Wednesday, September 07, 2005

EDITORIAL >> Evacuees get welcome here

The one bright spot after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina is the response Arkansans have shown thousands of people who fled here to escape the storm.

Arkansans have welcomed thousands of people from Louisiana and Mississippi and invited them into their homes and churches and fed them and enrolled them in their schools.
Restaurants have given away meals to hundreds of people at no charge, while others have received cash and clothing and even jobs. State agencies will surely take care of their needs for many weeks, possibly for several months.

The evacuees drove up here last weekend with little notice, but you couldn’t miss their presence this week as they filled up motels. Few of them will return anytime soon to their hometowns, since those hardly exist anymore.

These refugees are glad they’re alive, having lost almost everything they own and no doubt many lost relatives who were left behind.

Refugee children are enrolled in almost every school district in the state, including those in our communities, and have been made welcome. But the families’ situation is getting more desperate as they run out of money and max out their credit cards. They will need food and clothing and jobs and schooling for their children well into the fall and possibly into winter and beyond.

There’s no way to tell how many refugees from the hurricane are staying inside our borders, but more are on the way. Gov. Huckabee announced Friday that as many as 20,000 new refugees are on the way, and a quarter of them will be housed at Fort Chaffee at Fort Smith.
However long their stay, let’s make them feel at home.

EDITORIAL >> Cavalry arrives way too late

The scenes from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina down south remind one of a Third World country where rescuers are nowhere to be found, having absconded with millions of dollars in foreign aid.
Those in charge of the assistance effort may not have run off with the loot, but their absence for most of this week is an embarrassment to this nation, whose citizens watched in horror as hundreds of people perished, while many of the survivors huddled in filth and lawless elements looted and raped as if this were an underdeveloped country.

The astonishingly slow response by the federal government to send in troops and help with rescue efforts proves once again that bureaucrats are naturally loath to react to disasters, much less prepare for them.
After 9-11, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) identified a hurricane and levee failure at New Orleans as one of the three most likely major disaster scenarios. Like the president’s morning briefing that reported that Osama bin Laden (remember him?) wanted to attack us using commercial airliners, apparently forewarned is not forearmed in this administration.

FEMA and the Homeland Security Department were nowhere to be found long after the hurricane tore through New Orleans. The people in charge made their obligatory statements on TV, but they didn’t have the sense to send reinforcements to make life a bit more sustainable there.
Too many people who were drowning in their homes were not rescued. Looters and rapists ran rampant throughout the city.

The administration must bear full responsibility for its inept response to the catastrophe, especially when it was willing to commit more than 100,000 troops to Iraq but hardly a tenth as many to Louisiana and Mississippi.
We conquered Baghdad in seven days and captured Normandy in just one day, and we can’t rescue New Orleans? We defended New Orleans against the British, but it took four days to mobilize the National Guard to begin to rescue the poor, sick and elderly left behind in that same city.

Sure, it’s easy to point fingers and lose one’s cool as we watch New Orleans disappear beyond the horizon. The suffering humanity that survived the disaster is still in a daze, angry that the authorities did not do more. We’re angy, too: That a great American city wasn’t better protected and helped when help was needed.
President Bush could help restore his own tattered credibility if he fired FEMA director Michael Brown, as well as Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, whose name he can’t pronounce anyway.

TOP STORY >> Family must flee again

Leader staff writer

When the United States pulled out of Saigon in 1975, abandoning all of Vietnam to the North Vietnamese, Trung Vu brought his family to this country with the few possessions they could carry. A young man then, he started anew, settling in the New Orleans area and eventually working as a jeweler.
Now, 30 years later, his job, home and that new life have been washed away in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Vu is once again on the road, a refugee in his adopted country.
Vu and three generations of his family—20 people in all—crammed in three cars with a few changes of clothes and some personal items are headed east to Pennsylvania and the promise of help and shelter from his brother and sister.

Looking tired and re-signed, Vu folded his arms and watched as his wife and daughter packed the back of the mini-van Thursday morning after an evening at the Lonoke Days Inn.
Many of the vehicles parked in Lonoke’s cluster of motels had Louisiana plates, with a fair smattering of Mississippi and Alabama plates.

People lingered in the lobbies, eating complimentary breakfasts, of hunkered down outside for a forlorn smoke.
Vu’s father-in-law, a man in his the 80s, came out to pack his bag into the car. For now, Vu just wants to get his family, including his wife’s aging parents, to his brother’s home in Lancaster Pennsylvania. Tuesday Houston, Wednesday night Lonoke and maybe one more night before Lancaster.
“We’re from Gretna, over the bridge from New Orleans,” said Vu. As far as I know, our area, the whole New Orleans, my job, all gone.

