Communications Specialist Adele Stan, together with the M.O.R.E. team of Issues Mobilization Specialist Brendan Danaher, and Health & Safety Specialist Milly Rodriguez, were sent to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in mid-September to assess the needs of AFGE members--those affected by Hurricane Katrina, and those deployed in the disaster relief efforts. These are their blog entries.
Like no other place
BATON ROUGE, LA.--Even before the landing gear hit the tarmac at the Baton Rouge airport, you could tell that nothing was normal here. Witness the flock of U.S. Army helicopters, painted olive drab and marked with the red cross of a medevac, lined up alon g the side of the landing strip.
The flight that brought me here with my colleagues from the AFGE national office, Brendan Danaher and Milly Rodriguez, was populated largely by firefighters, FEMA and otherwise, as well as various other relief workers.
While waiting for my baggage, I chatted up a FEMA firefighter who told a tale of chaos and frustration regarding her deployment. She was with a unit from Ohio. They been deployed shortly after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, but then spent a week sitting in a hotel room in Epcot Center. “They’ve been putting us up in resorts, while people have lost everything,” she said. “It’s humiliating.”
After a week in Orlando, she was sent to Atlanta, where she was to be trained as a community relations worker for the New Orleans area. “Then,” she explained, “they said, no, never mind.”
Now, she said, she had received an order saying that she was about to be deployed to an area where she should be prepared to live in “austere conditions.” They’ve been prepared for that for weeks, she said. She and her colleagues are terribly frustrated in not having been allowed to use their skills to save lives while people were dying.
What she expected to now, she said, was “recovery.”
“You mean bodies?” I asked.
“We’re firefighters and EMTs. Yeah. Recovery is part of what we do.”