A former Wilmington physician writes from New Orleans
Aug. 31, 2005
This is a dispatch from New Orleans , a pathologist
who recently moved from Wilmington:
Thanks to all of you who have sent your notes of concern and your prayers. I
am writing this note on Tuesday at 2 p.m.. I wanted to update all of you as
to the situation here. I don't know how much information you are getting but
I am certain it is more than we are getting. Be advised that almost
everything I am telling you is from direct observation or rumor from
reasonable sources. They are allowing limited internet access, so I hope to
send this dispatch today.
Personally, my family and I are fine. My family is safe in Jackson, Miss.,
and I am now a temporary resident of the Ritz Carleton Hotel in New Orleans.
I figured if it was my time to go, I wanted to go in a place with a good
wine list. In addition, this hotel is in a very old building on Canal Street
that could and did sustain little damage. Many of the other hotels sustained
significant loss of windows, and we expect that many of the guests may be
Things were obviously bad yesterday, but they are much worse today.
Overnight the water arrived. Now Canal Street (true to its origins) is
indeed a canal. The first floor of all downtown buildings is underwater. I
have heard that Charity Hospital and Tulane are limited in their ability to
care for patients because of water. Ochsner is the only hospital that
remains fully functional. However, I spoke with them today and they too are
on generator and losing food and water fast.
The city now has no clean water, no sewerage system, no electricity, and no
real communications. Bodies are still being recovered floating in the
floods. We are worried about a cholera epidemic. Even the police are without
effective communications. We have a group of armed police here with us at
the hotel that is admirably trying to exert some local law enforcement. This
is tough because looting is now rampant. Most of it is not malicious
looting. These are poor and desperate people with no housing and no medical
care and no food or water trying to take care of themselves and their
families. Unfortunately, the people are armed and dangerous. We hear
gunshots frequently. Most of Canal street is occupied by armed looters who
have a low threshold for discharging their weapons. We hear gunshots
frequently. The looters are using makeshift boats made of pieces of
styrofoam to access. We are still waiting for a significant national guard
The health care situation here has dramatically worsened overnight. Many
people in the hotel are elderly and small children. Many other guests have
unusual diseases. ... There are (Infectious Disease) physicians in at this
hotel attending an HIV confection. We have commandeered the world famous
French Quarter Bar to turn into an makeshift clinic. There is a team of
about seven doctors and PAs and pharmacists. We anticipate that this will be
the major medical facility in the central business district and French
Our biggest adventure today was raiding the Walgreens on Canal under police
escort. The pharmacy was dark and full of water. We basically scooped the
entire drug sets into garbage bags and removed them. All under police
escort. The looters had to be held back at gunpoint. After a dose of
prophylactic Cipro I hope to be fine.
In all we are faring well. We have set up a hospital in the French
Quarter bar in the hotel, and will start admitting patients today. Many will
be from the hotel, but many will not. We are anticipating dealing with
multiple medical problems, medications and acute injuries. Infection and
perhaps even cholera are anticipated major problems. Food and water
shortages are imminent.
The biggest question to all of us is where the National Guard is. We hear
jet fighters and helicopters, but no real armed presence, and hence the
rampant looting. There is no Red Cross and no Salvation Army.
In a sort of cliché way, this is an edifying experience. One is rapidly
focused away from the transient and material to the bare necessities of
life. It has been challenging to me to learn how to be a primary care
physician. We are under martial law so return to our homes is impossible. I
don't know how long it will be and this is my greatest fear. Despite it all,
this is a soul-edifying experience. The greatest pain is to think about the
loss and how long the rebuild will take and the horror of so many dead
PLEASE SEND THIS DISPATCH TO ALL YOU THINK MAY BE INTERESTED IN A DISPATCH from the front. I will send more according to your interest. Hopefully their collective prayers will be answered. By the way, suture packs, sterile gloves and stethoscopes will be needed as the Ritz turns into a MASH.
News From Jehovahs Witnesses--
A number of you have asked about the friends in the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina ---
Many of our brothers and sisters in the areas worst affected by the hurricane have gone to Houston, Texas. Many of the friends are coming to the brothers in desperate conditions. Many are financially broke and have no place to go home to. A sizable number were at conventions this past weekend in Baton Rouge, La and other areas when the evacuation order began and had just enough funds to get them through the convention. They could not even go back to their homes to prepare in any way. The situation is very serious as you no doubt have seen from reports on the news.
