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Feature Article - September 8, 2005

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September 8, 2005

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Gray MerriamLegaleseGeneral information and opinion on legal topics by Rural Legal ServicesNature Reflectionsby Jean GriffinNight Skiesby Leo Enright

Report from the front lines: a weblog from a deputy sheriff in Slidell, Louisiana


Star Date 8/27/05: 7 PMStarted Evacuation convoy to Shreveport. Transport was good on I-12 for 30 miles. All traffic westbound was diverted to any northbound route. Traffic slowed to 15 mph for 1 hour.Star Date 8/28/05: Sunday, watched hurricane approach New Orleans. Chatted online.Star Date 8/29/05: Monday watched news reports of the destruction. Watched eye go right over my house. I need to get back NOW!. Friends pointed that out as premature.Star Date Tuesday 8/30/05: Had lunch in Shreveport. Purchased two generators, gas cans, water and made other preparations for a prolonged duration. Left kids with my friend. His family is so generous. Still cannot contact my wife. Her phone is based in New Orleans and she is trapped in Chicago. My family is split up. But, at least we will get together again in a few weeks. Some will not be so lucky. Arrived home before dark and assessed damage. My home has water. My shop has water. Wife’s car is under water. I am wiped out but alive. The trip home gave me plenty of time to reflect on how I would respond to this tragedy. Was my house ruined, were my friends safe and what would be there when I arrived? I-10 blocked to all access east. However, law enforcement documents gave me a pass. Checked into the sheriffs office command center and assigned to looter patrol right away. The entire staff was numb.Star Date 8/31/05: 4 am briefing was not only short and to the point, but under a small emergency light. Command center radio system is on rationed generator power. Water rationed, Food rationed. Breakfast was one muffin and water. Arrested two looters. Cigarettes and booze? This is not survival items. Besides, what’s the store money doing in your pocket? Bond set at $100,000 cash. NICE! Judge is on evacuation and cannot give a hearing. Looters are not loved here. Jail has no power, A/C or running water. This will not be good for these looters. I think I'll get 4 hours sleep tonight. Uniform of the day is anything that smells the cleanest. Sam's Club is commandeered for life support items. Sam's Club should be given an award for this. The Sam’s staff is only asking for a list of what we are taking. We take out thousands of dollars of stuff. FEMA is here. They set up a MRE site. They give out water, ice, and MRE's – now people will eat and drink. We need freezers to store the dead. Ok, this store has some. Commandeer them. Leave a list and a note. Thank you. We commandeer another huge generator from an arena show group. Sorry, you wont need this for a concert soon. I’m taken aback just a little at what the Sheriff can do. He was free reign to take anything we need from any one. Some deputies are waiting to pounce on the next 250 k generator that goes by on the interstate. It’s needed for the jail who just lost thier generator. Ah, they just got one. Another looter. Oh, you have no food or water? What are those? Diapers? Ok my friend. You are not a looter. Go on home and make arrangements to get out of here. There is not one store of food access point available.Star Date 9/1/05: More patrol. Uniform is a shirt washed in sweat from Tuesday. Smells ok. I'll use some rex body deodorant. This will smell good for the victims. Entire town is shut down. Every street and road is blocked with trees. Wires down everywhere. Main transport routes have vehicle wide paths carved through. No phones, water, or power. No birds singing, no frogs, none of the usual night-time summer noises we listen to. Eerie, and in fact, scary. Shots heard in the distance. No traffic on any street anywhere. Pure black darkness. Went to hospital to transport medical info to another hospital. Check points set up are manned with shot gun armed officers. This is no game. This is real life and death. While there I get a request as to what its like on the pearl river. Her family has a house there and stayed to ride it out while she worked at the center during the storm. She has not heard from any one. I am so sad to report her house is no longer there. I stop telling her the rest. She already knows.Star Date 9/2/05:Briefing with breakfast. Water with oatmeal and two strips of bacon. We joked about being in the matrix and eating a bowl of snot. Got some water to drink. On patrol. Assigned to removed an Emu carcass and a call to check a signal 29 (death) at a residence. Confirmed. Sorry sir, Family informed. Another dark night. Even though I live in a subdivision with 900 homes there are only a few with any one here. There is no one moving around. If looters comes by, it’s not going to go well for them. South side of town is either under water or is gone. Nothing but rubble. The smell is unbearable from the dead dogs, sewage, cats, and other reasons. Very depressing. The water is contaminated and very unsafe. Special Operations are doing search and rescue. We recovered 5 souls today – this is not going to turn out good. Work is slow. We use chain saws in the debris field. During the day a few deputies are scrambling to make arrangements for their families. They give no more than 1 hour for this. The rest of the time goes to the team. This is truly a challenge. No one complains. This is the most dedicated team I have ever been around. Some have lost everything. Entire homes cleared back to a vacant lot. There is nothing there. Not even one 2x4. But not one single deputy will accept anything that will give them anything the others could not get. We are all in this together. We are more concerned with the locals, and protecting their lives. I go to the hospital for a call. One x-ray tech wants a ride to check her house. We go and find it is rubble. I'm sorry. She is devastated. We have no mail service, no lights, no water, and no communications to anywhere. I watch a small battery operated TV and see a certain element in New Orleans taking over. It’s so wrong for the media to show only the negative. There are thousands more doing good down there. I hate the media. People flag us down medical attention. Sorry. Only if its life or death – your cut finger will just have to wait. We cannot help. People are dying all around us. There is nothing anyone can do. No phones and our radio system is barely functioning. More souls are found in the debris fields. Someone stops by the command center wanting us to take away her rotting meat out of her freezer. Sorry lady the trash man will be by in about 7 weeks. Better bury it in the back yard.Star Date 9/3/05: I think it is the 3rd. The days are running together. 