September 11, 2007

wake me up when zeptember ends


Something got me so fucking angry that I have to recant my desire to ignore the 9/11 anniversary: the Federal Government has now banned regular people from helping out when national disasters strike. I can't imagine anything stupider, less productive, unrealistic, cruel and downright goddamn contemptuous. Just when you think you've seen it all from these assholes.

Let me tell you something: if it weren't for the work of my sister Michelle and my wife Tessa on the nights of September 12-15, the main gathering area of firemen and paramedics at Ground Zero would have been NON-FUNCTIONAL. Impromptu lights were falling down, no water was being delivered to the actual crews, and as the saying goes, "there was no THERE there." Thinking on her feet, my sister basically reorganized the whole damn thing. Read her very short email from 9/13/01 here. And what was her training? Waitressing and acting.

Are you trying to tell me that the very same people who took FIVE DAYS to deliver a bottle of water to the Superdome after Katrina are now saying that you need special dispensation and a computer-scan badge to help neighbors dying by the score? It's like when they only bought 100,000 doses of Neumune, claiming you could get it by going to a hospital after a nuclear attack. What is wrong with these people?


They have no concept of what the world is like during an actual event - no clue of the immediate breakdown of normal channels. I can promise you this: in the event of a national emergency in your town, you will have ten contingency plans, and all ten will be laughably obsolete in a matter of seconds. An ID card with an embedded chip? And somebody will be on the ground at the tragedy, at a main entrance, with a working, electronic "chip decoder" that will determine if you're qualified to help a severely-burned little boy find his parents?

Jesus Christ, what happened to helping your fellow man? I urge all of you to listen to this podcast by This American Life six weeks after Katrina, especially Act 2, and then think about this new law. Go ahead and read Michelle's email from September 14, 2001 and tell her that she's not allowed to go to Ground Zero. Hell, read them all.

This act of uncharitable stupidity can only be one thing: a way to keep meddlesome lefties and Patagonia-wearin' bleedin'-hearts from observing what really happens during an emergency and telling anyone about it. This administration wants to keep the next terrorist attack (or natural disaster) a sanitized zone where no fault can be laid at their feet. Keep going to the mall, Americans. Keep buying your fucking shoes.

My "offhand" and "offensive" remark about disregarding September 11 as an anniversary doesn't come out of partisanship, mean-spiritedness or complacency. It comes out of necessity. The remembrance of that day only brings up two things to me: the naked, brazen political co-opting of America's grief by some of the worst people in the world... and the horrible realization that we have learned NOTHING from the actual event about how to take care of each other.

Victims of 9/11, their families, and those of us who wandered in the penumbra of that horror relive those moments plenty of times during the year, and speaking only for myself, the "anniversary" is an unwelcome redundancy. For some things, healing is forgetting.

Posted by Ian Williams at September 11, 2007 11:16 PM
Posted by: John Schultz at September 12, 2007 6:25 AM

"the government is not trying to discourage volunteers, but he thinks there should come a time, within a few days of a disaster, when civilians step back and let the professionals take control.

For reasons ranging from general safety to protection from lawsuits, construction and demolition companies want to see a disaster ID card program succeed."

Seems reasonable to me.

Posted by: salem at September 12, 2007 7:03 AM

Sounds reasonable, but there is nothing reasonable about thinking that the chaos surrounding Katrina and 9/11 is something that you can "get control of". Controlling the situation is impossible. FEMA needs to control themselves and and their execution first. This "establish control" paradigm is an illusion. They need to execute services within the context of chaos. I'm not saying that crowd control is not important, I'm just saying that they are crazy if they think that is their problem. Like the beaches of Normandy, sometimes it all comes down to two kids in a fox hole deciding to move forward one more time in the face of death.

Posted by: John Schultz at September 12, 2007 8:00 AM

I agree...but I think this speaks volumes about the efficiency or relevance of "big government". There is noting nimble or responsive about FEMA or any other federal agency. We either have to "roll it all up" and deal with situations like these OR decentralize and let states or some other smaller form of "government" affect more realistic changes. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

Posted by: Earl Cleveland at September 12, 2007 8:35 AM

Hell no, When something like this happens what we need is people with BALLS that will step up and take whatever actions are nessesary to help. I applauld those who did. How long will it take to mobilize the freakin CHECK-IN STAFF. Remember the water trucks that were stopped from getting into LA. Out in the country when a snow storm hits people with the pick-ups go down the road and clear a way, sure there's chain saw accidents, but Im sure the the old lady who's life was saved because the ambulance could get there is thankful. What is the right thing to do. Help Dammit, Help....

