The Lady Speaks

Words aren’t enough

There aren't any words to describe the emotions flooding my body. Rage and despair are twisting and twirling throughout, and all I want to do is scream. And I'm not from New Orleans; I've never even been to New Orleans.

I'm just your average American who cannot believe – even 8 months later – that this is what America has become: a country receiving foreign aid after a botched disaster response that killed many and left many homeless and jobless.

Two things:

FEMA – the Futile Emergency Management Agency – is closing its New Orleans office.

From Associated Press:

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is closing its long-term recovery office in New Orleans, claiming local officials failed to meet their planning obligations after Hurricane Katrina.

The office is responsible for helping the city devise a blueprint to rebuild destroyed houses, schools and neighborhoods.

[snip]

City officials were angered by the move, saying New Orleans is again being abandoned by the federal government. Deputy Mayor Greg Meffert said the FEMA office and the city worked in tandem initially but had a falling out over funding earlier this spring.

“We have a city that has an enormous planning need, and you need planners. To date, we haven’t gotten any monetary support to bring in planners,” Meffert said.

Meanwhile, Qatar – which pledged $100 million to the recovery effort, has announced its distribution of $60 million dollars of that.
Also from the Associated Press:

The oil-rich Persian Gulf nation Qatar has decided on the distribution of about $60 million of a $100 million gift announced last September for victims of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

The beneficiaries include $22 million for Habitat for Humanity to build 293 homes in the three states; $12.5 million to expand the facilities of Xavier University’s college of pharmacy; $10 million for scholarships at Tulane University for students who are Katrina victims; $5 million for scholarships for Katrina victims at Xavier University; and $3.3 million for a student relief fund at Louisiana State University.

Also, according to Mike Holtzman, a spokesman for the Qatar embassy, $5 million will be used to establish a Qatar Cares fund at Chidren’s hospital in New Orleans; another $351,651 for repair and renovation of clinics at the hospital; and $3 million for the March of Dimes to purchase and equip vans.

[snip]

“It is our duty to help people who were hurt,” said Nasser Bin Hamad al-Khalifa, Qatar’s ambassador to the United States. “Today’s globalization is making this one world and if any tragedy takes place we are all aware of it.”

[snip]

Also, Saudi Arabia, which pledged $100 million, intends to contribute its donations directly to the area without going through the U.S. government, said a U.S. official who could not be identified because she was not assigned to make such announcements. [emphasis mine]

Among the major donations received were nearly $100 million from the United Arab Emirates; $5 million from Bahrain, $5 million from China; $3.8 million from South Korea; $2 million from Taiwan; $1 million from Brunei; and $1 million from Nigeria.

How much has our government pledged? And, how much of that has actually been received and put to work helping residents of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana?! Meanwhile, FEMA is leaving?!

Oh. my. dear. freaking. god! It's not that foreign governments are giving us money, because heaven knows it's needed. It's that we need it because our own government is broke and incompetent.

 

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May 2, 2006 Posted by | Bush, Congress, FEMA, Government, Hurricane Katrina, White House | 10 Comments

Eileen Collins leaving NASA

Yesterday, it was announced that Eileen Collins would be leaving NASA after 16 years, in order to spend more time with family.

From the Associated Press:

Having flown in space four times, Collins said, “We have many astronauts in this office who haven’t even flown one flight. It’s time for me to step aside and give the young guys a chance to fly.”

The 49-year-old astronaut said Monday that she will leave the U.S. space agency in the next week or two and plans to devote several months to her family.

[snip]

Collins had considered leaving the space agency last year after she fearlessly led NASA’s harrowing first flight in space since the Columbia disaster in 2003. But the death of her mother last December, followed by her father’s sudden death in a traffic accident earlier this year, forced her to push back her departure date so she could finish tying up loose ends from last summer’s mission.

“I had been gone from my family and I sort of want to make it up to them this summer and spend a good summer with my family,” said Collins, the mother of a 10-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son. Her husband is former Air Force pilot Pat Youngs, who flies for Delta Air Lines.

Col. Eileen Collins (USAF-Ret.) is a major source of inspiration for girls and young women throughout the US, and a huge source of hometown pride in Elmira NY – just 20 miles west of me.

