Friday, September 30, 2005

Katrina Hero

James Peters, 58, Pearlington, Mississippi.

The storm raged, and while federal officials vacationed, or shopped, James Peters drove his boat through the floodwaters and rain. While FEMA officials and local officials faxed each other permission slips, James Peters used that boat to pick up neighbors and family members trapped on roofs and in trees. While the media flogged video of reporters standing in sideways rain, James Peters saved thirteen American lives in Pearlington, Mississippi.

And while politicians gave endless press conferences, and FEMA gazed at its navel, and the media looped helicopter shots of looters, and bloggers debated about parked school buses in satellite photos, James Peters quietly stood next to his boat, in his front yard, and said "I don't know, Sir, I just felt something working through me."


Anonymous said...

I think you are doing a wonderful job of telling the important story of human suffering and government neglect here. But I think we should remember that the government is not the enemy: the present administration is. I believe they want to use this and other incidents to alienate people, to give them a distaste for governmental affairs, in order to drive them away from the voting booths because poor people tend to vote for liberal candidates. This would not have happened under FDR or Kennedy, and we have to believe in and change our government through the electoral process.

Todd Vodka

Jeannie H. said...

If you keep calling the present administration the "enemy," perhaps it will send the aid, little though it is, back home to Washington. I know quite a few six-figure income earners completely turned off by that attitude who have chosen not to give to this disaster. If one is doling out aid to people constantly criticising, it won't take much time before the aid-giver moves on to the line saying, "THANK YOU." You mean well, but you're not helping matters. Send a box of socks.

What makes these photos so especially compelling, IMHO, is that they capture the true essence of the Gulf Coast states. I lived in New Orleans for many years, and the area is filled with self-efficiency, scoffing at government aid in lieu of a strong back, and the willingness to live in abject poverty or "under the table" before accepting any kind of handout. That's what makes these people so precious to our nation, such role models to the spirit of America. To see them brought down by this act of Nature is a test of all of our resolve.

I blame the local governments who KNEW the dangers, who KNEW what needed to be done, who have been profiting for years off of Washington aid packages to help the situation, and who are now scattered like ants looking for their hills.

And poor people DON'T tend to vote for liberal candidates. They tend to be suspicious of government motives; they hate the interference that comes along with "help" and Big Government. The forms, the intrusion, the pointed questions. Otherwise, the South would not be filled with red states.

Anonymous said...

"I know quite a few six-figure income earners completely turned off by that attitude who have chosen not to give to this disaster"

Because they are certain everyone has that attitude, and there's no reason for anyone to be whining about having to wait three or four weeks in order to file your very first claim with FEMA, before you even get to tangle with their infamous 800 number.

I'd ask them to spend a month with no power, no job, no money, no water, no showers ... and see how long it takes them to whine about their loss. I'd tell them to take their six figure income and condescending attitude ... and stuff it.

Amanda said...

I'm sorry but FUCK the "six figure earners" who are "turned off" by criticism of the present administration. I'd suggest those wonderful benefactors are simply using that as a lame, flimsy excuse to justify their selfishness and greed.

Honestly, they can't part with 1/2 a percent of your "six figures" to help people who literally have NOTHING? That's not about criticism of the government. That's a lack of empathy for the tragedy of what's happening to people right now.

And, Jeannie, thank you so much for your insight about the people of the Gulf Coast. I'm sick to death of hearing people paint them as a bunch of government assistance junkies.

Amanda said...

sorry should be "their six figures"

Steve said...

Jeanie & Anonymous,
Despite what you may think, the current admin DID fail the people of Mississippi, as well as the people of Louisiana and Alabama. Whether or not it's because inept democrats or aloof republicans is a moot point.

What IS relevant however, is that these people, a month later are still living in primitive conditions, waiting for help from a government which seems to be impotent to do anything aside from making promises which have almost immediately been broken. How can they be construed as anything else but "the enemy"?

The fact that you know people with "six figure incomes" who chose not to help these poor people is nothing more than a testament that helps perpetuate the stereotype of avarice and rapaciousness that the upper middle class and upper class ecehlons of our society have come to be indentified with. BTW, I know people with six figure incomes who agree that the government has bumblef*&ked their way thru this.

