For the first time, I thought to myself, this could be the day I die.
September 9, 2005 12:27 AM   Subscribe

Rami Chami, a graduate student entering Tulane University, was among those who sought refuge in the Superdome. Chami was formerly an editor at the Indiana Daily Student, and has written a three-part series for the paper about the experience.
"The field before us, which would have been ideal to lay down on was empty, but off bounds. The field was manned by National Guardsmen who would not allow people on it. I was told by those around me that it was a multi-million dollar field which the stadium management did not want ruined."
"Our first choices for a bed that evening were: a wet floor, damp chair or in the reeking but dry hallway."
"The atmosphere in the dome had gotten incredibly tense and the soldiers were walking around with shotguns, which I assumed was an ideal weapon for close quarter combat."

posted by kyleg (26 comments total)
I'm absolutely astounded and furious how the stadium management had any say in the matter whatsoever. Anywhere else in the world, the Superdome would have been commandeered for the benefit of the people inside. Instead, we have an incredible situation, where National Guardsmen are protecting the property interests, rather than the job they should be there for. Words just fail me.
posted by salmacis at 12:42 AM on September 9, 2005

They didn't know it would be so bad, but still, artificial turf is tough stuff, letting people on it would not have done much damage.

Thanks for the link, that was a great firsthand account.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:47 AM on September 9, 2005

I was surprised to read that the evacuees were given food and water. I don't think I've seen that information anywhere else.
posted by Serena at 1:13 AM on September 9, 2005

The superdome was supplied, the convention center is the place they said there was no food or water.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:20 AM on September 9, 2005

I've read that the guards brought food and water for 36 hours, obviously expecting further supplies to be delivered once the storm had passed.
posted by godawful at 1:25 AM on September 9, 2005

New daily show clips of their great and important coverage of Hurricane Katrina are here:

Stewart's Candid Thoughts on Katrina
Timeline of Bush's travels pre/post Katrina
Meet the Fokkers (Brownie and Chertoff)
Mocking Dick Cheney
Katrina and Hollywood
Interview with Brian Willia
posted by commonmedia at 1:30 AM on September 9, 2005

my understanding of why they didn't allow people on the field itself is that it's below sea level.

in fact, at some point last week, there were pictures posted at the WaPo where kids were running through shafts of sunlight on the turf, after it was clear that the field wasn't going to flood.
posted by Hat Maui at 2:00 AM on September 9, 2005

salmacis: He's talking about the first night, when everybody expected to be out of there in 12-24 hours. The stadium was due to host the Saints' home opener on 9/19, and last year, when it was used for Ivan, it took them something like a week to clean up.

The atmosphere should rightly have been one of "we're all welcome guests here, let's not mess up the host's house".

I'm not going to judge Night #1 by the situation of Night #5.

This story once again flags a key point: fear of riots slowed the relief response. Even when evacuation was possible it was prevented, because they didn't want to start until it could be a massive effort. I wonder if this strategy has ever been properly vetted by psychology or sociology experts. The Release Early, Release Often model followed by (say) 37signals builds confidence and loyalty for their web products. If they had found ways to get even an amateur civilian evacuation going, and backed up self-evacuation efforts, many people in the city would have had much more confidence in the relief effort. As it was, they felt abandoned, and the longer it went, they became more alienated from the publicy safety people, who had in effect become their enemy -- in some cases, their prison guards.
posted by dhartung at 2:18 AM on September 9, 2005

Actually, yeah... why the hell were they carrying shotguns? If I were a soldier in that situation, wouldn't I want a handgun? And if I were a civilian in that situation, wouldn' I want the soldiers to be armed only with handguns? And oh yeah... how often do the US armed forces even use shotguns? How is it that they had that many on hand?
posted by Clay201 at 3:05 AM on September 9, 2005

Imagining what would have happened if Generator had failed sends a shiver up my spine.

Though i thought it was light on the 'observations on the human condition' bit.
posted by rawfishy at 4:47 AM on September 9, 2005

why the hell were they carrying shotguns?

Because shotguns have greater stopping power over a wider area. There's also the psychological effect of hearing a shotgun cocked--much scarier than cocking a pistol, which probably wouldn't even be heard over the crowd.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:47 AM on September 9, 2005

Shotguns = area effect weapon = last ditch attempt Crowd control in a desperate situation = a place you dont want to be anywhere near if you can help it.
posted by rawfishy at 4:51 AM on September 9, 2005

Speaking of soldiers, im reading alot of headlines at the moment talking of forcibly removing remaining residents - saying 'you have to leave for your own good because its toxic here' but none of the soldiers are wearing any protective gear??