Her celebrity as the first female shuttle pilot in 1995 (on Discovery) followed by becoming the first female shuttle commander in 1999 (Columbia) sparked many young girls’ interest in science and mathematics. And in other fields they might never have considered because ‘girls can’t do that.’

That sentence is one of those I absolutely detest. It’s right up there with ‘We need to talk.” and “Mom, don’t get mad.”

In 1976, when I was in first grade, I remember telling a teacher I wanted to be a race-car driver when I grew up. Her words are still imprinted on my soul: “Girls can’t do that! Wouldn’t you rather have a fun job, like secretary and then get married?”

I was crushed, completely heartbroken. I didn’t want to be no dumb secretary (no offense!) I wanted to drive fast like the guys my dad watched on TV! Six years old, and my dreams were shattered.

Even though, the very next year, Janet Guthrie became the first woman to race in the Daytona 500, that experience stayed with me, and when Sally Ride became the first American woman in space, I felt like screaming with joy.

Women have done many incredible things in the 30 years since I was told I couldn’t be a race-car driver. Many of them previously thought to be ‘man-only’ territory. From the first woman astronaut to the first female commander of the space shuttle to the first female National Security Advisor. From the first female racer in the Daytona 500 to the formation of the Association of Women Industrial Designers. And much, much more! Politics, industry, film – women are everywhere!

Women are still under-represented in many areas, such as racing and space, but they are there. The female pioneers in every field fought against tremendous odds and worked – not two – but three and four times harder than any man to achieve the same goals, fighting discrimination and harassment every step of the way to gain the same respect.

I’ve raised my children, and especially my daughter, to believe that anything they dream is possible if they are willing to work hard enough for it. Dreams don’t care if you’re male or female, black or white or brown, rich or poor. What matters is the effort you put into it.

May 2, 2006 Posted by | Children, Inspiration, Women | Leave a comment

Jenn’s Sunday Sermon

This post was originally scheduled for Sunday, but WordPress hates me. 🙂 Due to some glitch, I wasn't able write posts or edit drafts, (Thanks Podz for the fix!) but it's working again, so back to the show!

* and ** denote changes made since this was posted. Changes are italicized.

Sunday:

I planned to write about something entirely different this morning, but that was before my brother's fire pager went off around 2am and before middle-of-the-night research revealed that this week just past was 'National Volunteers Week'.

So, instead, I'm going to talk about volunteerism, specifically volunteer firefighters.

I live in a rural area, and every single fire company in the county is run and crewed by volunteers. I've been around volunteer firefighters for a long time. I started dating a guy who was a volunteer firefighter, and eventually married him. Literally in the middle of our vows, fire pagers started going off. Before we married or had kids, I'd ride along on calls, helping the auxillary pass out donuts and coffee, sandwiches and milk. Later, after the kids were born, I stayed at home, listening to the scanner for that one voice, and unable to sleep until I heard the magic words, "Returning to station."

You live with the fear that this call could take the life of one you love, and – for me – the answer was to stay awake until I knew he was safe.

After we divorced, I packed away the scanner, and learned to enjoy sleeping through the night for months at a time. Then, my brother – who is 11 years younger – went and joined his local fire company. Even though I wasn't listening to a scanner, I worried.

Now however, I've pulled the scanner out of the box in basement, re-programmed it to the new high-band frequencies, and – just last night – remembered all those old fears. Only, they're magnified about 100-fold because my sixteen-year-old son is a junior firefighter, responding to calls with his dad.

Patt - Fire School
One thing overrides that fear, and that is my pride.

Volunteer firefighters and volunteer EMS crews don't respond just to fires and motor vehicle accidents. Many fire companies also do search-and-rescue or search-and-recovery missions, as well as rope and water rescues. The volunteers who staff those companies attend training classes – usually on their own dime – to meet state certification requirements, hold company-wide training sessions and county-wide major disaster drills. They and their auxillaries hold bake sales and carnivals to raise money for equipment and apparatus.* (Note: after receiving several emails, I wanted to clarify this. Equipment mean things like hoses, spanner wrenches, axes, and pike poles that are carried on apparatus, which means the trucks.)

