Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Enter (02/27/06)
TITLE: Katrina-Enter a plea
By Sue Dent
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Enter a Plea
He sat in the chair and faced the camera. There was an American flag to his right, Louisiana’s state flag to his left. They’d wanted his reaction to Homeland Securities explanation of what had happened that past week. But so much had happened and he’d already formed such strong opinions and convictions on the matter. He made notes to help keep his thoughts straight. After all, he’d had such little sleep, mentally and physically he was so very tired. Yes, much had happened or hadn’t happened depending on how one wanted to look at it. And he had to make sure for the sake of those still suffering, those still trapped in their homes because of flood waters—he had to make sure his words made a difference. He had to enter a plea for the sake of those incapable of doing so. This couldn’t happen again. It just couldn’t!
He started off strong. “We have been abandoned by our own country." Anyone listening would be paying attention now. “Hurricane Katrina will go down in history as one of the worst storms to hit an American coast. But the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina will go down as one of the worst abandonment’s of Americans on American soil ever in U.S. history.” His response to the question posed to him, was to discuss who needed to be fired and why. The entire operation had been a disaster. He sited examples that eluded to the chaos he and everyone around him had been dealing with over the past few days. His words were sincere, his points well made but it was all starting to sound very political.
The interviewer interrupted, seized an opportunity. This man was pointing fingers at the highest level of government. Shouldn’t he and the leadership of his state bear some of the responsibility as well?
His tired mind whirled around the question. He sited three separate incidents from his notes that showed where, in his mind, the federal government had blatantly failed to help them. He then went back to his notes to thank those locally, who’d worked effortlessly to try and help in this otherwise desperate situation. He referred to his notes often because he didn’t want to miss anyone or leave anyone out. In the end, he’d done well. He’d said all he’d come to say. Yet the weight of what was left to be done, the voices of those still trapped, still clinging to life and the faces of those who hadn’t made it, fell on him with such impact. If he was going to enter a plea, he’d have to enter it now otherwise it’d be too late.
In an instant, his expression changed, moisture filled his eyes, and a sense of hopelessness filled his voice as he told the story of a staff member whose mother was trapped in a nursing home. A story he'd just heard moments before he'd gone on the aire. “She’d call him everyday,” he said, his emotion-filled voice cracking as he spoke. “She’d say are you coming son? Is somebody coming?” He drew a breathe, did nothing to hide the unbidden tears now streaming down his face, angry, bitter, frustrated tears as he continued to tell the story he’d been told himself. “He said yeah, Momma. Somebody’s coming to get you. Somebody’s coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Friday. And she drowned’ed Friday night! She drowned’ed Friday night.” His head fell forward. He took a second to regroup. “Nobody’s coming to get us,” he said facing the camera again, openly weeping. “Nobody’s coming to get us. The secretary’s promised. Everybody’s promised. They’ve had press conferences. I—I’m sick of the press conferences! For God’s sake, shut up and send us somebody!”
The interview was over, the plea had been entered, and it seemed that at his weakest moment, he’d made the biggest difference.
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