Posted by: Paul G at September 12, 2007 9:37 AM

Yeah, they're retarded.

I bet the millions they will spend on these cards/scanners/implementation could fend off the few actual lawsuits they would be liable for.

But beyond that, why not just setup a volunteer coordinator? Sure, volunteers can't dig through rubble with a fireman, I can understand that. Would it hurt if volunteers were assigned to pick up supplies a few blocks away and return them or do other civilian-able activities? No, it wouldn't.

I live in Los Angeles. When something happens to me, you all have my express permission to rescue me and I'd really appreciate it if you would.

Posted by: tregen at September 12, 2007 9:50 AM

Just another example of the infantalization of the USA. Amazing that folks who consider themselves conservative (ie, less government is better / take responsibility for your self) will stand for this type of big government crap. Remember the infamous Reagan quote..."I've always thought that the nine scariest words in the English Language were 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help"? Amazing that anyone supports these idiots in office.

Fascism often "seems reasonable" on paper.

Nevertheless, unless we are willing to take action, it's just all hot air. I'm guessing no one will turn off their TV over this.

Posted by: xuxE at September 12, 2007 10:15 AM

well I for one won't need any services because I still have my duct tape and plastic sheeting from the last emergency preparation instructions the gov't gave me.

Posted by: John Schultz at September 12, 2007 10:32 AM

So tell me....politics aside....what would you do? I agree with Salem that FEMA et all need to be prepared to operate within the context of chaos. That is what they are designed to do (or are supposed to do).

We denounce them as inefficient, incapable and incompetent. So when they take one step- just one step- to make it better, we jump all over them again.

Would you feel the same had this article not included the words "Bush" and "Schwarznegger" and instead included "Clinton" and "Byrd"?

Can you have a discussion without resorting to words like "facism" and "retarded"? Is that the best you can do?

Posted by: Steph Mineart at September 12, 2007 11:33 AM

The thing that mystifies me is why they don't educate everyone about how to act in the event of different types of emergencies - and I don't mean the laughable joke of I mean real advice on what to do and where to go and how to help. Sure, a website won't reach everyone, but it will reach a lot of people who think about this sort of thing, and maybe enough to make a difference.

Posted by: kjf at September 12, 2007 11:42 AM

i think you can get the training from that arabian horse group that brownie was the president of.

Posted by: Steph Mineart at September 12, 2007 12:19 PM

okay so it's been awhile since I visited They've definitely made some improvements.

And this is interesting, although I haven't had time to read more than the front page.

Posted by: tregen at September 12, 2007 2:41 PM

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, having its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Posted by: eric g. at September 12, 2007 4:42 PM

Michelle's e-mails are incredible. Simply amazing pieces of writing.

I sort of like the idea of turning Sept. 11 into some sort of service holiday. I'm not in love with the notion that we as Americans have to be told when to help people, but I think it would put a positive focus on the day and drive home the one message that our entire country did get from that day: that when awful things happen, the average citizen can be a hero just by being there to help in the even the smallest way.

Posted by: Salem at September 13, 2007 6:12 AM

I hate to get all "Deliverance" on y'all, but in rural appalachia, where I have a temporary visa, you might find the Federales in the same pile as the bad guys when the dust settles. Of course I'm waaaaaayyyyyy exagerating,but my neighbors are tough as nails and every damn one of them is a volunteer fireman or has been EMS or law enforcement at one time or another. I want those guys fully engaged if my town is flattened by a tornado or other catastrophic event.

Posted by: Alyson Peery at September 14, 2007 10:55 AM

They're just trying to prevent lawsuits and blame. I think they're going at the problem all wrong. It seems obvious to me that the guys in charge of these things -- Michael Brown, I'm talking to you -- are simply inadequate. They aren't capable, and in some cases aren't willing, to work within chaos. There are people whose skills and attitudes thrive and are helpful in chaos. So you either have to start hiring a different sort of person, or you need to be grateful for help.

Posted by: oliver at September 16, 2007 9:27 AM

It's a thousand points of private corporate and faith-based federally funded lights. Plus a make-work program for Blackwater. (see Chris Hedges, American Facists)

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