke me wasn’t the horror but the beauty of the sight just a few feet away, of refugee Anita Roach defiantly belting out gospel standards, leading a chorus of family members and complete strangers. We locked eyes, a poor black woman who had barely escaped death in the Lower 9th Ward and a relatively well-fed white reporter with a dry Uptown house and a rented SUV.

I lost it. My notebook and pen fell to my sides in my limp arms. I mouthed the words “Thank you” as she finished. She smiled and nodded. I walked to her through the filth, and she wrapped me in a bear hug. I sat her down and bled her and her family of the details of their suffering and the strength that now poured out of them in song. I knew then I’d never forget the privilege.

[...]

Even before we’d stared the devil in the face, we knew Katrina had unleashed hell when Publisher Ashton Phelps, clearly distraught, announced the evacuation Tuesday morning.

Normally unshakably composed, Phelps, from the old-money family that has run the Picayune for generations, bounced from department to department in the three-story building shouting: “Get out of the building—now! You can not stay in the building!”

[...]

A few of us started grumbling immediately. We can’t just leave the world’s biggest story in our own hometown, we griped in hushed conversations. Sports Editor David Meeks, formerly the suburban editor and the man who hired me in 1998, harnessed the unrest. He made the pitch to Editor Jim Amoss: Give me a delivery truck and a small group of writers. We’ll go back.

“How are you going to eat?” Amoss asked him. “How are you going to file?”

I love that part.

It’s a long piece. I’m going to have to skip over the part about the Wal-Mart. Other stuff, too. This is an amazing story. Onward to:

[...]


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.

[...]

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.”

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