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First, check out the pictures that I posted today on the blog. Click on the links in the photo box to view my photo essay.
I could write story after story about what I hear from the evacuees at the Houston Astrodome (search) and each story would break your heart. You walk through the Astrodome (or the other shelters) and you feel a mixture of grief for the evacuees and inspiration from the many people trying to help. As you know, words are grossly inadequate in explaining the depth of the despair that is felt. The video from New Orleans (search), Mississippi (search), Alabama (search) and all the shelters better conveys this nightmare. So today I will leave it to the video we show on FOX News Channel to explain the pain. Video is much better than me trying to tell you in print... it is raw.
There are a few things I would like to say about Houston/Texas, etc. I have been here in Houston for many days and have a very small world — meaning that I only know what is going on in the area immediately around me (Houston.) I am "wall-to-wall" Houston relief efforts. I know that my colleagues in New Orleans, Mississippi, etc., are seeing things that I am not. From time to time I hear their reports and the reports are bleak (to put it lightly.) Here in Houston I almost feel like I am in a magical city — there is an incredible outpouring of help. You would be inspired by the help to the people who need it so much. I have spoken to literally hundreds of evacuees and each — 100 percent of those I have spoken to — are in awe of what Texas has done. Each expresses enormous gratitude to the people of Texas.
I have been to the three major shelters in Houston — each is unbelievable and each, while housing thousands, was set up overnight. People don't wait in lines for services like medicine and food — instead they get provided for quickly and with dignity. Every place you turn around, there is help. The shelters and volunteers are efficient and treat people with great dignity.
I went to the newest shelter last night — the Houston City Convention Center and I was very impressed. They have air mattresses (not just cots), thicker air mattresses for older people so did not have a hard time in and out of bed, showers, game rooms for the kids, food looked great, a computer room, library, movie theatre size screen for movies, clothes, medical care, etc.... and all done within hours of making the decision to do it! I watched a crowd of kids under two feet tall playing the game "duck, duck, goose" with volunteers. The kids were all having fun — squealing with laughter. The kids are kept busy by volunteers so that the parents can address the obviously more serious and distressing matters — missing family members, no homes and no money.
You would not believe what the city of Houston (and Texas) accomplished in less than 48 hours! I really have never seen anything like this! The George R. Brown Convention Center is so clean you can eat off the floor and the service appears to be top notch. I watched carefully the service to make sure I got it right and I asked people staying there. You can get medical care and even dental care right on the premises... all set up in less than 48 hours! I met private citizens — all pitching in. I was told corporations were also pitching in — one local company in Houston came in and built 80 showers in the Convention Center within hours of the Friday morning decision that they needed to open still another shelter. The help to fellow Americans here in Texas is not only extraordinary — but the fact that it is so well coordinated with no time is mind-boggling.
I have been stopped by many local Houstonians thanking me for the nice things I have been saying on the air about Texas and Houston. I have told each of them, "Don't thank me, I am only saying what I see." And, yes, I am seeing a much different picture than the devastation seen by my colleagues in other states.
Let me make one thing plain — yes, things are going well in Houston but the evacuees have been through hell and that hell will continue. No matter how great the support is here in Houston, it does not erase the immense loss. In time, there will also be too much pressure on this area alone. We can't expect Texas to do this alone and they can't. They need other people and places to help. They need contributions so please give. I do know that many other states and citizens are helping a great deal — this help is great — but I suspect more help will be needed. I know it will be much appreciated. This is a BIG job!
I have seen some odd things outside — not inside — the Astrodome. There is one fellow with a guitar strapped around his neck who keeps coming up to me at our live site location asking me to put him on the air. He says, "I am the first to have written a song about Hurricane Katrina." He is not an evacuee. I have politely said to him many times that we are not profiling those who are writing songs... we are trying to get the word about what is going on at the Astrodome and the various ways people can help. I am not sure he truly "gets it."
I drew the right card the other night on air. I got to introduce to the FOX News Channel audience our newest correspondent and my good friend Laura Ingle (I met her covering Scott Peterson trial.) It was simply my good fortune. I was on the air just as she landed in Louisiana embedded with the California National Guard. I am very excited to have her on our team since she in enormously talented and is aggressive at getting new information. She is currently getting trained in our L.A. bureau — but was urgently dispatched for this huge tragedy. Once fully trained, her bureau will be Dallas and she will cover the Southwest. (As a practical matter, you may be assigned a region but when emergencies arise, you can find yourself any place including in another country covering a story!)