“We are empty again,” said Vu. “It’s a total loss,” said Vu. “Nothing now. No job.”
Asked if he was going back, Vu asked, “Go back for what? No job. No electricity—how you pay for everything?” He said he might try to go back in a few months and see if anything of his old life, any possessions could be salvaged.

“I’m very sad, very lost inside,” said his daughter Kim, 12.
Hopefully there will be another opportunity, Vu said. “We lost what we had, but we’re still lucky,” he said. “There’s a thousand people dead, floating in the water.
“Life will never be the same.”

TOP STORY >> Military working to save victims

Combined, more than a thousand Little Rock Air Force Base airmen and Arkansas National Guardsmen are working to save lives, move supplies, light runways and restore order in New Orleans and other storm-ravaged parts of Louisiana and Mississippi.

Airmen continued supporting Hurricane Katrina relief operations from Friday by launching C-130 missions carrying supplies to the Gulf Coast. Those missions carried vital shipments consisting of approximately 13,000 bottles of water, 1,800 meals ready to eat and 2,500 packages of sanitary wiping napkins.
The Pentagon has been slow to respond to the state’s request to use 60 C-130 airplanes from Little Rock Air Force Base to airlift some of the evacuees to Fort Chaffee and other “colonies” that are planned around the state, Governor Mike Huckabee said Friday.

“We have been chomping at the bit to get involved,” said Capt. Delvin Genenbacher, a 463rd Airlift Group, 50th Airlift Squadron pilot and aircraft commander. “We are happy that we are going to help. We support this 100 percent.”

“This is a touching mission to be involved in ... I am just honored to do this,” said Tech Sgt. Patrick Carter, 463rd Operations Support Squadron loadmaster. “If we were in the same situation I am sure they would do the same thing for us.”

On the Guard side, numerous C-130 airlifts and a large convoy have transported troops, trucks, food and water in recent days. Designated Task Force Arkansas, it includes members of the 39th Infantry Brigade—some veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan—as well as many other outfits including the 189th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base.

It is deploying with more than 80 vehicles including fuel and water trucks and many other trucks up to five-ton. Among the specialties of the Guardsmen are communications, medical, maintenance, transportation, law enforcement, engineering and logistics.
Wednesday, airmen from the 314th Airlift Wing, the 463rd Air Group and the 34th Combat Training Squadron flew to New Orlean’s Louis Armstrong International Airport to deliver portable runway lights to the hurricane ravaged airport.

“It was a race against the clock to get the airmen and airfield lights to the airport before dark so they could keep the runway open,” said Lt. Col. Glen Swift, 34th Combat Training Squadron commander. “The rest of us in the squadron worked together to look for anything they would need while they are there,” the colonel said.
Getting the airmen and lights into the airport was necessary for 24-hour operations. There was not enough power to use the existing lights on the runway. Those portable airfield lights were essential to saving lives according to crewmembers. The airfield is now one of the primary airfields used for aero-medical missions transporting patients out of New Orleans.

The airport is 4-feet above sea level and has three runways ranging from 3,500 feet to 10,080 feet long. “We are extremely proud of their efforts and proud of these guys,” Colonel Swift said. “They excelled in all they were asked to do.”

Four aero medical evacuation crews were to have departed Friday for San Antonio, Texas, aboard a C-130 Hercules from Little Rock Air Force Base, to provide in-flight medical care for victims of Hurricane Katrina, that has wrecked havoc along the coastlines of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi.
The Arkansas Army National Guard’s 35th Aviation Brigade deployed two UH-60 MEDEVAC Black Hawk helicopters to
Mississippi Tuesday and performed search and rescue missions near Mobile, Ala., Wednesday rescuing a total of 57 civilians including six children and two infants. All rescues were from rooftops and flooded homes.
Some missions involved chopping through attic roofs.

TOP STORY >> Katrina's Aftermath

Leader staff writer

Five days into the greatest natural disaster in U.S. history, even as many tens of thousands of people desperately stew in frustration and anger in New Orleans awaiting long-promised water, food and medical help, local people are helping out.

Bringing what little they could pack into the family car before fleeing—perhaps forever—from the homes and jobs and neighbors and schools they’ve known for a lifetime, refugees from Hurricane Katrina have flooded into area motels, some without a clue where they are headed, what life holds in store for them or from where their next meal will come.