The problem is since this is such a recent event, coordination of the efforts has been difficult, because of not being able to find where these brothers and sisters are. Basic infrastructure is down. Phone service -- cell and land line -- into the disaster areas are virtually non-existent, though some can phone out. So the brothers in Houston have set up phone hotlines for this purpose so that they can be reached. They would like anyone who is housing any of the friends from disaster areas, or the refugee brothers and sisters themselves to contact them at the hotline numbers below.
Please DO NOT call these numbers unless you fall into one of the above categories.
This comes from the Houston City Overseer:
If you come to know of refugee brothers or sisters, we would like the refugee to call 713-453-0257 or 832-725-8952, so we can account for them.
8/30/05 GREATER HOUSTON AREA HURRICANE ROOMING EFFORT-UPDATE
Key Message/Branch: The Branch has asked us to help locate the New Orleans and other displaced brothers and offer what rooming assistance we can. They are spread everywhere. If you know of someone displaced by the hurricane, they should call the Rooming HQ:
713-453-0257 so that we can take their information, and try to be of assistance.
Headquarters: Jacinto City Kingdom Hall- 713-453-0257; Alternate: 832-725-8952
Address: 1725 Kerbey, Houston, Tx 77029. (From I-10 East, exit Holland, south on Holland about ½ mile, right on Lane St, KH is Lane @ Kerbey).
Coordinator: Lon Squyres 832-725-8954
Assistants: Ritch Pond 281-341-0707
Andy Trawick 713-419-2560
Roy Eby 281-660-5354
John Eppolito 281-469-9309
Brief Overview: The City Overseer of New Orleans is now in Houston and working with us. (He also just found out that his house has 12 of water in it, and his sons house has 6). Some 24 congregations from New Orleans, totaling about 2,300 publishers were given a mandatory evacuation early Sunday morning. The friends had to rush out of town, only taking what they could carry. For the most part, these friends are spread all over and as of today, we dont know where most of them are, but we are looking for them. Their New Orleans cell phones will not accept inbound phone calls, due failure at the cell HQ. The N.O. Spanish friends were at their District Convention in Beaumont, and could not return back to New Orleans. The Houston hotels/motels were booked by 9:00 AM Sunday morning. Word spread among the Houston/Beaumont area congregations, and some 800 homes were generously volunteered by Sunday night. (Gal. 6:10).
Thank you brothers-more to updates to come.
This comes from a sister in Houston:
To those of you that have heard about the big storm, Katrina, in the Gulf. Here in Houston, TX, we have Brothers and Sisters monitoring calls from the states effected, and those that came here already for safety. They will be on the phones for twenty-four hours a day until everyone is taken care of.
Many thousands there are here in Houston alone, NOW, needing a place to stay. For how long? We do not know, as most have absolutely NOTHING to return home to. So, [like many,] I have opened my home to whom ever, as we always do. For now, most are sleeping in the Kingdom Halls, or where ever they can. No, I do not know them personally, other than they are Witnesses, but I can trust them with my life, and anything else. So they are welcome.
I already have some house guests , but I still have some blow up beds and pillows I keep for just such needs, that they can use in the living room, and children, or young people on the floor. That storm was the worse the Gulf has had.
I just thought I would let you in on some news that is not publicized or noted by the world. There are many others that could not make it out, and those that will be in even greater need, and have no one! Things will be shipped into them, and the Witnesses are usually one of the very first to arrive, because we are ready to roll at a moments notice!
Report From Hollywood, Florida where Katrina first Land in the USA
I am way behind on my email after being with no electricity for two days here. Some are still without power, but the vast majority has been restored. Katrina came ashore here on Thursday afternoon, the eye passing just a few miles south of my home in Hollywood and moving southwest from there across Miami-Dade county.
Most everyone in my congregation was without power for at least two days, some for up to four days. It sure is miserable trying to sleep without air conditioning when the low at night is 80F! Nevertheless, we're all happy that we are alive and actually still have our personal property. Compared to some, we did good through this one.
I have not heard anything about our brothers in South Miami-Dade county, but I'm sure some of them have been affected by the flooding because it was so widespread. Most likely they are being taken care of by local congregations. Many neighborhoods there still have water in their homes and are now beginning to assess the damage. Government response has been slow in that area.
That's the latest from South Florida. I have not heard anything official from the Organization about the effects of Katrina on the friends here or in the Gulf coast area of the U.S. I'm sure
information will begin flowing to the congregations this week. My guess is that friends in the surrounding areas will be asked to open their homes to those left homeless!
Stay well everyone,
##@#@##@ Beach Congregation