"I said all week, 'I want to be there, I want to be there,'" Howard says. "Well, I got my wish, and here we are."
Leaving their families behind, the pair arrived in Lafayette on Saturday, Sept. 3, after a 14-hour drive in an ambulance with "Gulf Coast Bound ' Wish Us Well" written on its back windows.
Myers and Howard are just two of the hundreds of medics from across the country who came in to lend their support to Hurricane Katrina victims. Every one of Galesburg Hospitals' Ambulance Service's 78 employees volunteered to be a part of the effort, but the small company could only afford to send two. (All of the ambulance companies expect to eventually be reimbursed for their expenses by FEMA.)
"Everybody wants to be here," says Myers, who is one of GHAS' senior medics.
According to Kenny Savoie, who has been serving as a state mutual aid coordinator for Acadian Ambulance, medics began pouring into the state about two days after Katrina hit. The emergency responders are all on contract from FEMA and many were deployed locally through Acadian Ambulance. He says approximately 160 ambulances and 480 medics, based everywhere from California to Pennsylvania, stationed themselves in Lafayette over the past two weeks. Medics are being housed in the bottom three floors of UL Lafayette's Bancroft dorm, which was closed this semester due to electrical problems, as well as space provided by the fire department and Meadowbrook Hospital.
The work of the visiting medics runs the gamut from waiting long hours on standby to running a boat through the streets of New Orleans to rescue stranded residents. TheÂ mixedÂ placement ofÂ emergency respondersÂ highlights the unprecedented nature of the disaster and the challenges of the rescue effort.
"We didn't know what to expect and at that point didn't care," says Kenny Hoffman, a team leader and paramedic with Med Flight of Columbus, Ohio, who came in with a team of about five ambulance units from Ohio on Friday, Sept. 2., at a time when the crisis had reached its apex.
"Without a doubt, this was the most life-changing experience any of us have had, and we deal with death every day," he says. "It was truly seeing people in need in its most raw form. You see on TV where military rule has taken over, and this is like something you might see in Black Hawk Down or something like that. To see something like this in a city many of us have been to before, it changes your life."
Hoffman spent a day with New Orleans emergency medical responders in a boat along Crete Street, near the French Quarter. Besides pulling survivors out of the water, he also pulled flight line duty helping board patients onto helicopters at the Louis Armstrong International Airport and the New Orleans Convention Center.
"You never expect to see people in a city in the U.S. in these conditions," Hoffman says. "A city of refugees in the United States." At the New Orleans airport, "people were being herded like cattle out of their own city" by armed military troops, he says. "These people will never be the same."
Paramedic Greg Schano, of Cincinnati, Ohio, came to Lafayette in his mobile intensive care unit, expecting the worst. However, he says, a lot of what he did could be described as "general transport," as well as providing emotional support at the shelter in Thibodaux.
"I don't feel like we were used to our fullest capability," he says. "But we're just here to do what we can do."
Keith Simon, spokesman for Acadian Ambulance, says the company was pairing units as they came in with their own ambulance services for support. This ranged from teaming up with their medics on calls to standing by to relieve exhausted units.
"Early on, there wasn't a lot of organization, so we were kind of taking charge," he says. It wasn't until Saturday, Sept. 3, that FEMA had established its organization and began directing all of the medics.
"It probably could have been better handled," Simon says. "We needed help to get people evacuated. Everybody had a water [shortage] issue."
He adds that several factors played into hampering relief efforts.
"It was such a massive undertaking," he says. "You could have had a synchronized helicopter landing every 10 minutes and you still couldn't have gotten all the people out in three days and then you factor in the violence and the fact that people didn't want to go in there. There wasn't enough security."
For medics Myers and Howard, the trip was full of unimaginable scenarios. On their first day, when they were stationed at the I-10/610 split in New Orleans to receive evacuees from rescue boats, they heard another common complaint of relief workers. "The thing that surprised me the most," Howard says, "was the people coming in on the boats were saying, 'We're finding hundreds of people, but they refuse to come with us. They're staying at home.'"
Myers and Howard were wearily heading back to their temporary home at Bancroft Hall Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 6, after having been on duty for the past four days, with a total of about 10 hours of sleep. A lot of that time though, Howard says, was spent awaiting orders. "There's a lot of resources here," he says. "You're seeing on TV that there's thousands of people that needed help and you get here and it's a lot of sitting and waiting. We haven't quite figured out how it works yet."
Still, he insists, the time that they did spend helping people more than made up for it.
"I told my family if I can come down here and help one person, it's worth the trip. And we've done that, so it's definitely worth it."
Lafayette Police have had a busy day.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration will use $130 million in patchwork financing from a tax amnesty program, insurance settlement, uninsured motorist penalties and other excess funds to close most of the state's midyear budget deficit.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said she disagrees with President Barack Obama's actions on immigration, hoping the latest controversy doesn't worsen her campaign difficulties.
Gay-rights advocates challenging Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban announced Thursday that they have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case before it is heard by a federal appeals court.
Thinking himself the “son of God,” the man charged with the 2013 killing of an officer of the Chitimacha Tribal Police will not stand trial following a ruling Thursday on his mental competency.
Either Saints coach Sean Payton doesn't want to tip Baltimore off as to who'll start in New Orleans' secondary on Monday night, or he really doesn't know yet.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Ten departing CEOs rake in $430 million; profile of FSU gunman emerges; Buffalo's weather woes and more national and international news for Friday, November 21, 2014.
The Ethics Board gives the lame duck Youngsville mayor permission to offer a sweet parting gift to the community he’s presided over for three terms.
The money came through a general obligation bond sale Thursday.
A legend in the Acadiana Oil Patch, Comeaux died Monday, Nov. 17.
With a growing number of alleged sexual assault victims coming out against Bill Cosby in recent weeks, upcoming projects have been canned by NBC and Netflix, but that won’t affect the once-loved comedian and actor’s scheduled performance in Lafayette.
The Baltimore Ravens' retooled secondary had no trouble against a rookie quarterback at home. This week, however, their task is far more challenging: stopping Drew Brees on the road in New Orleans.
Add Texas Gov. Rick Perry's name to the list of possible Republican presidential candidates flooding the campaign trail for GOP Senate candidate Bill Cassidy.
Gov. Bobby Jindal is in Florida this week with his fellow Republican governors for another gripe session aimed at their favorite target, the president, this time taking aim at his immigration plans.
Early voting for the runoff is shortened by two days because of the Thanksgiving holiday.
“Coach Don” Gagnard is running for school board. Today he offers his critique of the socioeconomic relationship between government subsidies and obesity.
Former Le Rosier chef who cooked at the James Beard House and was named one of the “Best New Chefs in America” by Food & Wine magazine in 1995 was 48.
Pat Cooper is contesting his termination by the LPSB, filing a petition Tuesday that calls the recent decision “arbitrary and capricious.”
A look at the numbers highlights the challenge facing Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu as she tries to win a fourth term in a Dec. 6 runoff against Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy.
Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is promising the new Republican majority will quickly resurrect Keystone XL pipeline legislation killed by Democrats, potentially setting up an early 2015 veto confrontation with President Barack Obama.
A national animal rights group has been rebuffed by a Baton Rouge district court judge, although the group might still get its day in court.
The administration says public college campuses won't be on the chopping block.
The legendary musician is performing at a $1,000-per-person fundraiser Dec. 1 in New Orleans.
Old savings and checking accounts, payroll checks, stocks and dividends, insurance proceeds, oil and gas royalty payments and other unclaimed money is sent to the state when a business cannot locate someone.