They bring with them their hopes and fears, their children, pets and medical and emotional problems, often with too little food, too little water, too little money and not enough information about the folks back home.
Estimates of refugees in the state range as high as 20,000, according to some reports, although firm information is hard to come by.

Local churches, private citizens, businesses and governments are doing what they can.
The Jacksonville Chamber of Com-merce has coordinated a schedule of free meals to be provided at area churches and pantries, planned a job fair and is opening a shelter behind the chamber.

Gov. Mike Huckabee has identified 20,000 beds in the state for refugees, 4,000 of them at Fort Chaffee near Fort Smith. He has declared an emergency to exist in every Arkansas county and freed millions of dollars for relief.

Although the Federal Emergency Management Agency identified a hurricane and levee failure at New Orleans as one of the most likely disasters, the agency was caught flatfooted this week—even though the hurricane was expected.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln Friday praised Huckabee’s response to the crisis, but called the action and inaction of President Bush and the Federal Emergency Ma-nagement Agency “unacceptable.”
“I was a little dismayed it took (the President) until today to get down there. There’s no doubt we need the kind of leadership that will make sure the agencies that are operating can operate efficiently.”
But locally, with guidance and support from the state Education Department, schools have begun enrolling students fleeing Loui-siana and Mississippi, forgoing for now the niceties of transcripts and other requirements.

The local Pulaski County schools have enrolled about at least seven students and are expecting more, particularly Arnold Drive Elemen-tary School, located on Little Rock Air Force Base. The base has opened a re-ception center to welcome airmen uprooted by the storm and flood and those with elementary school aged children would most likely attend Arnold.

“We’re expecting more and will do whatever we can,” said Arnold Drive Elementary Principal Jackie Smith. “We have a way to get uniforms and help the students get supplies,” she said.
At Jacksonville Middle School, the boys’ campus, three displaced students enrolled Friday.
In a competition to see which middle school could raise more money for the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, the Jackson-ville girls raised $1,000 versus $400 for the boys, according to Girls Superintendent Angela Romney.

Responding to inaccurate information that many school-aged children were holed up in Lonoke motels with their parents, Lonoke Schools considered sending a school bus to pick those children up, according to John Tackett, assistant superintendent.

The new Holiday Inn Express at Lonoke emerged as the unofficial headquarters for Lonoke’s newly arrived travelers at the prompting of Christina Harris, a motel employee who took it upon herself to round up food, clothing and information for them.
One woman with two children, including a 19-month-old, told the desk clerk she was out of money and would have to leave, Harris said. A guest checking out pushed his credit card forward and had the clerk pay for two more nights for the woman.

“The parking lot’s been plenty full,” said Jason Thompson, general manager of the motel, “about 90 percent from Louisiana.”
By Thursday morning, he said, some were heading back to New Orleans “to see what’s left,” and others had run out of money and don’t know what to do.”
In the motel’s computer room, Marlene Nobles and members of her family surf the Internet, trying to find out how their home and neighborhood fared.

“My husband is still there and we can’t get in touch,” she said.
Then after a pause, “I feel that he’s well.”

Nobles and the Fergusons are headed to stay with family in Indiana. “I’m concerned,” said Chole Ferguson, 14. “We left people we know and want to have a house to go home to. This is going to be a life-changing event.”
Meanwhile, the Arkansas National Guard has about 1,000 soldiers and airmen in the affected areas, providing various kinds of aid.

“I’m very proud of the wonderful people of Arkansas who have opened their hearts and homes and churches and communities to help the displaced,” said the senator.

She said the Senate this week convened to pass a $10.5 billion emergency relief authorization, mostly for FEMA search and rescue. When FEMA moved to homeland security, it became entwined in tremendous bureaucracy, said Lincoln.

“Clearly, there have been simulations and there’s no reason that we should not have been prepared better—and we will be in the future,” she said.



John Daniel Roach, 68, of El Paso, passed away Sept. 3 in North Little Rock. He was born Feb. 14, 1937, in Little Rock to the late John Robert and Katie Roach. He married Frances Johnson Oct. 19, 1954, in Little Rock. Together they had four children and adopted five children.
Preceding him in death were his parents John Robert Roach and Katie McCler Roach; seven brothers: Robert, Calvin, Alan, Hilton, Paul, Floyd and Richard; and one sister, Virginia Bailey.
Survivors include his loving wife for over 50 years, Frances Mamie Roach of the home; nine children: Larry Roach, Linda Roach, Ricky Roach, Melissa Wooldridge, and Gene Roach all of El Paso, Rachel Cash of Cabot, LeaAnn Foshee of Amarillo, Texas, Tiffiny Roach and Carol Adams both of El Paso; two sisters, Charlean Mayfield and Dar-lene Goode both of Cabot; two brothers: Jesse Roach of Cabot and Jimmy Roach of Rusk, Texas; 18 grandchildren and six great grand-children. Funeral services were held Sept. 6 at Mt. Springs Baptist Church with interment at Grissard Cemetery in El Paso.
Arrangements were by Thomas Funeral Service 713 South Second St. in Cabot.