When you call 911 in Bradford County** (or any other county with volunteer emergency services), the people responding are coming from their homes, their workplaces, their houses of worship, their family events. They are leaving their loved ones to come to your aid.

They have seen it all, from a teenager with head injuries who crashed on an icy road to a burned toddler who was trapped in her burning home. From the senior citizen having a stroke to the drunk driver who slammed into a minivan carrying family of four. From the small grass fire to businesses ablaze in the downtown.

They do it all, at all hours of the day and night, for no pay and no reward other than an occasional, incredibly rare, thank-you. And they do it knowing that each call could be their last.

So, the next time you're in Pennsylvania and see a blue light flickering in your rearview mirror, pull as far to the right as possible and allow that volunteer firefighter or EMT to pass. It's a courtesy, but a much-appreciated one, especially for the poor souls waiting for the aid that volunteer will bring.

And remember, next time, it could be you waiting anxiously for the fire department or the ambulance to arrive.

In closing:

 

I Wish You Could — Unknown
I wish you could

see the sadness of a business-man
as his livelihood goes up in flames,
or that family returning home,
only to find their house and belongings
damaged or destroyed.

I wish you could
know what it is like to search
a burning bedroom for trapped children,
flames rolling above your head,
your palms and knees burning as you crawl,
the floor sagging under your weight
as the kitchen beneath you burns.

I wish you could
comprehend a wife’s horror at 3 a.m.
as I check her husband of 40 years for a pulse and find none.
I start CPR anyway, hoping to bring him back,
knowing intuitively that it is too late.
But wanting his wife and family to know
everything possible was done.

I wish you knew
the unique smell of burning insulation,
the taste of soot filled mucus,
the feeling of intense heat through your turnout gear,
the sound of flames crackling,
the eeriness of being able to see absolutely nothing in dense smoke ~
sensations that I have become too familiar with.

I wish you could
understand how it feels to go to work in the morning
after having spent most of the night,
hot and soaking wet at a multiple alarm fire.

I wish you could
read my mind as I respond to a building fire.
“Is this a false alarm or a working, breathing fire?
How is the building constructed? What hazards await me?
Is anyone trapped?
Or to an EMS call, “What is wrong with the patient?”
Is it minor or life threatening? Is the caller really in distress
or is he or she waiting for us with a 2×4 or a gun?

I wish you could
be in the emergency room as a doctor
pronounces dead the beautiful five-year-old girl that
I tried to save during the past 25 minutes.
Who will never go on her first date
or say the words “I love you, Mommy” again.

I wish you could
know the frustration I feel in the cab engine,
the driver with his foot pressing down hard on the pedal,
my arm tugging again and again at the air horn chain,
as you fail to yield the right of way at an intersection or in traffic.
When you need us, however, your first comment upon our arrival will be,
“It took you forever to get here!”

I wish you could
know my thoughts as I help extricate a girl of teenage years
from the mangled remains of her automobile.
“What if this was my sister, my girlfriend, or a friend?
What were her parents’ reaction going to be when they opened the door
to find a police officer with hat in hand?

I wish you could
know how it feels to walk in the back door
and greet my parents and family,
not having the heart to tell them that
I nearly did not come back
from the last call I was on.

I wish you could
feel the hurt
as people verbally, and sometime physically,
abuse us or belittle what I do,
or as they express their attitudes of
“It will never happen to me.”

I wish you could
know
the brotherhood and self-satisfaction
of helping save a life,
or preserving someone’s property,
of being there in time of crisis,
or creating order from total chaos.

I wish you could
understand what it feels like
to have a little boy tugging at your arm
and asking. "Is Mommy okay?"
Not even being able to look in his eyes
without tears from your own
and not knowing what to say.
Or to hold back a long-time friend
who watches his buddy having rescue breathing done on him
as they take him away in the ambulance.
You know all along he did not have his seat belt on
~ Sensations I am too familiar with.

Unless you have lived with this kind of life,
you will probably never truly understand or appreciate
who I am, we are, or what our job really means to us

……I WISH YOU COULD.

May 2, 2006 Posted by | EMS, Firefighters, Pennsylvania, Volunteers | 3 Comments