"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."
Time and time again, the Lafayette Parish School Board shows an overwhelming tendency toward idiocy, but Wednesday night’s contentious discussion over Northside High School’s teen mother program tops the list of dumb discussions.
“The accomplishment of this goal within the next ten years is not only critical for the region to effectively compete with other regions for residents and businesses, but also to provide an amenity for everyone in Acadiana to enjoy.”
Education Superintendent John White says a continued push to try to keep Louisiana from using tests associated with the Common Core education standards are creating "a state of chaos" for public school teachers.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan to use $210 million in surplus and one-time money to help balance next year's budget received the backing Thursday of the State Bond Commission, support that was needed for the maneuver to work.
State wildlife and fisheries agents have arrested a 39-year-old man accused of stealing crawfish.
An East Feliciana Parish lawmaker has jettisoned his proposal to make it harder for a condemned prisoner to appeal a death sentence.
Senators advanced a proposal Wednesday that would let the governor remove New Orleans-area levee board members for violating what he considers to be public policy, despite concerns it would introduce political meddling into state flood protection.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday, April 17, 2014:
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
The Lafayette City-Parish Council on Tuesday will vote on a resolution that if approved would clear the way for a December ballot proposition asking voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax parishwide to help fund the construction of a new terminal at Lafayette Regional Airport.
Just days before the fourth anniversary of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and oil spill, the Coast Guard has moved cleanup of Louisiana's coast to a new phase, allowing BP to end its "active" efforts in the area.
Legislators still must leave their guns at the door of the Louisiana Capitol.
Sen. Fred Mills may have an "R" behind his name, but his actions in the Louisiana Legislature transcend the established boundaries of his party.
The Louisiana House overwhelmingly rejected a repeal of the state's unconstitutional anti-sodomy law Tuesday.
The Louisiana Senate sided with Gov. Bobby Jindal and the oil industry Tuesday, agreeing to void a lawsuit that a south Louisiana flood board filed against more than 90 oil and gas companies for coastal damage.
Acadian rep notifies would-be supporters that an April 25 fundraiser for the embattled U.S. rep won’t go on as planned.
While it isn’t all too unusual for public bodies to have hired security present during meetings, the LPSB’s push to do so is arguably a response to the antics of one board member.
“I’m running. Why would I be raising all this money? Just to have to return it to people?”
With incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu watching from afar, and with a united Democratic Party in her corner, the fight to get the GOP officially behind Congressman Bill Cassidy is gaining just as much momentum as it is hushed controversy.
15th Judicial District Judge Durwood Conque has announced that he will not seek re-election after 27 years on the bench.
The controversial standardized tests are set to be used in third-grade through eighth-grade public school classrooms next year.
The Louisiana Senate has agreed to prohibit unmanned aircraft from flying over chemical plants, water treatment systems, telecommunications networks and other items considered "critical infrastructure" in Louisiana.
It didn’t take long for KATC TV 3 to jump all over the news of a dead body found in Girard Park, but in its rush to produce headlines, the local TV station got sloppy.
An unholy trinity of civil-society upheavalers whose first names are not Conner, Tanner or Logan are facing charges in Eunice.
Now that lawmakers have shot down efforts to cap annual interest rates for payday loans, supporters for stricter regulations of the storefront lenders are rallying behind another strategy.