Charles “Tommy” Busby, 53, of Cabot, died Friday, Sept. 2. He was a musician and gardener.
He is survived by two sons, Kenny Busby and Lance Busby and wife, Rene all of Austin; brother, James Busby and wife, Pat of Cabot; sister, Jackie Goodwin and husband, Otis of Cabot; nieces, Shanna Busby and Denise Sword and husband, Mark; nephews, Brett Busby, Bradley Busby, Allen Tucker and wife, Mona, David Tucker and wife, Tanya; great-nephews, Blake Busby, Mark and Mallory Sword, Heather and Bradley Tucker and Jacob Tucker.
Funeral services were Sept. 6 at Austin Church of Christ with burial at Sylvania Cemetery by Westbrook Funeral Home, Beebe.


Lyle Poindexter, 75, of McRae, went to be with the Lord, Sunday, Sept. 4. He was retired from Harding University with over 38 years of service in the automotive maintenance department, a farmer and a member of West Side Church of Christ, Searcy.
He is survived by his wife of 54 years, Lorene Goff Poindexter; two daughters, Myra Spence and husband, Jamie of Beebe, Stephanie Poindexter Milton of Searcy; three granddaughters, Erica Young, An-drea McCoy and Alicia Scarbor-ough; a great-granddaughter, Ash-lynn McCoy; one brother, Phillip Poindexter of McRae; four sisters, Betty Jones of Searcy, Imogene Gardner of Denver, Colo., Leoda Bennett of Jacksonville and Ann McQueen of Little Rock. He was preceded in death by his parents, Ovid and Elsie Poindexter and a brother, James Poindexter.
Funeral services were Sept. 6 at Westbrook Funeral Home, Beebe with burial at Antioch Cemetery.

NEIGHBORS >> Area Girl Scouts opening arms

Leader staff writer

The Ouachita Council of Girl Scouts is inviting girls from families evacuated as a result of Hurricane Katrina to join the Girl Scouts free of charge. The Ouachita Council of Girl Scouts will pay all registration fees.
The Girl Scouts’ Juliette Low Service Unit serves scouts in Cabot, Austin, Ward, Beebe, McRae and DesArc areas and wants to help by placing girls in existing troops to make friends.

For more information, contact the Ouachita Council at (501) 758-1020 or call Beverly Keathley, manager of the Juliette Low Service Unit, at 843-8873 or by e-mail at
Six members of Girl Scout Troop 635 of Beebe toured the William J. Clinton Presidential Li-brary and Museum in Little Rock recently. The troop is for Girl Scouts ages 10, 11 and 12.

The presidential library, 1200 President Clinton Ave., includes an archival research facility and a museum. It is responsible for preserving and processing the official presidential records, audiovisual materials and artifacts of the Clinton administration.

Clinton was at the library when the troop visited. He made time to shake hands and pose for photographs with the scouts.
“The scouts really enjoyed the day,” said Mary Beth Hendricks who shares the leadership of the troop with Becky Blair. Hendricks has been involved with scouts since her daughter was a Daisy Scout in kindergarten. She became active in scout leadership last year.

“I enjoy the interaction with the girls,” Hendricks said. Her daughter is now a Junior Scout. Next year, her daughter will be a Cadet.
The tour of the library fulfilled a history-badge requirement as well as encouraging good citizenship in the scouts, says Hendricks.

The scouts took turns sitting in chairs in the Cabinet Room, looking up historical facts on the various touch-screen computers. The computer screens allow visitors to simply touch the screen for information.
For example, the scouts used the computers to find out what President Clinton was doing on the day they were born. The troop stopped at the Old Mill in North Little Rock where they had a picnic lunch and afternoon tour.
The Old Mill, located at Fairway Ave. and Lakeshore Drive in North Little Rock, is a historic re-creation of an 1880’s water-powered gristmill.

Currently, Troop 635 is planning a trip to the Juliette Gordon Low birthplace in Savannah, Ga., where the Girl Scouts organization was first founded.
The troop is also planning a visit to the Little Rock Central High School national historic site and museum later in the year.