Moreover, were not talking about New Orleans, or how the New Orleans government botched things up, were talking about a very small town in Mississippi that has been largely ignored, and has not received the aid it desperately needs.

If you want to debate who did (or didnt)do this that or the other thing in N.O., I suggest you mosey on over to Chucks Gumbo pages

What Clayton is doing is right on the money.

josefek said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kat said...

To all those 'six figure' folks that are upset at those that are upset about the lack of aid that they have recieved and the threat of taking their aid to someone that says 'thanks for the help' I have to say that I'm so pissed off at them. It's not about getting a thanks in return for your help, it's just about helping. It's like these celebrities that give large sums of money to help, that's great and all, but some of them seem like they are just doing it to hear how wonderful they are and get a nice pat on the back for giving the money when all they really wanted was the publicity. There are normal, every day people out there giving a larger percentage of their paycheck then most of these celebrities and they don't get a personal thanks and they aren't looking for one. They just want to help. I've seen a single mother of 2 (one of them being a disabled child) that is earning minimum wage give almost $100 to Katrina aid. She only earns $1000 a month and from that she has to pay for rent, food, medication and all the other bills that come with living. That $100 was the only money she'd saved, to her it was like a million. She gave it with a smile and hoped that it would help someone. She knows she'll never be thanked for it, and she's more than fine with it. She'd never even expect it.

Anonymous said...

clayton -

we're all thinking of you, your family and all the strong people of the gulf coast. i've rallied as many people as i could to your cause and hopefully some of the items will start to trickle in. i went so far as to send your last post asking for needed items to everyone at my company. guess what happened. i got in trouble. ha ha. if that's what i'm in trouble for... so be it.

on a side note... all the folks squabbling over who's fault it is... STOP IT. focus your finger pointing energy on helping in what ever little way you can. the people on the ground, suffering, don't give crap about all that.
there will be time at the pearly gates to sort all that out.

Chuck said...

I don't think any of us know what we're talking about unless we were, or are, there.

You've got conservative wacko's blindly pointing fingers at local leadership, and liberal nuts screaming accusations of racism and total government neglect.

Sure, if we pay a third of our income to the government, they should at least be able to drop water bottles on us from a helicopter when we gather by the thousands at a civic center. Thats about the only thing I'm convinced of.

The rest is pretty hazy.

aletta said...

Don't stop, images have impact beyond words. Those who merely listen to standard sources will not grasp the real tragedy and the desperate need for just the basics.

How horrifying is it that anyone could donate a pair of joggers with skid marks, wha pathertic perversion of the notion of charity is that? Whate were they thinking?

The real tragedy is that blame is more important than kindness. Would it kill Fruit of the Loom to send clean undies for everyone.

If the poor don't get back on their feet, who will they tax to death or use for back breaking cheap labour?

Please keep going and keep updating the real sory is hard to come by, and it is appreciated.


thatfarmgirl said...

Argh. There is nothing more frustrating than bickering in the middle of a damned crisis. I think it has less to do with anyone being the "enemy" and more to do with people in charge being completely and without question "inept." On that I think we will all agree. Focus your energy on helping. All the fingerpointing and naysaying in the world is not going to change how poorly this has or will continue to be handled. What will change it is people like YOU and ME doing what we can - no matter how little or how much - to help those who need our help.

Jeannie H. said...

Um, at the risk of continuing negativity, can we assign some blame here to the media? If I see another loop of the flood in New Orleans when some media yokel refers to Katrina, I think I'll scream. They wanted a story so badly in this all that they concentrated on the same nauseating thing day after day - the bodies, the smells, the choppers, the convention center, the superdome, etc. etc.

I met a woman today buying supplies for a local small business who was sending a truck to a small town in Mississippi. It seems the couple who ran the small business just drove a truck up with supplies last week to a small town that looked pretty devastated. The people in that town asked them if they were from the Red Cross, since the Red Cross hadn't shown up yet. Nope, just average joes. Unbelievable. So this couple is going to keep going up as often as possible. They said the dogs left behind were dying of hunger and were stacked by the side of the road. Just one indicator of how pathetic the situation had become.

