Eerie Silence

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For Friday's blog, I am posting more pictures from our days in New Orleans (search). Click on the links in the photo box to check out my photo essays.

Some of the pictures show the pain that Hurricane Katrina (search) has inflicted upon our fellow Americans and some show heroism (the sailors on the USS Iwo Jima (search) and other ships and even military rescue of the puppy from the roof.) And, like yesterday, I also am posting some pictures of us ("behind the scenes") since so many of you write me asking questions about us and our work. Once again, I want to remind you, if you see a smile on our faces in these pictures, don't be fooled. From time to time, we try and make the best of the situation, but there is not one person in our news organization or other news organizations who is covering this story who does not feel empathy and great sadness. We are in the midst of the most difficult story I have reported on. I merely post the pictures so you have the inside view of how we cover these stories — even how we rest (other than a bus on a highway.) And yes, from time to time, we try and smile for each other. That's the least we can do for each other as we encourage each other to go out in the toxic areas and the death to bring you the facts.

When we travel in military vehicles through the neighborhoods that remain flooded, it is so quiet. There's not a sound except our vehicle... and, of course, while we don't say it to each other, we all assume that there are many dead in these houses. They have died and still we have not been able to give them their dignity — yet — of a burial or other appropriate process. The houses seem to me to be part of a large graveyard. I have seen our strong military look at these houses, see these scenes and bite their lips fighting back the tears. I have posted pictures of the streets in the Ninth Ward — perhaps the hardest hit — so that you get an idea of what it is like about 10 days after Katrina. It remains terrible. I believe many of the houses to have bodies in them. Note in the pictures you can see the water, wires down, houses destroyed, cars covered, etc. I don't need to narrate these pictures since the images tell it all.

As we drive down the streets in feet of water in military vehicles, we say often to each other, "what is that?" We see twisted metal, or other "messes" and can't even tell what the item once was. It takes several of us to figure out that some twisted metal is/was a car. That gives you some idea of the destruction.

Of course the most difficult scenes are the floating bodies. I don't need to say more about that... my words are inadequate to impart to you the horror. I am trying to decide whether to post a picture of a dead body floating on Monday. The reason to post is to give you the raw and blunt idea of this scene. The reason not to post is to give the man some dignity in his death. You can't see his face — so maybe the better idea is to post and not sugarcoat by omission. I want to sleep on this.

Some randomly selected e-mails:

E-mail No. 1

You give me a headache with your whining voice.
Phyllis Scobbo

ANSWER: Phyliss, your e-mail was the first I opened today.

E-mail No. 2 — We tried to get a gentleman named Alfred to evacuate his house. It has flooded up to the first floor, which is several feet. He would not leave... I received this e-mail today with a picture of a lovely cabin. If only I could convince Alfred... but he wants to stay in his house. I expect to go back to New Orleans in a few days and I will try and see him again and convince him. This is a generous offer:

I have a cabin that Alfred can stay in as long as he needs. It is in the mountains of North Carolina, 30 minutes from Asheville. We get snow, I don't know if he would be interested. It is fully furnished, one bedroom, very quiet, we live on 60 acres at 3500 feet. Gas, heat, satellite TV, full kitchen, full bath. Maybe it could coax him out. I really liked him and don't want him to get sick and die.
Thank you,
Cindie Harman

E-mail No. 3 — I don't know this e-mailer, but I sure would like to help her. If any of you know how to reach these cats, please do:

Dear Greta,
I know that you are reporting from New Orleans as I just read about the puppy rescue. I contacted you a few days ago about the plight of Jan Gilbert. Her cats are trapped in her lakefront home and efforts by a friend to rescue them today have failed. This woman and her husband are well known — both are artists — he is also an author and documentary filmmaker. Their families date back several generations in New Orleans yet all their efforts to save these beloved cats by any/all have failed. This couple was unable to have children and these felines are their pride and joy.
I have a colleague at the college where I teach in RI who knew your father, the judge, and your entire family. She asked me to send her regards to you from the McKee family. May I ask you to pull out all the stops you know of to help this couple rescue their cats... at 7344 Onyx Street on the Lakefront in New Orleans. This home is a short distance from the water and could easily be reached by boat. These people are desperate for any word on their cats and I promised then I would contact you. We have corresponded in the past about your animal friendly coverage and I know that you are a great animal lover. Please do all that you can down there for Jan and Kevin.
Nancy E. Wyllie

E-mail No. 4

To whom it may concern,
I recently was watching your show, and I caught a segment about the dire need for wheelchairs in Houston at the Astrodome. A few months ago, I went and saw a man speak who started a non-profit organization that sends wheelchairs all around the world. Dr. Don Schoendorfer invented a low cost wheelchair that has literally saved lives in several countries that desperately need them. I wanted to try to do anything I could to support this organization and bring any attention to him that you might be interested in. I feel that if only he had publicity he could get the donations that could really bring much needed relief to the wheelchair situation in Texas. Here is his Web site:
Thank you, for your time and anything that you could do for this organization would be greatly appreciated.
Mathis Fender

E-mail No. 5 — We did a segment last night about a missing autistic child and the mother's hunt for the child. Here is an email I received before the show was over and one of my producers was getting on this at once:

Hello, Greta,
If someone can find the missing autistic man you just mentioned on your show, he and his mother can go to Camp Yocona in Randolph, Mississippi. It's been specifically set up to receive autistic children (people) and their families, and to help meet their special needs. I believe it's been Red Cross approved, and I know they're working with FEMA, DHS and MEMA to try to locate families who need their services/help.
The contact information for the camp is via a woman named Peg Pickering. Her phone numbers are (662) 488-9619 or (662) 509-0599. She can also be reached at:
Any help you can give in directing families who need this help will be appreciated!
Jan Blasé

E-mail No. 6

Dear Greta,
This information may help Rose, the woman staying in Houston, in finding her autistic son. There are 4 or 5 shelters in the San Antonio area that have been designated for special needs evacuees through the Baptist Child and Family Services. I think there are some autistic evacuees in these shelters. I believe they can be contacted at (210) 832-5000.
Hope this helps,
Jennifer and Damon Swain

E-mail No. 7

I am searching for my Mother, Dorothy Hingle, aged 83 and my brother, aged 54. They live in Chalmette, LA in St. Bernard Parish. She is 83 and not in good health. He is paralyzed and bedridden. Mother is his primary caretaker. They are registered on the primary evacuation list due to their health conditions. I last spoke to her at 9:30 on Monday Aug 29. She was still waiting to be picked up. A deputy told her that there were no more ambulances but she still had hope. I don't know what time the water hit her area. They live about one mile from the Murphy Oil Refinery. I am almost out of hope but still praying. If she is still alive, she needs to know that the rest of her family are OK and waiting to hear about them.
Florence MS

E-mail No. 8

A great day for Greta! Really pretty young blonde woman missing in Richmond, VA! Too bad for you that it isn't Aruba, but at least we won't have to suffer with your self-absorbed travelogues. Do you think we care that you have to drive across town, or make flight arrangements?
Ellen Paul

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