"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."
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is considering whether to get involved in a lawsuit against Gov. Bobby Jindal for his attempts to undermine use of the Common Core education standards in Louisiana's public schools.
The latest meeting of a south Louisiana flood board that stirred political turmoil with a lawsuit against the oil and gas industry is taking place amid uncertainty over the future of the lawsuit — and the board's own membership.
The photos taken nearly a mile under the Gulf of Mexico are so clear that small holes are visible in a lifeboat that may have gone down or been scuttled when a passenger ship was sunk by a Nazi submarine in 1942.
Advocate columnist and Jindal shill Quin Hillyer has been against the New Orleans levee board lawsuit from day one, but a recent piece targeting author/activist John Barry prompted the perfect rebuttal from the board’s former vice-president, who takes Hillyer to task on just about every distorted claim he’s made on the issue.
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
Pat Bowlen steps down; typhoon caused Taiwan plane crash; Arizona execution botched and more national and international news for Thursday, July 24, 2014.
Thousands of people who bought health insurance through the marketplace created by the federal health care overhaul face price hikes next year that could top 10 percent.
Louisiana fell one spot in an annual national ranking of child well-being that looks at poverty, education and health access.
A federal judge has decided he doesn't need to hear more arguments in the case of a gay couple who want a Louisiana marriage license.
Saints again bring playoff aspirations into 2014 campaign.
New details in the case against the man arrested for last week’s bomb threat and bank robbery has surfaced, including a MidSouth Bank surveillance video showing the alleged suspect attempt an early-morning bank robbery.
Parents and teachers who support the Common Core education standards sued Gov. Bobby Jindal Tuesday over his actions against the multi-state standards, accusing him of illegally meddling in education policy.
An arrest was announced this morning in connection with last week’s bomb scare at UL Lafayette.
Attorneys, judges and others interviewed by LaPolitics expect 15 to 20 district judge races this year.
"I feel like I'm under siege," an attorney said recently over drinks at Galatoire's Bistro in Baton Rouge. "We all do. Every time I turn around somebody wants a check. District attorney races. The judges. They're killing us."
As a requirement for running for Congress in the 6th District, former Gov. Edwin Edwards has filed his financial disclosure statement with the U.S. House showing his income in 2013 totaling $242,787.
Unlike those swindled by Bernie Madoff, the victims of Texas businessman Robert Allen Stanford’s Ponzi scheme won’t be getting any relief from the Securities Investor Protection Corp.’s emergency fund after a recent appellate court ruling.
The legal challenge is part of a continuing struggle over Common Core, which has become controversial since the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted the standards in 2010.
The lone Democrat to announce he's running for governor, state Rep. John Bel Edwards, criticized Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal's budgeting tactics as "running the state like a big Ponzi scheme."
State police have arrested a 42-year-old Kaplan man in the July 7 hit and run fatality crash that killed a bicyclist on Louisiana Highway 92 near Milton.
Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy has picked up support for his U.S. Senate campaign from a former GOP competitor.
Lisa Hargis Smith lived a mysterious life as seen with her death earlier this month and its impact on the community of those who knew her, whether as a star student in Lafayette High’s class of ‘69, or later as a woman struggling with homelessness and mental illness.
Attorney Valerie Gotch Garrett will announce on Tuesday that she plans to run for the Division E seat of the 15th Judicial District Court.
Back in 2012, three Baton Rouge attorneys came to the aid of several disgruntled police officers with a high-profile lawsuit against the Lafayette Police chief and a number of higher-ups in city-parish government, but in a federal courtroom Thursday, their claims of conspiracy coupled with a lack of evidence backfired and the case was dismissed.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration intends to rework how it pays the private managed care networks that provide health services to two-thirds of Louisiana's Medicaid patients.