30 miles to E-center to make a phone call. We have a very limited special satellite phone access. Hi Si, am alive and well. Got gas from the emergency center. Law enforcement only. Thank you. Walmart has opened another store and is GIVING away water and ice. Back to Slidell. Local shelter is having trouble with one. He from south shore, has a 4" knife and booze. Figures... A guest violates the sanctity of a shelter. Get Out! I should have put him in jail But let him wander around and suffer. I know we will see him again looting. I need cash for personal gas. The banks will not be online for weeks. Streets are getting cleared. Who are the saw fairies? We never see them. One day trees criss-cross like pickup stix, the next day the all cut and moved to clear paths. Distributed one pickup load of bread sticks and bananas around the subdivisions. Some are desperate but not uncivilized. Some fathers have tears in their eyes. I am feeling emotional too. All I see are their kids with my son’s image for faces. I feel blessed. This food mission is turning into a recon mission. We’re going to set up a looter sting tonight. Scalper is selling generators for $1100 bucks. I know they cost $319 because I just bought one in Shreveport. He’s from Oklahoma. I am upset. This one's going to be reported to attorney's general office. Lt. says next time confiscate the stuff and let them sort it out with FEMA. WOW. These scalpers are in for a surprise. Out of state vultures are setting up roofing stands with phoney work permits. Next one I find is going to jail. We are not finished recovering the dead. No respect. There are people siphoning gas. I let them do it. They are just getting means to get out to Texas. I do not see it as theft. This is a time of desperation but also a time for compassion. You need gas? Get some and go. We get reports that some are escaping from the South shore via sheets of plywood. All the bridges are out. This is their only escape. Some are stealing boats to escape the south shore. No problem. Except those who have guns and then lie about them. They are up to no good. We determine they are part of the thugs escaping by hijacking boats from honest people trying to escape. Central reports a home invasion. Every unit is racing to be the first onsite. This maggot is going to rot in jail for at least 30 days. 100k cash bond is hard to come up with... Its 9:30 pm, and my phone is working. It's amazing. Anyway, another cold water shower and find the DSL is up now too! Great, now I can store my log where it’s safe. Must get up at 4 AM again. I think ill get a few hours sleep tonight. I feel extremely fortunate. I get to eat and have water. I have nothing but neither does any one else. Before I could only imagine what Don was living. But now I know for real. One thing is different, though. I see it from an inside perspective because I have access to the entire area. There will be many deaths, yet so many others saved. I used to be an unpaid volunteer deputy sheriff. I did it to contribute to the community. I'm still an unpaid volunteer and will be broke soon enough. But, so will my neighbors. My family is split, but not as bad as too many others. I am here at the beckon of a higher authority.Star Date 9/04/05: Another day on generator power. Went to bed at 5 am and back awake at 10. Got some 5 hrs of needed sleep. Command center didn't need me until around 11 AM. Thank God because I am now suffering Plantars fasicitis or something like that. I can hardly walk. Doc says I must lay off at least 3 days. Sorry Doc, that’s out of the question. All of us are hurting and I'll be damned if I have it better than the next guy in a time like this. I shake my head with wonder to those who lost every thing, yet never say "I need a break." These guys are my role models. If they can do it, I'll do it too! We were given bottles of special hand disinfectant today. Do they know something we don't know? Well, we already refuse to touch our food with bare hands. Lunch was two slices of turkey and a hogie bun with water. Water is our beverage of choice. Water boiling is the command of the day. Sewers are backing up and the spoiled meat is starting to stink. We are under orders to bury the bad food in our yards. Roads are more back to normal. Power poles are looking more normal all the time. People are cleaning up the downed branches making a few yards look clean. It our only means of showing some control over our destiny. Checked out a roadside stand today. It was a pleasure to see someone selling items at cost just to help. Dinner at DISA site was great. One 6 oz slab of beef, cold veggies, and all the bananas I could eat. Picked up a load of ice and two boxes of MRE's – I will snack good if I need to. A high point of the day. My cell phone service is back up. This is perfect. About 200 of us have landline phones now too. Ill be in bed by 10:30 and up at 4 am, I know I will be assigned to looter patrol again. The looting is running rampant in parts of town. The sheriff deputies are keeping it down though in the rural areas. Its just a matter of time. Someone is going to get shot. Bossier city school board sent down a 5x5x10 ft box of relief supplies. Badly needed baby food, diapers and cereal for the deputies baby children. I received the load and had 8 trustees unload the trailer – another day of public service. 6PM. Suddenly the radio is humming with calls. The criminals are starting to rear their ugly heads. Phone service is improving and the morons are drinking the last of their beer. All alcohol sales are banned after mine and several other reports of drunks causing mayhem in shelters. Good. We don't need to deal with drink-induced stupidity. Some person is spotted carrying 95G (gun) on the interstate. I get to check him out. I think I'll wait for backup. Oh how I pray he is not a paranoid schizo coming off his meds.

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