What gives?
posted by rawfishy at 5:02 AM on September 9, 2005

unfortunately they should have had the armed guards in the womens bathrooms .....i dont think women would have liked that, but look what ended up happening in there.
posted by msthinker at 5:30 AM on September 9, 2005

Because shotguns have greater stopping power over a wider area. There's also the psychological effect of hearing a shotgun cocked--much scarier than cocking a pistol, which probably wouldn't even be heard over the crowd.

Sort of, C_D, but the psychological effect is far more important than any physical effects. You don't get a lot of spread out of a shotgun at close range; a couple of inches at 30 feet or so, say.

That, and seeing a soldier walking around with a two-handed weapon is much, much more intimidating than the same solder walking around with a holstered sidearm. Since you can't really holster a shotgun, you have to carry it exposed, and carrying it exposed draws attention to it and makes people realize that all the fellow has to do is point and pull the trigger.
posted by staresbynight at 6:24 AM on September 9, 2005

It's interesting how he interpreted the situation.

Some white British travellers have reported to the media they were told they were being threatened and that the soldiers brought them food and water (instead of making them line up and wait like everyone else) to protect them.

However, this is how he tells the story (as he was with many internationals:
I was still with the group of about 15 backpackers from the hostel. I was the only non-Caucasian among them and began to notice that our group stuck out in the crowd of mostly black people. Some young Caucasian soldiers also seemed to notice our "odd" group and would come sit on the floor and chat with us and later periodically check on us. Other people noticed we were not the only group receiving "special" attention. I came to learn that some soldiers had taken some of the girls from the group on tours of the stadium and even showed them the executive booths that were on the cordoned-off second seating level.

At a later point, some soldiers brought bottled water, which usually required a 40-minute wait at breakfast or dinner, to the girls. Some of the people around the girls loudly and rightfully decried what was blatant preferential treatment. The girls in the group began to seriously fret about their safety and would not let up with their complaining. By then, we had all heard rumors of fights, rapes and suicides. An officer passed by the group and gave one of the girls a walkie-talkie to communicate with him if they felt threatened and warned us not to wander around by ourselves. At that point, I decided I had had enough and left the group."
Though in doing so, he ended up helping many people - I'm impressed by his humanity, and that he also expressed guilt at being evacuated early, something none of the other international people have. They were mostly young and able-bodied, but were evacuated before many children were.
posted by jb at 6:42 AM on September 9, 2005

Wow. Just wow.

(yay IDS! I worked there as a freshman at IU. : ) )
posted by SisterHavana at 6:42 AM on September 9, 2005

Sorry - I shouldn't have assumed he was international. I thought it said he had come to the U.S. for graduate school (as many of my friends have), but it doesn't say that.

I am curious to know what department, though.
posted by jb at 6:43 AM on September 9, 2005

Arn't shotguns more capable of firing bean-bag shot than normal guns? I have no idea if they could actually get their hands on that much ammo, though.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:00 AM on September 9, 2005

robocop: yes, they are. Normal guns aren't used for beanbag or other specialty rounds (so far as I know), but I'm betting that the shotguns at hand here weren't loaded with anything so friendly. Beanbags are good for getting crowds and riots to disperse, but in a crowded situation like the Superdome, with literally nowhere else to go, they'd be worthless.

Betcha a dollar they were loaded with buckshot.
posted by staresbynight at 7:43 AM on September 9, 2005

Betcha a dollar they were loaded with buckshot.

Yeah, that wasn't a "test" situation or some hippie protest; that was a confined area filled with predominately angry, poor black people. Definately 2.75 00.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:42 AM on September 9, 2005

Actually, yeah... why the hell were they carrying shotguns?...[snip] wouln't the want hand guns?

Depends on the choke and the type of shot. You can have a choke that narrows the shot pattern and use heaver shot to minimize scatter or lighter shot that is much less fatal.

Shotgun is a good choice.
posted by tkchrist at 9:19 AM on September 9, 2005

Arn't shotguns more capable of firing bean-bag shot than normal guns?

There are special adapters for that. But it is a pain to switch back and forth under pressure. They can use plastic shot.
posted by tkchrist at 9:26 AM on September 9, 2005

The shotgun was the law'n'order weapon of choice during certain ... protests.

We should be thankful the LANG didn't use dogs. Can you imagine?
posted by dhartung at 11:37 AM on September 9, 2005

Really, though, nothing works quite as well as firehoses.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:47 AM on September 9, 2005

Clay201 writes "why the hell were they carrying shotguns? If I were a soldier in that situation, wouldn't I want a handgun? "

Also a hand gun has way too much penetration for a crowd situation. You want to hit the guy your aiming at not the kid five rows back or across the bowl. A shot gun loaded with "non-lethal" rounds or even a low power steel shot is unlikely to kill anyone and yet still be useful as a crowd control weapon. And don't discount the presence of a slide action shotgun. Just racking the slide will often be enough to calm a out of control situation.
posted by Mitheral at 12:08 PM on September 9, 2005

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