The River

Monday, September 12, 2005

"We Went into the Mall and Began 'Looting'":
A Letter on Race, Class, and Surviving the Hurricane


I think on Friday the helicopters began to arrive dropping water and MRE rations in the parking lot in front of us. It was the first food and water ever to arrive -- three days after the hurricane. And it was just tossed from the helicopter for people to run after and gather. The old and the sick had nothing. Again, no one knew what was happening. Fires were burning all around. Everyone was desperate and frightened. Everyone was just trying to survive. And all, other than us tourists, were there because they had been completely wiped out -- they had lost their homes and every possession and had young kids and elderly parents to feed.

As the helicopters arrived, we also ran down and gathered what we could. We began to survive on the army rations. Ernesto and I became friendly with the man who had given the speech chastising our group. He invited me to go with him to the Convention Center and distribute whatever Army rations we could pick up from the next helicopter to the disabled there since they had no way to get rations. We gathered about thirty meals out of the next drop. (The drops were scandalous -- throwing food and water out of a hovering helicopter -- people scrambling for food to survive. Reduced to animals foraging -- when the copters could have landed, imposed order with guards, and distributed food with some respect and humanity)

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