Now, here are some of your e-mails:
E-mail No. 1
Regarding the young man who took the school bus in New Orleans and drove to Houston,TX picking up people on the way, he is a true hero. The president needs to award him with an America's Hero Award as well as a Presidential Pardon for taking the
bus. Thanks for airing his story, it was good to see some good being reported out of this
E-mail No. 2
What's with FOX and Greta? I have been in radio and television (affiliate owner) longer than she has been alive and I think she is a toad (nice wording). Why did FOX hire her anyway, she has such a terrible on camera presence, especially the way she moves her mouth, she looks like a marionette?
I don't usually write other media about their "paid talent" but she stinks. BTW, Why did so many people stay in N.O. when they were told to get out? If my governor came on TV and told me that a quake to end all quakes was coming in two days and that it was going to kill everyone, I would leave, even if I had to steal a shopping cart for transportation. Who is really to blame here? Why did they just sit around and wait? Most, not all, of them could have walked out of there on I/10 in less than four days to a neighboring city or gone north. My opinion for what it's worth. If they rebuild N.O. on the same level again, they're nuts. Level the city, bring in earthmovers and raise the grade level by fifty feet or so. It's going to take years anyway, so why not?
E-mail No. 3
Hooray to the guy for "borrowing" the school bus to drive people to Texas. I hope he's not charged, but know plenty of attorneys who would represent him pro bono. Speaking of school busses, I recall that there was a MANDATORY evacuation of New Orleans BEFORE the storm hit... why didn't the MAYOR use some of those busses (or the city busses) THEN to evacuate those with no transportation? Now he wouldn't be all over the media CUSSING about our government not doing enough. He's a government official and I say he did next to NOTHING to prepare for this tragedy, so he has no right to complain. And let him be the one to answer to the ACLU (search) about the "racial issue"... he's black and didn't help his own when they needed him... but did tend to the "upper-crust" tourists in the high-priced hotels, didn't he?
P.S. Greta, I do appreciate the Katrina coverage. It's such a heart-breaking tragedy, but let us have an update on Aruba and those three yahoos they are releasing from jail. Thanks.
E-mail No. 4
The world is reminded of the selfless acts of courageous individuals by your coverage of the young man driving the bus to Houston. If I had heard that the U.S. Mail was delivering to the Astrodome, I would write this young man a letter telling him that the world is a much better place because of people like himself. I watch your program because you present the news as it is, allowing it to speak for itself, without need of additional opinion or drama. In the midst of this disastrous human tragedy, your ability to bring this young man's story to us made you smile, as it did your viewing public. Your honest approach to coverage in this, our worst of times, speaks clearly to all of us watching from our living rooms. The true strength of this country is shown by its people, for its people. Thanks for reminding us.
St. Louis, MO
E-mail No. 5
I am a faithful FOX News Channel viewer, but I take exception to your ongoing praise on how well the Houston Astrodome is coping with the crisis. I am in Lafayette, Louisiana, about 250 miles from New Orleans.
Perhaps if Hurricane Katrina had been barreling for Houston instead of New Orleans, perhaps if thousands of people in Houston defied orders to evacuate the area — despite repeated warnings of potential devastation and death, perhaps if Houston officials had to do immediate search and rescue in a time of total chaos and not had days to plan their response or assistance, then PERHAPS THE ASTRODOME WOULD HAVE BEEN THE SUPERDOME.
The state of Texas has always been known for its kind people and generosity. Those who did not believe it before will fortunately have the chance to see first-hand that it does, in fact, exist. But Greta, please, please do not compare the city of Houston with the city of New Orleans. It is like comparing the response of 9/11 in New York, to the subsequent responses of officials elsewhere who knew it had happened and thus could take preventative action. Hindsight is 20/20.
Many people in Louisiana, including myself, are angry that this situation even happened. People never think it will happen to them, and they simply refused to evacuate — even with a Category 5 hurricane barreling toward them. Say they were sick, say they were poor, say what you want. They managed to wade through hip-deep water to get to the Superdome when the chips were down but said they didn't have a way out beforehand. Many simply put themselves and their family in the range of a raging hell. No one knew it could be this bad — that's why you evacuate BEFORE the storm hits!
Please thank the city of Houston for its generosity and pray it won't be their storm next.
E-mail No. 6
I am quite surprised that FOX allowed you to cover a serious story. Katrina. Even your brand of bright yellow journalism, while it can cheapen the Natalee Holloway saga, cannot overcome the tragedy of this event.
Perhaps you should think of another career. You could be a ladies room attendant in a sleazy nightclub. However you might stink up the facilities.
David A. Gross
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