A few years back, Hurricane Gustav, was heading for us here in Vermilion, as Hurricane Irene is making landfall on our East coast. The talk of our not being prepared for this type of nature event, and the tremendous costs in both damages and human suffering, brought back to mind an event a lot of us went through, for Gustav, and the desire I have, to try and find someone, who took part in it, with us.
The great SHAM of free bus transporation, for those who needed to evacuate, and was in need of rides, turned into something I never choose to take part in again. I was in one of the first 4 bus loads, that left from North Vermilion, in Leroy, after a bit of confusion. Buses were late, because we finally found out, that great Governor Jindal's contract for "1,000 free buses to evacuate residents", never showed up. So, replacement buses, as well as tired bus drivers, were used instead. We wind up in Alexandria, at the Air Base there, and were told we were headed to Monroe, and that FEMA, refused to allow us to be housed, at the empty barracks the Air Force base had available. We switched buses, eventually, and less than 1/2 mile from the Air Base, were told we were NOT GOING TO MONROE, but to Oklahoma City, instead. Guess that speaks volumns on how trustworthy they were, to help us.
Our bus driver, while being a nice guy, was also driving OVER THE TIME ALLOWED, to be driving. He was tired and sleepy, as most other drivers were. At around 1:00 am in the morning, on I-20, just outside Longview, Texas, traffic had come to a stop, on the west bound side on the Interstate. Suddenly, the bus in front of us, took the right hand shoulder, at top speed, and we saw we were fixcing to hit the rear end of an 18-wheeler stopped ahead of us, in our lane. Our driver, with God watching over us, took the other lane because no one happened to be alongside us, which gave him the time to slap on the brakes, and come to a stop, before rear ending anyone. That, woke us all up, especially our driver. We arrived in Oklahoma City, at a deserted warehouse once used to build telephones, around 4 in the morning, but was not allowed to get off, until past 6, because of all the other buses, who were ahead of us, and the great number of them, behind us. What an experience we were getting into.
FEMA, RED CROSS, and EMERGENCY SERVICES, were running this place, and in truth, were so ignorant of what to do, we suffered because of it. What this blog is meant to do, is to try and find a woman, from Erath, if I remember correctly, who was especially badly treated, while being help prisoner at that abandoned warehouse. This woman, was in a wheelchair, which should have prevented her from being among us to begin with. The warehouse, had 38 different shipping doors that 18-wheelers could back up to at the same time, so it was HUGE. Yet, NOT ONE SINGLE BATHROOM, WITH RUNNING WATER, WAS AVAILABLE, TO OVER 2,000 EVACUEES. Maybe in the office they used to act like they ran things, there might have been bathroom facilities, for those in wheelchairs. I don't know. But many times I saw someone in a wheelchair, being lifted from it by two people, and carried down 8 large steps, to ground level, where they were placed in a PORT-O-LET, which they had over ONE HUNDRED OF OUTSIDE, as our bathrooms. And then, carried back up the steps, to the interior of the building.
When we first entered from out of the buses, there was a table set up, so that the invalid, such as this lady from Erath was, in her wheelchair, to register, and not have to pass through over 4 hours of standing in lines, waiting to get registered. This woman had ONE bag with her, with all her belongings, in it..., spare clothes, her medicines, and such. And as soon as she places her bag down to register, someone steals it. Great start. The next day, it was returned to her. The over 2,000 people there, were almost all black and latin Americans, with the rest, being white. It seems, Security was AFRAID of telling the majority, to not make noise, so people could sleep, out of fear of causing a riot, so SECURITY DISAPPEARED, at 10 pm, until 6 am the next morning. In those 8 hours, DOMINOES ruled the building, with die's being slapped on the tables, and all the hooting and hollering, that went with it. Care to guess how much sleep you could get with that ruckus? That finished it for me personally, especially after talking to OEP here in Abbeville, and them saying we'd be there another 4 or 5 days. I was able to get some money to pay a Greyhound ticket back, and walked among people from around here I had met, seeing if they were interested in it. That was when I found the woman from Erath, NOT IN HER WHEELCHAIR, but sitting on a metal, folding chair, instead. Seems she had got her bag returned to her, only to have her wheelchair stolen while she slept, as well as her eye glasses, that were on the seat. The woman was in tears, not having relatives or close friends, to help her, and although I explained what I was going to do, as well as some others, she cried that she had no money, to buy a ticket back home. I wished I had some extra money, that I could have paid her way back, but I didn't. I wished her well, and went to continue talking to people, to see if they were returning home, as I was.
I'm very saddened, that I just can not remember her name, and that we did not exchange phone numbers, between us. If we had, I'd have found out how it turned out for her. But, we didn't trade phone numbers, and this is about the only way, that I may be able to locate her, or someone she knows, to see of her well being. As I said, she had told me her name, but it never caught in my memory, and all I remember, is that she said she was from Erath. If anyone knows of this woman, please, contact me. Hind sight always tells you what you should have done, but it never replaces, what you didn't do, and I regret that. I hope she is okay, and somehow, we can make contact again. Hurricane Irene is causing damage to the East coast, while in truth, Gustav spared Vermilion parish.
If you can help, please do so. Thank you.