09/05/2005: From Brian Williams on MSNBC
I suspect millions of Americans passed this Labor Day weekend the same way: Alternating between watching the coverage (heartened to see relief arriving and rescues progressing as we near the one-week mark, somewhat unbelievably) and steeling themselves to turn away from it to enjoy some semblance of a holiday weekend. Here in the East at least, the sparkling late summer weather combined with a palpable national sadness remind us all of the same time of year exactly four years ago.And there are still some fools who defend such incompetence. Simply amazing.
Just enough progress has been made... just enough relief is visible on the television screen... to allow the first early, furtive glimpses over our shoulders at what went wrong initially. It is a kind of slow-motion, ongoing outrage that lives are still being lost in this most robust of all nations on earth.
In a strange way, the most outrageous news pictures of this day may be those of progress: The palettes of food and water that have just been dropped at selected landing zones in the downtown area of New Orleans. It's an outrage because all of those elements existed before people died for lack of them: There was water, there was food, and there were choppers to drop both. Why no one was able to combine them in an air drop is a cruel and criminal mystery of this dark chapter in our recent history. The words "failure of imagination" come to mind. The concept of an air drop of supplies was one we apparently introduced to the director of FEMA during a live interview on Nightly News on Thursday evening... He responded by saying that he'd been unaware of the thousands gathered at the Convention Center. Later that evening an incredulous Ted Koppel on ABC was left with no choice but to ask if the FEMA director was watching the same television coverage as the rest of the nation.
Complaints are still rampant in New Orleans about a lack of information. It's one of many running themes of the past week: There were no announcements in the Superdome during the storm, none to direct people after the storm, no official word (via bullhorn, leaflets or any other means) during the week-long, on-foot migration (and eventual stagnation) that defined life in the downtown section of the city for those first few days. One can't help but think that a single-engine plane towing a banner over the city would have been immeasurably helpful in both crowd and rumor control. [emphasis supplied --LRC]
Len on 09.05.05 @ 07:03 PM CST