NOLA rescue worker email #2

Via Ned Sublette, and attributed to a friend-of-a-friend rescue worker in New Orleans who wishes to remain anonymous:

I'm back in Baton Rouge, this time with all of my team. Sadly, we've had to pull out of New Orleans for now because things have gotten too dangerous.

Who would have thought that in a country like ours. not some third world place, mind you, that there would be massive amounts of people trying to inflict harm on the very people that are putting their own lives on hold to help other. It's unreal what we're seeing. The criminal looters (if that's even a strong enough word for them) have been shooting at the helicopters that are the only hope that the city has right now of saving more lives and thereby preventing many more deaths. I can tell you that there isn't a single member of the two teams I'm with that aren't ready to go back in, shooting and all, but the fear is from the higher-ups who can't risk losing the helicopters and the boats. I can't believe it Jon. people of roof tops and in attics will die tonight because sub-human thugs are shooting at the only people who can help anyone right now.

Your friend is normally right to question money that the Red Cross spends to supports itself. Right now, though, they are the only game in town. Give to them and give generously. Word is that the money they get in the next month will go directly to the shelters here in the south so that those running the shelters can buy food and water NOW. They get funds out faster than any other agency and RIGHT NOW is what matters.

If your friend is just really dead-set against giving to them, the Salvation Army is the next best thing. When you donate to them you can designate that you want the money to go to Katrina's victims. There will be much small charities that do really good work popping up in the coming weeks and months but the people down here need money now.

When things settle a bit and I can look into the smaller charities, I'll do some good research and let you know. For now, just give. give to anyone who will take it.

There are people here in Baton Rouge just handing over cash to the shelter operators and walking cash over to the office that New Orleans' mayor is working from while he can't be in his own city.

The news is on right now. Some of the team members are watching coverage for the first time since Sunday night. They're pretty fucking pissed off.

They haven't realized the lack of control that the big emergency operations people are dealing with. They follow orders of the local guys and just do the best they can to save people, save people, save people.

They are only just now seeing that once they risk their necks to save people, the next level of the system isn't in place yet and that the people have to start a whole new struggle to stay alive. Morale is getting low. These guys are tired; they've been working no-stop since we got here. They have mandatory rest breaks, but you don't really rest during them; you're too busy sharing stories and just looking around in disbelief. I can't tell you how many of these guys just come over to me at any given time that they're not in a boat or in the air, put their arms around me and cry.

There have been times on this journey I have hated being here because I can't be doing what these guys are doing, what I used to do, what I dreamed of and loved for so long. But that's not the feeling I have when I sit up against a cement wall, in filthy water, and a guy I've known for years cuddles up in me and sobs. I know that's not the way the public may want to think about their rescuers and their heroes, but that's how it is.

Swinging an axe and breaking into an attic to see if there's anyone there to save and finding a dead family of four instead will bring tears to even the most stoic of people.

Reader comment: Laura Quilter says, provides info about rates of donations going to programs for various groups & has a special Katrina-Relief-Orgs page. I didn't look to see who was the *most* efficient, but I did check a couple of groups I was concerned about.

– According to them, America's Second Harvest (ASH) is a foodbank and *98%* of funds donated go to program. Red Cross sends 91% to programs.

– We have chosen to donate through the Rainbow Fund — all the Rainbow Fund's donations go directly to America's Second Harvest. The Rainbow Fund is "a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and supportive heterosexual humanitarian service agency. Rainbow World Fund's mission is to promote LGBT philanthropy in the area of world humanitarian relief."

We are passing our donation thru Rainbow Fund for two reasons: (1) Louisiana recently passed an anti-same-sex-marriage constitutional amendment; and (2) in response to those religious fundamentalists who are trying to blame this flooding on queers, abortion providers, and New Orleans' 'sin'.