From Naples, a New Orleans native in shock
NAPLES, Italy — Zenia Smith had eaten nothing in four days.
She and two others had shared a single bottle of water. She’d been shot at, twice. And she felt she no longer could do her job to serve and protect.
This was the grim and surreal report the 26-year-old New Orleans police officer relayed by phone Thursday to her aunt, Tabitha Bridget, who after days of failed attempts from a world away finally tracked her niece to a clinic in New Orleans where she’d found refuge.
“I’m heartbroken,” said Bridget, an information technology specialist at Naval Support Activity Naples. “She has no ammunition, no food, no water . … What bothers me the most is that the police department isn’t taking care of their own.
“[Zenia’s] not eating. How can she and the other police officers be strong enough to do their job?” asked Bridget.
CNN reported Friday that police officers in New Orleans were walking off the job, cutting manpower by 20 percent in some precincts.
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin publicly blasted federal officials for their response to the emergency in his city, saying, “They don’t have a clue what’s going on down here,” according to news reports.
“They flew down here one time two days after the doggone event was over with TV cameras, AP reporters, all kind of [expletive] — excuse my French, everybody in America, but I am pissed,” he said Thursday on the local radio station WWL, according to The Associated Press.
Bridget, 47, says she no longer can watch news reports of the events that have befallen her beloved and native New Orleans. There have been news reports of snipers shooting at rescue workers, bodies floating in the floodwaters, people starving and dying and National Guard troops arriving “locked and loaded” to restore order.
“It hurts,” Bridget said of the reports. “It’s unbelievable that people would do this, but people are hungry. They’re not all bad people. They’re out to save their families.”
She beseeched Americans in Europe to contribute to relief funds to help the thousands like her niece.
Several federal agencies are providing relief, from military forces to medical supplies, food and water, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Armed Forces, Coast Guard, National Guard, Health and Human Services Department, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Transportation Department and Agriculture Department. State, federal and private organizations have set up relief funds and efforts.
The USA Freedom Corps, a White House-sponsored coordinating council to expand federal service programs such as the Peace Corps, Citizen Corps and AmeriCorps, states “the most effective way people can assist relief efforts is by making cash contributions to relief funds that have been established by the respective state governments in the disaster area,” according to information posted on www.usafreedomcorps.gov.
The U.S. government has set up an official Hurricane Katrina Web site with information on a variety of topics, including: searching for or posting information on loved ones; government and relief agency sites such as FEMA, the Salvation Army and the American Red Cross; and official state hurricane assistance information for Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.
What can you do?
Following is a partial list of organizations accepting funds for relief of victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Alabama Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund: Mail checks or money orders to Alabama Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund, P.O. Box 1523, Montgomery, AL 36102Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation: Mail checks or money orders to Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation, 1201 North Third St., Suite 7-240, PO Box 94095, Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9095Mississippi Hurricane Relief Fund: Mail checks or money orders to: Mississippi Hurricane Relief Fund, P.O. Box 139, Jackson, MS 39205American Red Cross: Mail checks or money orders to Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013. Donate on line at www.redcross.org.The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Assistance Program has released a list of organizations accepting donations and volunteers, which can be viewed here.
— Sandra Jontz