Can the media give us "average joes" a list of small towns that need help? No, they can't. Why? Because small towns don't buy pricey advertising like the Red Cross. It's not worth their airtime, it's just not blood and gore, what the media thinks the people want to see.

Anonymous said...

I live in a rural town NE of Pensacola, Milton FL. After Ivan tore through last year, and again after Dennis this year, it was the young "James Peters" of our community that we first saw. These young men and women - teenagers - were on their ATV's with chain saws clearing roads and pulling people out of broken houses before the winds even died down. When the supplies arrived, they were filling cars in that miles long line with ice, MRE's, cans of bug spray and tarps. They delivered to some who were unable to drive to the distribution point. These are the heroes of any community, who's mottos are "Ya just do what ya gotta do when it's gotta be done." I understand that Ivan and Dennis were mere dress rehearsals for the horror of Katrina, but the celebration of heroism has become an everyday celebration for me. Now, everytime I see one of these heroes my heart does a little celebration dance and it lifts me up. Thank you for keeping it alive - again and always - Matt and Woody Baker, Loren and Marshal Borja, Corina Gray, Matt Sutton and Stephen Hyde (my sons) and now, James Peters. You are what makes the difference between a "community" and a "neighborhood." Patti Hyde.

Ryan Mac said...

I don't know if I have ever seen anything this real. Simply amazing.

Angelbee said...

This is a wonderful blog and it should continue. People need to see this and other images to understand alittle more about whats going on. But with understanding comes ACTION. We cannot just look at these images and read your stories and captions and feel bad, we have to DO something about it. Right now we need to just help OUR FELLOW AMERICANS in any way that we can and give material things as well as comfort to these american citizens. We can't forget the emotional aspect of things as well, we have to offer hugs, smiles, kind words of consolement and help. Then after we have helped them we can improve the situation. Wherever the improvement needs to be made. We need empathy.

CJ said...

Jeannie H said: Can the media give us "average joes" a list of small towns that need help?

Go to Google Maps. Look at the three coastal counties of Mississippi (Hancock, Harrison, Jackson) and pick a town. Any town.

Some are worse than others, but they all need help. You will find people living in tents and in their cars still almost everywhere.

What the media has not reported is that the MS coast has about 350k-400k people, and it's not just a handful of small towns and trailer parks. It's decent sized cities (Biloxi, Gulfport) and small towns (Pearlington, Vancleave), and suburban areas in between (Long Beach, Ocean Springs). But you will find people from all walks of life in great need all over the MS coast. Republican and Democrat, White, Black, Vietnamese, Latino. Not complaining or criticizing or looking for government handouts, just trying to hang on and get by and figure out what the hell they are going to do to put their lives back together.

Anyone who says they aren't going to donate to Katrina relief because they are turned off by an "attitude" do not know ANYTHING about the people of the MS Gulf Coast. I've never been more impressed with the "attitude" of coast residents, nor have I ever been more proud to be from there. The people are amazing in their resilience and their generosity of spirit. I think the photos and stories on this blog bear witness to that.

L. Zeringue said...

One comment that I read said, "we have to be there to understand" or something to that effect. Well I'm here to tell you I'm from there. Until Monday, August 29, 2005 I was part of the Pearlington, Mississippi community. We are staying with family in Louisiana trying to decide what to do.... where do we go from here. Never having gone thru such a catastrophy such as Katrina, we're not equipped to handle the emotional decisions ahead of us. There are no instructions on how to handle devistation. Our first thought was to rebuild our little shack on the bayou as we called it because we were lucky enough to have one of the very few structures still standing in Pearlington. But then reality sets in..... there's no more community, no more neighbors, no store to buy a gallon of milk or a loaf of bread. I think most of us are still trying to decide if we should go back if there is no community. We do have hopes that one day our community will grow into something close to what we remember......Our quiet little bayou town right on the edge of the earth.

Rodolfo said...

No matter who`s the bad or good guy, ur doing an excellent job with this blog by letting the world know what`s really happening. Great work! Keep on doing it! And by the way, GREAT PICTURES! not only do u know how to take a great moment n convert it into a great photo, but the colors, light, etc, are amazing!

Good job!