The museum, at 2125 W. Daisy L. Gatson Bates Dr. in Little Rock, opened in September 1997 to mark the 40th anniversary of the high school’s desegregation, when nine African-American students en-tered the school under federal troop protection.

SPORTS >> Badgers, Lonoke continue old rivalry

Leader managing editor

There’s no telling what kind of game to expect when rivals Beebe and Lonoke face off Friday night in Lonoke.
The game could be a shootout like last season when the Jackrabbits won 34-26 at Beebe, or the game could be low-scoring, like in 2003 when the Badgers came away with an 8-2 victory.
One thing is certain, however: The game will likely be competitive.

“It’s a war every time we play,” Lonoke coach Marcel Vincent said. “The game has come down to the end the last two years. We always seem to match up well with each other. It’s just a classic game.”
Since 1976, Lonoke leads the series against Beebe 12-11.

“We got a nice little rivalry going,” Vincent said. Lonoke (0-1) is coming off a 41-14 season-opening loss to class AAA power Pine Bluff Dollarway, a game which saw the Jackrabbits have a turnover-filled first half lead to an early 28-0 deficit. Lonoke trailed by as many as 33-0 before scoring two touchdowns in the second half.
“Dollarway is a very good club and I think everyone realizes that, but we didn’t help ourselves by turning the ball over,” Vincent said. “We spotted them 28 points before we started really playing and I was disappointed by that.

“But there were some bright spots. We played much better at the end of the game than we did in the first half so that’s a positive. Our special teams also played really well and we threw the ball a lot. We had open receivers, we just need to work on making better reads.”
Beebe junior quarterback Jared Mathis had plenty of good reads in a 32-26 victory over Greenbrier on Thursday at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

Mathis threw for four touchdowns and added another rushing score as the Badgers (1-0) held on for the season-opening victory. Mathis finished 16 of 28 for 218 yards.

“He’s got a lot of confidence right now,” Vincent said of Mathis. “Their offense really clicked behind him and he was a great leader in that game. He’s certainly an area we’ve got to be concerned about.”
While he’s concerned with what will be effective against Beebe, Vincent is mainly concerned about his team, and getting it ready for a rugged 6AAA conference schedule, which begins in two weeks.

“We’ve had the state champion come out of our conference the past two years so we’re going to know fairly early where we stand,” Vincent said. “We’ve got to get ready for it.”

SPORTS >> Sloppy openers expose areas needing improvement for Falcons, Devils

Leader sports editor

The two Jacksonville high school football teams enter this Friday’s annual showdown after taking their own respective thumpings in last week’s season openers.
AAAAA-Central schools beat both Jacksonville teams. The Red Devils were routed 43-14 by North Little Rock, while North Pulaski was lit up 44-0 by Little Rock Hall.

North Little Rock is highly ranked while Hall entered the season with little expectations from anyone but the Warriors themselves. That leads most to believe that Jacksonville would be a heavy favorite over its crosstown rival, but head Red Devil Mark Whatley doesn’t see it that way.

“To be honest I can’t worry too much about how tough they’re going to be,” Whatley said. “We’ve got too many of our own problems we’ve got to get fixed. We put it on the ground four times, had five dropped passes and six misfires. We can’t be too concerned with anybody else right now but us.”

Jacksonville failed to get much of a running game going against North Little Rock’s defense. That’s another thing the Red Devils will work on this week.

The passing game worked well at times, and provided a few big plays in Friday’s loss, but Whatley wants to see more drives down the field.

“We just weren’t consistent enough,” Whatley said. “We had some big plays, but you don’t want to live and die by the big play. We want to put together some drives and be consistent on offense.”

There were a couple of things about the offense Whatley liked. The play of sophomore quarterback Cameron Hood was impressive, when all things are considered.

Hood was rushed into the starting job when junior returning starter Daniel Hubbard went hrough an emergency appendectomy Friday morning.
Hood suffered a major knee injury in the first game of the year last season in the Metro Conference, and hasn’t played a down since. He was told Friday afternoon he’d be under center against one of the most highly touted teams in the state to start the season.

“I think Cameron played about as good as can be expected,” Whatley said. “He woke up Friday morning expecting to play linebacker, then found out he was going to be running the team. I think he handled it really well.”
One thing that helped Hood out a lot was the protection offered by the offensive line, something Whatley was very pleased about.

“I think the offensive line gave him ample time to throw and that’s big. It’s big all the time, but especially when you’ve got a kid in the situation Daniel was in.”

