Why You Wanna Give Him the Runaround?

If John Popper’s Car were a Jeopardy category, the topic would be “Things that would have come in handy after Hurricane Katrina.”

My friend Nicky got one of the last groups across the Crescent City Connection (GNO Bridge) past Gretna, and this is the note he emailed:

“let people know that i crossed the bridge safely by walking out with a group of people. let them know to think safety. start the trip with lots of light, water, and as many people :safety in numbers. there are many tourists in a daze, grab them on the way out to swell the numbers. I did all this and walked out safely. on the other side about ten miles down the road is the location of disaster relief and it is getting closer to the bridge as help creates safer passages. who ever reads this letter, keep your head up and spirits positive, no breaks in the chain, no dissent and keep the group healthy. if you stay in new orleans, fire, disease and death is next, there is nothing possibly left to happen.”

Maybe John Popper heard about the Crescent City Connection. He was stopped by State Troopers in Washington State, now home of more billionaires than anywhere else in the country. The billionaires will be fine in increasingly challenging weather, but at least one Blues Traveler wasn’t taking chances as his friend tooled along at 111 mph.

Hidden compartments, a joint, four rifles, nine handguns, night vision goggles, a taser, switchblade, siren, emergency headlights and a public address system. Popper explained to officers he was prepared for a natural disaster. His car could have barreled right through the situation Congresswoman McKinney’s House Resolution 4209 describes:

“New Orleans authorities directed a group of individuals to evacuate New Orleans by crossing the Crescent City Connection Bridge . . . . Following these directions, the individuals, by all accounts an orderly group of men, women, and children, began their dangerous trek through streets flooded with contaminated water and littered with debris and corpses in an effort to reach safety.. As the group approached the bridge, shots were fired, and members of the Gretna law enforcement agencies confronted, threatened, and pointed their weapons at the group, thus preventing the group's entrance into the Gretna area. It is unacceptable to permit anything but the strongest response to the actions of the Gretna law enforcement agencies, which prevented the group's lawful exodus from a life-threatening situation.”

And the situation 18 months later? There are no beds available in the New Orleans Emergency Rooms with flu season ripping through the city and a shortage of medical care, writes Kate Moran in a NOLA.com article. My friend whose eyesight is getting progressively worse waited all day for a one-day free clinic last month, but didn’t make the cut as thousands of other patients were also seeking help.

Mental health is in crisis. Another friend called distraught after his psychiatrist committed suicide. In the 9th Ward today a mentally ill man on a bicycle waved a knife, threw a shard of glass at a National Guardsman, then brandished a BB gun. They shot and killed him as he ran into a rotting 9th Ward home which may have been his. His uncle told reporters he was terrified of police.

And an immigrant laboror was just crushed under the Kenner home he was attempting to raise in preparation for storm season. He had spoken of his fear of the house falling on him.

Our fears are coming true. My paranoid phobia is that the world moves on.

President Bush’s new agreement is going to provide programs to help the poor, hundreds of millions of dollars for families to buy homes, a Navy hospital ship for free health care services all totaling $1.6 billion annually. “When you total all up the money that is spent, because of the generosity of our taxpayers, that’s $8.5 billion to programs that promote social justice,” including education and health, Bush said.

He was talking about Brazil.

We need that Navy hospital ship docked in New Orleans. And John Popper? I’m waiting for the police auction on your car.

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