Saturday, September 03, 2005

Reality Check

"Unfortunately, that's going to be attributable a lot to people who did not heed the advance warnings," Brown told CNN.

"I don't make judgments about why people chose not to leave but, you know, there was a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans," he said.
CNN Article
I am getting really tired of the constant refrain of "why didn't they leave" in reference to the victims of Katerina. John Scalzi has a couple great posts addressing this.

I don't have the personal experience to completely relate to the "Being Poor" post, although I suspect that Laura does. But still, I thought maybe I could play a little reality check game here...bear with me.

Back in late 1993/early 1994, I was a new college grad with a "professional" job with a now-defunct accounting firm in downtown Chicago. I had a somewhat overpriced studio apartment in a fairly posh neighborhood (Lincoln Park). My salary was not phenomenal, but it was enough to pay the bills and rent. I suspect my means were typical for people my age, in their early twenties, getting started at their first "real" jobs after years of school and summer work. I came from a comfortable, middle-class background.

I did not own a car. At the time, this seemed like a wonderful benefit of living and working downtown -- no car payments, no insurance payments, no need to even notice gas prices. I took the bus or the "L" to work. I was not, by any stretch of the imagination, poor.

I want to emphasize that I was exceedingly "responsible." I did not live off the government or my parents. I took care of myself.

Now, lets pretend that one day it was discovered that a great calamity was about to hit Chicago, and everyone started evacuating. What would I, a college-educated, middle-class, and far from poor single woman do?

I had no car, so driving away was not an option. I had just moved to the city so I didn't have any city friends to catch a ride with. My co-workers mostly lived in the suburbs and commuted to work via train, so they weren't available either.

Aha! Trains! I could take a train out of the city! Except, lets say that the Metra stations shut down due to the impending calamity, much as the Greyhound stations, trains, and airlines in New Orleans:
"Delta Air Lines' decision to end its regular passenger air service out of New Orleans just after midnight Saturday was based on assessing the safety of its planes, employees and passengers, the accessibility of the airport and the projected course of the weather....

...Other airlines considered the conditions operable longer. American flew its last plane out at 1 p.m. Sunday. And US Airways flew two-thirds of its schedule Sunday, with its last plane departing at 1:30 p.m...

...Other transportation modes also cleared out of New Orleans at least 24 hours before the hurricane hit...

...Amtrak had no choice; its tracks run through the city's levees. Once officials in Louisiana put the floodgates in place across the levees, said spokesman Marc Magliari, "we had no usable route in and out of the city."...

...And Greyhound, which ended service in New Orleans late Saturday, said safety was its priority. "We operate as long as it's safe," said spokesperson Anna Folmnsbee."
OK, now I'm here stranded in my fancy studio apartment, with no car or train transportation out of the city. City buses and Greyhound follow the same model as Metra and shut down. Now what do I do? Walk? I suppose I could call my parents, who live about an hour away in a suburb, but what are the odds of them being able to drive in here, pick me up, and drive back out in all the evacuation traffic on time? We could all end up stuck out on the road together when the calamity hits!

Not knowing exactly how bad the impending calamity might be -- after all, in this scenario Chicago has faced this sort of thing before and survived OK -- wouldn't it be somewhat reasonable to just hunker down and hope for the best, rather than endangering even more people in a last-ditch attempt to flee? And heck, maybe this calamity is coming when my parents are off in Wisconsin on vacation or something. Now what? Should I just start walking out of the city? And be caught by the calamity out in the open, unprotected?

Remember, in my little scenario, I already have more options and resources available than most of those folks trapped down in New Orleans. I have a little money in the bank, assuming I can get to an ATM of course. I am not quite living paycheck to paycheck, although it is close. I have family nearby that could, possibly, manage to help. I don't need to take care of any young children. I'm not elderly and frail. I'm in good health.

Even with all those advantages I would have had difficulty getting away in time.

Maybe all the judgmental morons criticizing the citizens of New Orleans should shut up for a bit and reflect on the blessings in their own lives.

No comments:

Post a Comment