Hood will start this week as well, but Hubbard will be back by week three against Watson Chapel.
North Pulaski took a beating, but even that score may not have told the story of how good the Falcons can be. North Pulaski threw four interceptions, lost three fumbles and gave up two punt returns for touchdowns.
That’s a lot of breakdowns to correct, but the basic offense and defense wasn’t that bad, turnovers notwithstanding.

“When you commit seven turnovers and give up two special teams touchdowns, you’re going to get spanked. I don’t care how good you are,” North Pulaski coach Tony Bohannon said.
North Pulaski’s starting running back, Rodric Rainey, carried seven times for 42 yards in the first half, but suffered a high ankle sprain that kept him out the entire second half. He’ll likely be ready to play by Friday, but will be limited.

The passing game is what Bohannon was most disappointed with. Execution will have to improve this week.
“We missed a lot of receivers over the middle that were wide open,” Bohannon said. “We just didn’t see ‘em, didn’t throw it to ‘em. We’re going to start throwing to our shorter receivers instead of going down field every time. If we don’t we’re going to have a new quarterback.”

EDITORIAL >> Only one’s presidential

Let us first be charitable about the images of post-Katrina leadership and recognize the obvious. Of the two Republicans observable in Arkansas over the weekend tending to the needs of the dispossessed, the president and the aspirant, Gov. Huckabee hands down struck us as the most presidential. Although disaster relief was primarily President Bush’s responsibility and Huckabee’s was merely ministering to the overflow of 25,000 or so within our borders, the governor seemed to be everywhere, welcoming, encouraging and, yes, being knowledgeable.
President Bush, on the other hand, seemed almost catatonic. He finally ended his long vacation from the White House and flew back to Washington. From there, as hundreds and perhaps thousands lay dying in the streets, homes and redoubts of New Orleans and in the many-splintered villages along the Mississippi and Alabama coasts, the president made a flyby and a couple of staged photo ops. The scripted messages were delivered mechanically and sometimes petulantly. People were doing a great job, he said, except maybe local and state officials. With criticism gathering, he made a mulligan visit at the first of the week with even better photo ops to demonstrate empathy and caring.

But while a speech and an emblematic hug or two were what the country needed in the days after Sept. 11, 2001, and Bush ultimately delivered those well enough, the human devastation of Hurricane Katrina required much more of the president of the United States. Solace was what the country and the people of New York needed four years ago this week.

The city’s and state’s infrastructure took care of the rescue of the few who could be saved from the rubble, the recovery of the dead, the treatment of the injured and, insofar as any community could, ministry to the grieving. But hundreds of thousands in New Orleans and along the coast needed help to stay alive, keep their families together and to hold on to the vanishing hope for a future.
It is for such instances that democratic people have nourished the idea of vigilant and humane government. For the people this time, government failed its purpose.

After first congratulating his administration’s team at Home-land Security and the vanishing little program called the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), for their magnificent work, President Bush yesterday announced that he would lead an investigation of the government failures in the aftermath of Katrina. Moreover, the heretofore invisible Vice President Dick Cheney will soon go to the Gulf Coast to get the straight of it and he will come back and tell us how well or badly his administration has done. He is the same vice president who gave us all those optimistic assays on the progress of finishing off Osama bin Laden, al Qaida and the insurgents in Iraq.

The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Go-vernmental Affairs, on the other hand, may actually get to the bottom of the administration’s cataclysmic failures.

“It is difficult to understand the lack of preparedness and the ineffective initial response to a disaster that had been predicted for years, and for which specific, dire warnings had been given for days,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, the chair of the committee. Sen. Jo-seph Lieberman, D-Conn., the ranking minority member, said the government’s ineptness in the crisis had eroded America’s self-confidence.

Even before Katrina roared through the rapidly disappearing coastal marshes and its gales and rain sliced through the levees holding the waters of Pontchartrain out of the city, the people of New Orleans and the Cajun country to the east and west had a sound inkling of the political forces that left them in such mortal peril.
Starting the month he took office, President Bush slash-ed funding for levee reconstruction and other vital waterways projects to keep floodwaters out of the city and to reconstitute the coastal wetlands that take the steam out of hurricanes and that have vanished to developers and oil companies that have cut swaths through the marshes for pipelines, roads, drilling rigs and storage facilities. The cuts became deeper the more the money was needed to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy and for the war in Iraq.

Three months before Katrina struck, Bush took his pen and slashed $71.2 million from the New Orleans Corps of Engineers for hurricane and flood projects. Though only symbolic at that point — the money could not have been spent fast enough to strengthen the levees before Katrina — it must have been fresh on people’s minds as they fled the waters or hovered in their attics or in the Superdome.

