ABOUT A HERO, from Brian Williams’ report on Sept. 15:

“NEW ORLEANS — On Aug. 28, the storm was still a day away. Evacuations were under way and people were just starting to arrive at the Superdome.

“At his desk at the National Weather Service office in Slidell, outside New Orleans, meteorologist Robert Ricks knew he had a job to do. He knew he probably had one remaining chance. And so, using computers, history and his fellow forecasters, he sat down to write. …

“Over the newswires — at NBC News headquarters in New York and across the country — came a document, titled: ‘URGENT… SPECIAL MESSAGE’. It was an extraordinary bulletin. It warned of a most powerful hurricane with unprecedented strength. It predicted: ‘MOST OF THE AREA WILL BE UNINHABITABLE FOR WEEKS. PERHAPS LONGER. AT LEAST ONE HALF OF WELL-CONSTRUCTED HOMES WILL HAVE ROOF AND WALL FAILURE. ALL GABLED ROOFS WILL FAIL. THE VAST MAJORITY OF NATIVE TREES WILL BE SNAPPED OR UPROOTED. OTHERS WILL BE TOTALLY DEFOLIATED’.”


“Ricks: I also had to validate each one of those statements and I was, in my mind, I was saying, “I’m not going to take this out, it sounds valid. I’m not going to take this part out, it sounds valid.

“Williams: So you went through point by point?

“Ricks: Yeah, I read each one. I was trying to find things to actually take out. [Huh… I bet Bush went through all the reports in a similar, painstaking manner!] And I said, ‘I cannot find it in myself to take these out, because they seem very valid for the situation’. And I came from the experience of going through Betsy and Camille myself in the Lower Ninth Ward.

“But his document was right. And now this lifelong resident of New Orleans, who grew up in the hard-hit Lower Ninth Ward section of the city, is back at work alongside co-workers who have no homes and are wearing the clothes they wore that day. …” (Read all at MSNBC)

MADMEN: “The ruin wreaked by Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast ecosystem bears witness to the Bush Administration’s longstanding assault on the environment. A toxic blend of free-market ideology and apocalyptic religion has given Bush’s corporate cronies free rein to plunder the natural world. Chip Ward explains. …” (“Left Behind: Bush’s Holy War on Nature,” The Nation)

The need to restore wetlands — as a part of the reconstruction process — was discussed on last night’s PBS program, NOW. (I’m sure Karl Rove will prioritize wetlands.) BELOW, Anderson Cooper’s writings:
Anderson Cooper and Aaron Brown’s reports on CNN have been very, very good. I think Cooper has established himself as a first-level journalist. He also looks like he’s been through hell. From the show last night:

COOPER: Welcome back. We are live in New Orleans from Fort Wal- Mart. That’s what they’re calling it, the place where police officers have been sleeping and working out of in District 6 because their precinct is flooded. The Wal-Mart was looted behind me during the — after the storm. The police have now taken over the parking lot, and they’re living here in their cars, sleeping in their cars. And hopefully that won’t last much longer.

You know, reporters aren’t supposed to make themselves the story, nor are we supposed to make what we do the story. On the other hand, if we hide the fact that a particular story touches us in very deep ways, that it makes us hear our hearts beating hard all time, as it were, for very intimate reasons, if we fail even to mention that, well that’s not honest reporting either. I hope that what the following “Reporter’s Notebook” is, is this — not too personal but honest. The records are mine. The pictures from Getty Images’ Veronica Chalasani (ph).


COOPER (voice-over): I’ve been coming to New Orleans since I was a kid. My dad used to live here, and his heart always did. This gritty gumbo city, its hot humid streets, seeing it like this, well, it’s hard to explain. Blink and you’re in Baghdad. Black water, guys with guns, rubble-strewn streets, Black Hawks in the sky.

That sound, that sound, crushing and comforting, the cavalry’s come, help has arrived, urgent seconds ticking by. Street signs are down, new signs are up. Hand-drawn, heartfelt, be thankful God loves you. Looters will be shot. This one’s my favorite. “Don’t try. I’m sleeping inside with a big dog, an ugly woman, two shotguns, and a claw hammer.”

working here, it’s unlike any story I’ve ever been on. I’ve never been prouder of the people I stand by. You shoot and you edit. You do live shots and shows. You’re always in motion, slamming sodas and candy. It just doesn’t stop.

Last week we were living in trailers packed tight, poorly stocked. No one complained. There was no need to explain. Compared to everyone else, we had it good. The phones didn’t work. We still clinged to our BlackBerries, our heads always down. Now we’ve got an office set up with food and supplies, at night a hotel where we disinfect our feet.

We’re all taking something — Cipro, a whole bunch of shots. Some have conjunctivitis and cuts. You have to be careful. What’s happened here has been a story about failure, of governments and officials and systems and place. But it’s also a story about kindness, of strangers helping strangers and neighbors in need.

There have been moments, I think for a lot of us working here where we all feel very much alone. We’re surrounded by ruin and rubble. You feel like you’re on the edge of the world. I guess in a way you get used to seeing all this destruction, but you never get used to seeing the people it’s affected.

In the shelters it really hits you. The babies are oblivious, thank God, their parents’ arms the only home they have. The young and the old have little but doubts and questions. What will I do? How can I rebuild? What will happen tomorrow?

Governments can help, but they can’t do this. Holding, hugging, human connections were strengthened by the storm. I know sometime soon viewers are going to move on from this story. The water level is falling. The tide is ebbing and so will the interest. I know it’s going to happen. I just don’t know when. I don’t think we should forget what we’ve seen. I know those of us who were here never will.


COOPER: Well, that’s what we’ve been seeing these last few weeks here. We wanted you to see kind of a behind-the-scenes look at what we’ve been doing. And we all feel honored to be here.

I just want to take you inside that Wal-Mart once again. This is — the police now call it Fort Wal-Mart because this is where they are stationed. This is the headquarters for Division 6 in New Orleans. But as you can see inside, you know, the devastation remains. It was flooded, it was looted. The smell in there is quite intense, as you can imagine. This weeks on all that food rotting and just sitting there in the heat.

But the police have been parked outside of the parking lot here. They sleep here in cars. There’s even an old limousine, if you can believe it — a stretch limousine that one officer from the New Orleans Police Department has been sleeping in for these last couple of nights. And some of them have been able to move to a ship called the Ecstasy, where the chief of police has a place to sleep.

But let’s hope they get back to their homes. A number of them have had their homes destroyed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

We are going to be right back with more coverage from New Orleans and around the country.

We’ll be right back.

Read the transcript. It’s a treat. There’s also quite a segment on animal rescues.

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