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Volume 71, Issue 12, Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Opinion

Rescue delay beneath contempt

Kalaiah Vaughn
Opinion Columnist

Having spent my early childhood in three different states and living in the slums in two, I developed a sense of fearlessness and became desensitized to being shocked. My fear was limited to my mother and God. Although I am not apathetic, little surprises me -- until Thursday night. Like a myriad of University of Houston students, I was there to cheer on my fellow Cougars at the first football game. After the game however, I could see that the New Orleans evacuees, not the football team, needed cheering. 

Right before my eyes, I saw a sight the inner city never prepared me for; I saw endless lines of people coming into Reliant Stadium with absolutely nothing. There were elderly people being wheeled in on dilapidated wheelchairs, shirtless men carrying trash bags of their belongings, pregnant women waddling painstakingly and barefoot children in various stages of undress following behind. In an effort to disguise my shock, I blinked back tears and made my way to the parking lot.

On Sunday, my sister and I volunteered at three different hotels housing evacuees. Our church had a school bus filled with hot plates and clothing. At these hotels, I talked with the stricken people. 

They told me how they waited three days for help to come, how their babies had to wear the same diapers for days and how they had not eaten. 

My sister and I then went to Reliant Stadium. Because of heavy security, we had to pull into a store parking lot to deliver food. It was there that I met Nadia and her family. Nadia had escaped the deathly waters of Katrina by sheer grace. She told me how she, too, had waded through the murky, squalid water and then floated on a refrigerator when the water became too high to tread. Her sister showed me a pus-filled gash on her leg and bruises that colored her limbs. Nadia went on to tell me of the uninhabitable Superdome, with its urine stained floor, decomposing corpses, absent plumbing and no food or water. For three days, they had waited for the promised help to come. 

My sister and I then offered to take these women to a nearby grocery store to purchase items they needed. We purchased everything from clothing hampers to combs to lip balm. We prayed with Nadia and her family before they went back to Reliant. 

That night, I wept for New Orleans. I had tears of sympathy and tears of anger. I was sympathetic for the people surrounded by nothingness, and I was angry that our president waited three days before he decided these people needed help. 

How, in the name of humanity, can anyone watch people die for days before deciding to help? I wonder how much longer the people would have waited if the mayor of New Orleans had not blasted the government for its sluggish response? Better yet, what if newspapers around the world had not chastised the United States for its untimely response, calling it a "national disgrace"? Then, Bush had the audacity to threaten to arrest looters; these people were not looting but stealing to survive because he procrastinated in helping them.

Although the majority of evacuees are poor and black, a stereotyped and marginalized group in society, they are still Americans. Even more so, they are still people. Because of this, they should not have had to wait. 

Vaughn, an opinion columnist for The Daily Cougar, 
can be reached via dccampus@mail.uh.edu.

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