But more telling than the de-emphasis on disaster prevention was the virtual abandonment of preparedness by the federal government, the neutering of the FEMA, the Carter-era superagency that coordinates the nation’s response to natural and man-made emergencies. It had stultified in the Reagan and Bush I years, and its bureaucratic bumbling and lumbering after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 damaged President George H. W. Bush in Florida.

An Arkansan, James Lee Witt of Dardanelle, rebuilt the agency and won such bipartisan praise for its swift and dramatic response to major hurricanes, tornadoes, the Oklahoma City bombing and earthquakes that it became the symbol of effective government in the Clinton administration.

He turned the agency from a civil-defense orientation to preparation for natural disasters and mitigating the harm. The agency, given cabinet status by Clinton, could requisition help from federal and state agencies, including the military.
When Bush took office, he downgraded the agency and declared that responding to natural disasters was a state and local obligation and that the federal government ought to play only a diminished supporting role.
The president’s appointments to the agency, which were altogether political, did more than anything to erode its effectiveness. He first appointed his old Texas campaign aide, Joe All-baugh, to run it. When Allbaugh returned to politics, Bush was happy to oblige Allbaugh and appoint the man’s old college roommate, Michael Brown, to run it. Brown had been forced to resign his previous job of supervising the judging for an Arabian horse show association in Colorado because his mismanagement had brought a spate of lawsuits against the organization. Brown’s mismanagement of Katrina and his embarrassing public explanations were on full view last week.

While he is tuning up for a go at the national leadership, Gov. Huckabee may want to continue to observe George W. Bush and his spinmeister, Karl Rove, as the administration’s self-investigation goes forward.
The lesson will be that this is not the way to run a national government.

EDITORIAL >> Why they were slow to act

We can clear up the mystery of why federal officials, many of whom were still on their summer vacations, including President Bush, didn’t react more quickly to the hurricane disaster on the Gulf Coast.
Like many of us, they were watching the cable news channels, which told us that New Orleans had “dodged a bullet.”

We let out a sigh of relief, glad that earlier predictions about Hurricane Katrina destroying New Orleans didn’t come true.

Homeland Security Department and Federal Emer-gency Management Agency officials, who didn’t feel the urge to put relief operations in place before the storm arrived, must have congratulated themselves that they didn’t waste money and manpower on the Gulf Coast.

They might have even read the New York Times editorial Tuesday before last about how lucky New Orleans was that it had survived pretty much intact, but the paper warned that the city could do a lot worse the next time a hurricane came through.

The Times had hardly hit the streets when the levee broke in New Orleans, flooding the city and destroying it just as many forecasters had predicted.

You can blame local and state officials for not doing more before the hurricane, but the Homeland Security Department and FEMA should have known better and moved in much sooner.

Those departments have no leadership. The hapless Michael Brown runs FEMA at this writing but is probably headed out the door, while the execrable Michael Chertoff may keep his job at Homeland Security a little while longer. Both are a disgrace and should have resigned just as the Japanese do when they bring shame to their government or businesses.

Buses, planes and trains should have evacuated all of New Orleans two weeks ago with assistance from our military, which can perform miracles when it’s asked to help. Look how much the American people, including the people of Arkansas, have done after they rolled up their sleeves and helped thousands of victims get out of New Orleans, and fed them, clothed them and sheltered them.

Airdrops should have started a week ago instead of last weekend, with tent cities going up like those after the recent tsunami.

An airman puts things into perspective in an e-mail to us: “What I can’t believe is that C-130’s weren’t flying several sorties per day airdropping supplies into New Orleans and the Mississippi coast. I served at LRAFB and Keesler. Being an old combat controller, I know the capabilities of C-130’s, and this mission was made for them.”

The C-130’s have gone into action, at last, delivering food and supplies and ferrying people to safety. Foreign aid is pouring into Little Rock Air Force Base.

One of the sad missions for our airmen might include recovering bodies from the waters in New Orleans, way too many of them, perhaps 10,000, most of whom would have lived if their government had figured out in time how to save them.

TOP STORY >> Cabot could give $50,000 for refugees

Leader staff writer

A special Cabot City Council meeting has been set for tonight at 7 to deal with evacuee issues.
The council will consider appropriating $50,000 for the mayor to spend at his discretion to assist the evacuees in Cabot until federal aid is available, waiving water deposits for evacuees and establishing temporary housing on 10th Street.

A little more than a week after Hurricane Katrina devastated parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, homes in Beebe, Searcy and Cabot have become a refuge for some of the thousands displaced by the storm and the people in those areas who want to help are trying to organize their efforts.

