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My sister just found my 80 year old mother late this morning sitting in a state of shock in a Red Cross church evacuation shelter in Tarpon Springs, Florida. Wiith her were some of her neighbors, along with a number of the regular street derelict residents of the facility. She was forcibly evacuated yesterday afternoon with only minutes warning and only enough time to grab her medications, cell phone, and phone charger.
Because the state of Florida waited so long to evacuate people along Dunedin Beach on the Gulf coast north of Tampa, my mother had to be carried into a bus by two firemen because the 70 mph winds from Hurricane Jeanne would have knocked her over otherwise. There were no provisions for anyone to sleep in the evacuation shelter, so my mother and several other of her elderly neighbors were forced to sit up all night on metal folding chairs. The Red Cross personnel provided no blankets or electrical outlets for evacuees to charge their cell phones. People at the shelter were prevented from using land lines to inform their families of their whereabouts. After not hearing from my mother for several hours, I had to call the Disaster Coordinator for her town of Dunedin and use my Washington, DC jorno credentials to force them to tell me where she was taken. The roads were impassible until this morning when my sister was able to rescue my mother from the rather dodgy church facility.
There are clearly not enough professional and trained disaster recovery people in Florida to deal with the current spate of hurricanes. Most of the most critical Guard and Reserve units, particularly medical and civil affairs personnel, have been called up to Iraq. The only thing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has managed to do was cordon off my mother’s neighborhood and refuse to allow anyone to retrieve belongings from damaged buildings until FEMA deems them structurally sound. Knowing Jebbie Bush and his billionaire friends, the Gulf front buildings are likely to be condemned to make way for expensive beachfront condos.
I consider the repeated disaster response SNAFUs in Florida to be Jebbie’s and Dubya’s fault. Neither Jebbie nor his brother cannot be allowed to claim any credit for adequately responding to this unprecedented series of hurricanes, which are obviously caused by global warming. Moreover, the global warming reason for the unprecedented series of destructive hurricanes in the Atlantic is something the educationally-challenged Dubya has called "silly science."
This of course is my own personal story and I know that others with parents in Florida spent a similar sleepless night not knowing what became of their loved ones. There are currently elderly people throughout Florida who are sitting in evacuation shelters without any means to contact their families. This is a disgrace for which the responsibility rests solely at the feet of the state’s Governor and his brother in the White House.
Dubya originally claimed credit for sending the Red Cross to Florida during Hurricane Charley. He obviously doesn’t realize that the Red Cross is private and not a Federal agency. The Bushes cannot substitute faith-based and other charities for the National Guard which has the necessary vehicles (Humvees and deuce-and-a-halfs) to properly evacuate people, especially those with special needs. Most of the Florida Guard transportation units based at Camp Blanding have been moved to Iraq where they are sitting targets for Iraqi insurents while they are busy ferrying around supplies for Halliburton and Bechtel. These motorized units should be in Florida helping Floridians and not in Iraq helping to keep oil flowing to Chevron Texaco and Exxon Mobil.
As for the hot dog the Red Cross fed my mother, I will keep that in mind the next time they ask me for a donation. Count me in for $1.50 to cover the cost of the hot dog, roll, and mustard.
The inability of Freres Bush to deal with Florida’s natural disasters should be a campaign issue for John Kerry. The repeated mismanagement of disaster relief in Florida should fire up all Floridians whose post-disaster needs have not been adequately addressed. Members of the Kerry campaign staff in Florida should be immediately dispatched (with cell phones, Internet-accessible personal digital assistants, hot coffee and tea, and small hotel-type amenities) to shelters across Florida to make sure the elderly and other homeless people have been supplied with basic necessities, been afforded to opportunity to contact family and friends, and understand who has taken the time to look after them. The benefits of this very traditional Democratic Party principle of tending to those who are the neediest will become very apparent on November 2, Election Day.
As for the National Guard, it was created to deal with national issues, not international ones. They are needed at home, not in Iraq.
WAYNE MADSEN is the author of the forthcoming book: Jaded Tasks: Big Oil, Black Ops, and Brass Plates. He was with the National Security Agency during the Reagan administration and is a native of New Jersey. He can be reached at: WMadsen777@aol.com