Anonymous said...

i am a katrina victum and it sucks because i am only 15 years old you are a very good person thank you for thinking about someone other than yourself in a time like this!!

Anonymous said...

I would like to just say that their was a animal control officer from New Jersey that responded to Hurricane Katrina and helped with the rescue attempts of several animals, and spent several weeks in September with the Arizona Humane Society. My question is this man did everything he could do to help these animals and so did the AHS, I believe the only way people can really honor these heroes that saved so many animals is to maybe here their side of the story. If it is in any possible and trying to find this individual from NJ which I believed he was an officer from Morristown and also the AHS officers and get their story on TV or in the newspaper or magazine many of us in New Orleans would like to say thank you for all their efforts and spending their time and their own money in helping us. Please email me and let me know is their any way that they can be recognized and identified.

Thank you.
Kayla Richardson
Former Resident of New Orleans, LA

Anonymous said...

There are so many Hero's -Hurricane Katrina, This was the BIG ONE. This one left the Crescent City a mass of destruction. Katrina scattered families across the country – more are still away than have returned. The trauma of the terror of those who stayed behind still lingers. Thankfully, there are the stories of the rescues and the heroes to warm our hearts and give us hope in our future and in each other.

One of the Heroes not many have heard about is Bayou Shopper’s own Local New Orleans Personality, Steve Konos.

Who? A Radio DJ? What? Did Konos play soft music to calm those in fear of rising waters and soaring winds?

No, Steve’s heroism goes far beyond the call of the duties of a DJ. Konos single-handedly connected New Orleans radio Giants, Entercom and Clear Channel Radio together on the air during Katrina, while working with Clear Channel engineers over the phone, making it possible to provide storm updates, traffic conditions, road closing and information to residence of Greater New Orleans.

When Entercom and Clear Channel ordered their staff members to evacuate New Orleans and head to Baton Rouge, Konos found himself the sole Clear Channel Radio Personality left in the City. All alone on Howard Avenue at Clear Channel New Orleans, acting in an engineering capacity, Konos helped in coordinating the efforts of the management with WDSU-TV6 and Clear Channel Radio Corporate to restore local programming. Through trial and error, Konos made the physical hard wire connections to bridge the two companies. He restored power and connected Clear Channel’s #1 urban station, WQUE, and New Orleans’ #2 rated urban WYLD to Entercom’s WWL 870 AM. Entercom and Clear Channel New Orleans joined forces to form the Katrina/Rita Emergency Broadcast System which spawned the birth of United Radio Broadcasters of New Orleans.

The United Broadcasters of New Orleans dubbed Konos “Steve “King” Konos” and celebrated his engineering contributions during the storm and flew Konos back to Baton Rouge for a Hero’s welcome. His fast thinking, ingenuity, and dedication enabled broadcasting talent in Baton Rouge to inform the local NOLA population and guide New Orleans’ residents to safety. In addition, Konos, the “father” of United Radio Broadcasters of New Orleans, hosted several broadcasts during the networks tenure of operation.

We thank you, Mr. Konos for your heroism and service to the New Orleans community in an hour of great need.

Published by: Troberts Marketing in the Bayou Shopper Magazine - New Orleans

Anonymous said...

Konos was no hero... just a dolt who said inappropriate things on the radio and got fired. End of story.

Anonymous said...

I dont know if I can say they are the enemy, maybe they are. I do think the administration gives more of a crap about Saudi Arabia then they do about the U.S. Apparently they are outsorcing Iraq to mercenaries now? Oh yeah, that worked really well when you OUTSOURCED AFGHANISTAN AND BIN LADEN GOT AWAY! Of course, old Bush is in bed with Bin Laden. Call it a conspiracy all you want I think its right there on paper to see. Also, I think it's a problem of we dont know who are enemy is. Nobody really knows who is the head of Skull and Bones and The New World Order. Until we do we wont know who our enemy is.... Its those silent people who we dont know about who are above the politicians that are the problem. Hmmmm.... Maybe it's the lobbyists? You cut off the head and the body stops working..... Get it?

Anonymous said...

With all due respect, Konos was smart enough and brave enough to do what was asked of him by his employers at the most important hour, Konos was the last man standing in New Orleans when Entercom and Clear Channel evacuated. These are the facts