Emergency Response

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Chip Johnson writes one of the more consistently leaden columns I’ve ever come across. But the decade or so of waiting for him to produce a decent piece is finally over: This morning, he recaps the experience of two San Francisco paramedics, Larry Bradshaw and Lorrie Beth Slonsky, who were in New Orleans the weekend Hurricane Katrina approached. They became part of the trapped throng:

“{New Orleans police] officers told them they couldn’t stay, they had no water for them, and they needed to get up on Highway 90, a bridge that spans the Mississippi River, and walk until they saw the rescue buses they promised would be waiting for them.

“So late Wednesday afternoon, the group set out for a bridge called the Crescent City Connection, where they would find the help they so desperately needed. But when they arrived atop the highway, the paramedics said, they were met by more police officers, this time from neighboring Gretna, La., who weren’t letting anyone pass.

” ‘If I weren’t there, and hadn’t witnessed it for myself, I don’t think I would have ever believed this,’ Bradshaw said.

The officers fired warning shots into the air and then leveled their weapons at members of the crowd, Bradshaw said. He approached, hands in the air, displaying his paramedic’s badge.

” ‘They told us that there would be no Superdomes in their city,’ the couple wrote. ‘These were code words that if you are poor and black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River — and you weren’t getting out of New Orleans.’ ”

Things only got worse from there. The couple’s own account has been making the Web rounds for several days. [And later: WBEZ Chicago’s “This American Life” has a great show this week that features the Bradshaw/Slonsky story and includes a first-person account from someone else who was there. Harrowing.]

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One Reply to “Emergency Response”

  1. I’ll have a look at this story. As an aside, the NYTimes has an article about Dick Cheney making the disaster tour through Mississippi and Louisiana, being a more visible presence then he was on 9/11/01 and its aftermath. I think this is the precursor to a run for the oval office in ’08.

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