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Sunday, September 11, 2005

Can You Think About it Yet? Really?

Billmon's taking a break. I don't blame him. After reading the story of a rescue worker who came across the body of a man who desperately tried to stick a pipe up through a grate to keep from drowning to no avail in his last moments of life, the human tragedy of the problem just overwhelmed Billmon and he had to take some time out to grieve.

I'm not there yet. I'm still frightened, for myself and my dogs. As someone who splits her time between Two Areas Most Likely To -- Los Angeles and the Oregon coast -- all I can think about is, what if it were me? Anyone taking comfort in the fact that there was 48 hour notice and that middle class people with cars could get themselves out are living in a fool's paradise. Earthquakes don't give much advance notice, nor generally do bombs, and in any case the emergency management system has shown itself to be nothing if not totally FUBAR this week.

As Pudentilla said so well at Skippy this week: "we recommend you review your personal emergency kit. Check battery supplies, etc. because, what awol has spent the last week demonstrating, is that when osama punks him again, we are all on our own."

I'm sure my pleas to people this week to help the animals were motivated by a sense of self-preservation. It was nearly two weeks after the storm hit before they finally began to evacuate people who would not leave their pets behind (which would most certainly be me), and then only because people began hounding media outlets and FEMA with demands that they do something (and thanks to everyone who participated, BTW.)

I'm left no more comforted by RJ Eskow's investigation into who, exactly, is in charge of FEMA in Los Angeles, a city that -- if you had to wager on the likelihood of some sort of disaster hitting in the nearby future, be it man-made or natural -- would probably come out #1 on anyone's list.

There is no head of FEMA for the region that includes Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego. And there hasn't been one for a year.

There is an "acting" director named Karen Armes:
armes is a career government employee, not a crony, but until 2000 her entire career seems to have spent in budgeting and accounting (with, as jill points out, an undergrad degree in recreation.) her appearance on la's ken and john show (listen here) is a classic case of government apologism, defending fema's catastrophic behavior in new orleans and refusing to promise action during a california earthquake in less than 72 hours. Her interviewers ain't buyin' it, as you can hear.
Feeling better yet?

For right now, I can't think about the old people drowning in the nursing home, people with Alzheimers or people in hospital beds abandoned by their caregivers who saw the water rush in and knew they were doomed. I mean I think about it, I think about it a lot -- but for now I am still one who has to hold them at emotional distance. I can't stop screaming and yelling and being part of the general din hollering for change, because -- well, right now, I just can't.

But we wish Billmon all the best, and hope his vacation gives him and others like him who have already allowed that pain inside the opportunity to heal.