Monday, October 10, 2005

Mom Finds Her Glasses, FEMA Loses Mom

They washed up just fine.

My mom and little brother are still in Las Vegas, so far from home. And home is still a mess. My mom feels like she's drifting and rootless. She was stunned by the wealth on display in Vegas, the contrast from where she just was. She's still getting the runaround from FEMA, but by this point we don't expect much more. It seems the application taker we dealt with in that sun baked parking lot in Mississippi, the one who could barely operate the computer, who had been up for 24 hours, the earnest blue shirt, well, he messed up her application, and now she's in a bureaucratic no man's land. But at least in Vegas they have AC and seats to wait in for six hours, and when they tell you you need to call the 800 number, well, look, they've got a special little room off to the side with a couple of phones in it just for that. We'll take any improvement we can get.

I had a drink with one of those earnest blue shirts, in the French Quarter recently. She was a Peace Corps volunteer who had come down to help in any way she could. She was assigned to be one of the FEMA application takers, and when she told us about her experience she was almost in tears with rage and frustration. She told us about how she got less than an hour's training. She told us about how the official FEMA reps, the mandarins above her, hiding from the public, how they were little better than glazed-eyed morons, just shuffling papers and waiting to leave. She told us about the trick questions on the FEMA application, designed to automatically disqualify people if answered wrong. She told us how the poor survivors were yelling at her in frustration, then consoling her when she would almost cry from it, then asking her if she had any food they could take on the way out.

She grit her teeth, held back tears, took a big drink, and said "I only wanted to help, but I can't."

She said she and some of the other volunteers had taken their official FEMA blue shirts, and used them to clean the floor.


sex scenes at starbucks said...

I was in New Orleans in May and I'm so glad (selfishly) that I got to see that beautiful city before Katrina. May it someday return to its former glory, and its many inhabitants enjoy perhaps a kinder life than before. Thanks for showing us what the media isn't.

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine experienced similar frustration volunteering for the Red Cross in Baton Rouge. In response, she has set out on "Operation Rogue Volunteer" and set up a foundation to allow volunteers to really help.

Her website is

Please consider sending volunteers to her site, as well as those interested in making contributions that will truly make a difference.

Luis Elorreaga said...

Operation Eden was featured in Rolling Stone. You're doing an impoartant thing here, Siege. You're always in my thoughts and I hope things only get better for your family.


PS: How much longer will this set of prints be up? I'm getting a paycheck soon and I'm going to be hopefully acquiring one before you pull them

Anonymous said...

Since there is absolutely nothing in any form of news media mentioned about what’s going on down there, things must be all cleaned up and spiffed to perfection. Is all a shiny new wonderland now?

Todd Vodka

Karlos said...

Great site. Great photos.

I had the good fortune to spend seven months in New Orleans in 1991-1992. I actually lived in Kenner, but worked downtown on Canal St., and spent much of my off time there as well. I was there when hurricane Andrew came to town and remember well the preparations we (the Coast Guard) made, and all the scenarios that were possible depending on what the storm did. Unfortunately the one of the worst possible scenarios occurred with Katrina. After having spent 21 years in the Coast Guard (I retired in 2003), it was a bit disconcerting to only watch the storm and its aftermath instead of being there preparing and helping. I’m sorry for your city, I’m sorry for its citizens, and I’m sorry I wasn’t there to help.

I’ve always felt a bond to New Orleans, as I’m sure many do. Perhaps it was because I was there during a very difficult time in my life and The City served to sooth my troubled soul at times -- the food, the music, the history. My best friend is from New Orleans and has shared many stories of his childhood; and my mother (Anglo) used to tell me stories of how she and a good friend of hers (African American) used to walk through town together in the 50s, my mother covering up as best she could because the other “white folk” wouldn’t take kindly to her associating with a black. She loved the culture, the music, the food and especially the people, as do I.


HurricaneHelper said...


If your Mom needs help at her house, email me. You have my site and email. We have Presbyterian and Methodist work crews that will help with debris removal, sheetrock and insulation removal and other They generally bring their own lunch too. Tom

Ray in New Orleans said...

I had the same frustration working at the shelter in Austin. Our job was just supposed to be to help people use the public computers if they weren't computer literate. We were all just techies. But since everyone wanted to use the computers to fill out FEMA applications and there were no FEMA people around, we ended up being the only people they could ask for help. We had NO training. Zero. It still makes me queasy wondering how badly I may have screwed those people because I tried to help them fill out a form I knew nothing about.

When the form was working, that is. 9 times out of 10, the FEMA web site would just crash on you, losing all your work and making you start over.

I helped one girl, she was 24 years old. Head of a household which included her disabled mom, her sister and her sister's baby. She put down $200 a month income on her FEMA application because that's how much she made selling Avon. She was a sweet sweet kid, obviously very smart and goodhearted and she obviously didn't go to very good schools. I know in my heart that FEMA isn't going to do shit for her, and she won't have the know-how to fight them on it.

When we'd ask somebody at the computers if they needed help, inwardly we'd be praying that they wanted to search the missing persons sites for lost family, because that was something we knew how to do, and when you succeeded you got a huge payoff. You'd ask "do you need help with anything?" and inside you a voice would be saying "please don't say fema please don't say fema please don't say fema"...

