Sunday, September 04, 2005

"Mama, somebody's comin' to get you..."

If you didn't see Tim Russert's Meet The Press, where Mr. Russert interviewed the president of Jefferson Parish (similar to a mayor in our towns?), please check this out. Watch the video if you can, at least read the words. Put yourself in the position of this man.

Parish president sheds outrage, tears
By MICHAEL PRECKER / The Dallas Morning News

Weeping on national television, Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard told a heartbreaking story Sunday of a woman who pleaded for help but drowned before it came.

It was a single tale from a week of tragedies, and focusing on her quickly changed Mr. Broussard's tone from angry accusation to uncontrollable tears.

On NBC's Meet the Press Sunday morning, Mr. Broussard complained bitterly about the slow federal response to the New Orleans flood, demanding investigations and resignations.

"We have been abandoned by our own country," Mr. Broussard said.

"Whoever is at the top of this totem pole, that totem pole needs to be chain-sawed off, and we've got to start with some new leadership."

Asked by host Tim Russert whether state and local officials deserved more of the blame, he replied, "They were told like me, every single day, 'The cavalry's coming,' on a federal level, 'The cavalry's coming, the cavalry's coming, the cavalry's coming.'

"I have just begun to hear the hoofs of the cavalry," Mr. Broussard said. "The cavalry's still not here yet, but I've begun to hear the hoofs, and we're almost a week out."

The parish president praised Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco, the National Guard and legions of rescue workers. But he was particularly critical of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Mr. Broussard said FEMA turned away three trailer trucks of water that Wal-Mart sent to New Orleans before the hurricane, refused to allow the Coast Guard to deliver diesel fuel to his parish and cut off emergency communication lines without notice.

He said that Sheriff Harry Lee reconnected the lines Saturday and posted armed guards to protect them.

Mr. Broussard quoted the sheriff as saying that if the "American government would have responded like Wal-Mart has responded, we wouldn't be in this crisis."

The parish president pleaded for help. "Nobody's coming to get us. Nobody's coming to get us. The secretary has promised. Everybody's promised. They've had press conferences. I'm sick of the press conferences. For God sakes, shut up and send us somebody."

There was no immediate response from FEMA to the criticism.

Then Mr. Broussard put it all on a personal level. He said the man who runs the building where he is based spoke every day last week to his mother, who was trapped in a nursing home in St. Bernard, near the city.
"Every day she called him and said, 'Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?'

"And he said, 'Yeah, Mama, somebody's coming to get you. Somebody's coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody's coming to get you on Friday.' "

Breaking into sobs, Mr. Broussard said, "And she drowned Friday night. She drowned Friday night."


Complete transcript available, including the interview with Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff.

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