Thursday, September 01, 2005

Lord of the Flies

First, the good news:

Walt and Elizabeth Burgoyne are safe and in Atlanta.

Leo Laventhal and family are safe in Texas.

The Heck's (Laura's parents and brother Scott were just RESCUED from downtown.

Still no word from ANY zoo folks. Previous emails that I sent to individuals with the address all failed and were returned. If anyone has personal email addresses for zoo staff, please pass them along.

Now for the not so good news...

The situation in New Orleans is starting to sound too much like the plot of the novelLord of the Flies. Just received this from Laura about her family's escape from downtown. Her father was essential personnel and could not evacuate the city...

"Today has been the most emotional day for my family since the storm hit. When I got back from my lunch break today, I had a hysterical message on my voice mail from my mother saying that the looting had gotten so bad in downtown New Orleans that Bellsouth couldn't assure their safety anymore and was evacuating everyone out of the building. She didn't know where or how they were going. I luckily had a line directly to my dad's office, called it, miraculously someone answered and told me they were awaiting state troopers to be escorted in convoy to Baton Rouge.

Over the next several hours, I worried, prayed and made lots of phone calls. Anyway, I got an email from my cousin Sandy in Baton Rouge around 6 p.m. saying that they had arrived safely at the state police headquarters on Airline and she was headed there to pick them up. I spoke with mom and dad (Scott's with them also) about an hour ago and they're really shook up. They said they watched armed looters overtake buildings all around them this morning. They could hear gunfire. They had run out of food this morning and even though they had been promised more food to be brought to them by the company, it hadn't arrived yet. The sewer system inside the building finally failed this morning and water was slowly rising around the building (although reports that it was 9 feet deep were inaccurate. Mom said it had reached the base of the building, but hadn't come in the building yet.)

But the biggest problem was that no national guard had been sent to protect them. Seeing that the Bellsouth building in downtown New Orleans is the Homeland Security headquarters and controls all communications for southeast Louisiana and Mississippi, that's a big deal. They kept waiting for the protection to arrive and it never did, so finally Bellsouth's president arranged for private buses to come in and get their people out. The fear was that once night fell, the looters would force their way into the building because they could see that it had power. They ran out while armed state troopers protected them so they could get from the building to the buses. They left the generators running and dad says if they don't get to go back into the building with protection before the generators use up all their fuel (or are destroyed by looters), all the phone lines, bank alarms, etc. in the two states will go down entirely. They drove all the company utility trucks in the convoy to Baton Rouge - my dad drove one of them with mom and Scott with him.

Mom said they watched as looters siphoned gas out of vehicles parked in parking garages downtown and on the streets, ripped out the batteries, etc. Dad left his van parked at the New Orleans Center, but doesn't expect it to be there when they get back. Mom said someone's probably living in it already. The convoy went over the Crescent City Connection, up the Westbank Expressway and through Luling to get to Baton Rouge. There were hundreds of people walking across the bridge (and pushing others in wheelchairs) because they didn't want to go on the buses the state was bringing to the Superdome to transport people to the Astrodome in Houston. Mom fears they'll start breaking into people's homes on the Westbank, which is dry, to seek shelter. All of the businesses there have already been looted. One police officer was shot in the head on Gen. de Gaulle when he came up on some looters at one of the gas stations. There's no food or water on the Westbank either, so who knows what they're thinking.

Mom said I needed to use my media influence to get the word out about the lack of protection... Anyway, I'm sorry to be so glum, but I wanted everyone to know what's going on. Please keep up the prayers." Laura
Please, don't anyone try to go back to the city.


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