Daniel said...

Great photos! One of a very few qualitative offers in the art sector.

Dancing Crow said...

I was unable to come to New Orleans aid. I was damaged and on a sick bed at the time.

I found this to be very frustrating. I am an equipment operator and a dredgerman. Most of the truly good tug boat and dredge captains come from that area. What I learned about the people of the Missisippi area I learned from them. It is hard to be laid by and watch the pain, though I am certain not as hard as being the ones hurtin'. God Bless

Anonymous said...

I love the service you are giving on your website. This seems more real than any official news or media I've read so far. Your writing is honest and pictures are excellent. I find myself very angry that the news has already moved on, when the real story of Katrina is stronger now than it was the day after the hurricane. I have a relative that was in the hurricane, and it was only last week that they found the body of her son and grandson. Seven more are still missing. In addition, she also lost her home but that is insignificant to the extreme loss of life she is dealing with. The real crisis was not the storm, but the endurance of those who are still in the midst of their tragedies. Your blog tells that story. I hope someone with media clout picks up on your blog, or that you can sell your story. Good work.

conversation with myself said...

I think you are a fraud looking for a handout - hope you don't get it.

Rialle said...

This is to "conversation with myself."

Well, by your blog name, you're obviously crazy, first of all. And second, I don't know what your problem is, but his guy isn't looking for handouts. He's selling his pictures to help his family. It isn't as if his pictures are first grade drawings either-they're good. If you want to this in real life, really see it, go down there. Tell me what you see.

"I'm sorry, we're actually having a party down here. Hurricane? Flood? No, no, we were faking the whole thing! Here, have some wine to celebrate our fabulous riches!"

I don't think so. Do you have family down there? Actually, were your mom and little brother down there, missing? Were you unable to contact them because of FEMA's ineptness to handle their job? No. The day you do, I'd love to hear how little help you need to get through it.

Against Wrongful Blogs said...

Your blog has been linked as a Worthy Blog.

Help stamp out Wrongful Blogs and let more like this one come to be at Against Wrongful Blogs.

And if for some reason you wish me not to link you, simply ask I shall (with much regret) remove you.

Steve said...

I got over 150 people from my church to sign up to help the evacuees out here in Charlotte for the Red freakin Cross, who kept whining and bitching about not having enough volunteers. I kept calling them asking when we were going to be called back for assignment, they kept telling me it would be in the next day or so.

Finally, after three weeks or so playing this game, they told me that they didnt need anyone anymore. I asked them why they didnt call us back, and they said: "yeah, we just didnt call people back". No "sorry about that", "Your efforts are appreciated", nada. All we wanted to do was help.

BTW Clayton, a guy I work with, used to be a master sgt in army supply is organizing a huge tractor trailer of relief stuff (food, clothes, etc) that was slated to go to Biloxi. I'm trying to get him to re-route it to Pearlington.

E-mail me at
if you want, maybe we can try and help your Mom and neighbors out here.

Oktoberain said...

"conversation with myself";
Wuzzamatta for you? Get kicked off the chat site did we? Go harass online gamers somewhere chuckles, your attempts at discrediting Clayton are not only banal, they're chidish and not very well thought out.

Mapo said...

I didn't even understand what conversation with myself was saying.

Mapo said...

Oh, whoops I read two comments rolled together.

Clarissa said...

"Conversation With Myself",
Seige here has more purpose and reason and beauty for this blog in the first sentence then you do in your entire blog. If you're not going to give us a reason why you feel the way you do, go home and grow up.

You Dweeb.

Lactose said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lactose said...

Good work dude.

Amazing, and humanising, imagery.

Louise from Australia said...


You are a gem of reality in a sea of gargabe.
I am located in Australia yet I follow your story daily. (hello to your lovely ma xxoxx) I have sent your website to my email list so that others may see the work you do and assist in someway.
I am adding something that will hopefully make you laugh, its a website of a friend who is a comedian.

Thank you for the music and the stories.
Peace and Love Louise

Louise from Australia said...

Wade Rankin said...

As I ndrove my family to safety on the Sunday morning before Katrina,I listened to Michael Brown, former head of FEMA, being interviewed on the radio about the then-coming storm. He bragged that, due to his foresight, the supply lines were already up and running, and that FEMA would be on the ground with whatever was needed as soon as it was safe. Hey, you did a helluva job, Brownie. The problem is that FEMA's not doing any better job without him.

Anonymous said...

Rachel and I saw N.O.yesterday for the first time,and things I grew up seeing are GONE.The homes gone,people gone and some never to return.The Mayor wants people to return,BUT RETURN TO WHAT? Yes Clayton this Rachel's Cheryl

Robyn Jones said...

"Conversation With Myself"
There are a lot of people (including here in Canada who take offense to insensitive people like you)
I went to your blog--Your pretty opinionated.
I'm sure the people who went through Katrina were impressed.
Keep up the great work Clayton--and great pictures! By the way-even if Clayton here wasn't for real, at least he's offering something for the money--