Since the storm hit, the Cabot Chamber of Commerce has been a sort of clearinghouse for information about the needs of the victims. At press time, the city and chamber had scheduled a meeting in the city annex to try to coordinate relief efforts.

Beebe Clerk-Treasurer Paul Hill, one of the founders of Beebe KARES, a hastily established nonprofit organization with a mission of helping evacuees in the Beebe area who are not staying in shelters, said Tuesday afternoon that all is going well.

“We have 54 people on our list right now and everyone is clothed, housed and fed,” he said.
He added that the list included a college student who arrived in the Beebe area without even a clean pair of jeans. Now, he’s enrolled in ASU-Beebe and wearing a pair of jeans provided by a church clothes closet.
Beebe Mayor Donald Ward, a high school history teacher, met with members of the new organization Tuesday afternoon to coordinate the city’s efforts and efforts at the school with those of that organization.
Ward said the police department will pick up donations. Call (501) 882-3365, he said.

The police should also be able to conduct background checks of evacuees so the families they might eventually find temporary shelter with would feel safe.

Ward has appointed Williard Crain, the medical services liaison for Arkansas Rehabilitation Ser-vices, as his liaison to Beebe KARES. While working with the Arkansas Department of Human Services, Crain helped establish Lonoke County Cares, a non-profit that works with needy families.

Ward also announced that Union Valley Baptist Church on Hwy. 64 outside Beebe has agreed to temporarily house up to 200 evacuees in its newest building, a combination gym and Sunday school rooms.
In the Searcy area, Camp Wyldewood, run by the Church of Christ, is housing 44 evacuees. But that church is not bearing the work and expense of housing and feeding them alone.

“It’s been amazing to see how people rise to the occasion,” said Michael Lincoln, camp director. “We’ve had so many offers of assistance that it has just been incredible.”
Lincoln said he has had offers to help from Methodist and Baptist churches from Searcy, Kensett, Hickory Flat, Judsonia and Possum Grape.

The camp will be available for the evacuees for five weeks, he said. After that they will have to find other accommodations. Some have already said they don’t intend to go back to the coast, he said.
Two couples who planned to get married before the storm are now planning a double ceremony in Searcy.

TOP STORY>> Families welcomed to area after ordeal

Leader managing editor

The lights were bright, the air conditioning was running at full blast, and a 31-inch television was blaring the sounds of a weekday afternoon sit-com.
Pretty good conditions for a group of New Orleans-area residents staying in Jacksonville after being forced to leave their homes in the days before the arrival of Hurricane Katrina.

Chandra Tigler, 36, and Shantell Chess, 31, are two of 20 family members from the Jefferson Parish area of New Orleans staying in a back room of Around the Clock Child Development Center, located just behind the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce building on South James Street.

The five-household family moved into the center on Monday after spending a week at the Jacksonville Inn and plan on being in the area for the foreseeable future.
“They’re saying that it could be like six weeks to get everything in order down there,” Chess said. “We could be here that long.”

Or maybe longer.
According to Bonita Rownd, executive director of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, the people staying at the day care are the largest group from one extended family known to be staying in Jacksonville. Another large extended family is staying at First Freewill Baptist Church, Rownd said.
“We’ve still got 81 adults and 31 children staying in area motels,” Rownd said Tuesday afternoon. “We’re trying to place them in area homes and other places where people are volunteering space.”
While many New Orleans-area residents decided to ignore evacuation orders and stay behind during the storm, Tigler said she and 19 family members left the New Orleans area as soon as the early warnings of the potential of Hurricane Katrina were made.

“We left the Saturday before the storm because we knew it could be a direct hit,” Tigler said. “Where we live is already below sea level and we get standing water with a hard rain. With a Category 5 storm, we knew what would happen. There was no second-guessing.”

Tigler said her family drove from New Orleans to Memphis, but once weather reporters indicated stormy weather in western Tennessee, the group made the drive to Jack-sonville, where a friend of Chess lives and recommended they go to.

After a week at the Jacksonville Inn, someone from an area church who was helping hurricane evacuees suggested the group move into the room at the daycare. Eight double beads, a single bed, a couch, a handful of chairs and plenty of toys meets the needs of the 20 adults and nine children staying there.
The group has also had an offer to stay with a family in Searcy, if needed.

“They said we could stay here as long as needed,” Tigler said. “There’s plenty of room, showers, whatever we need.”
The need to watch coverage of the events in the New Orleans area has declined, however.
“We couldn’t believe what we were seeing early on,” Tigler said. “Seeing all those people and to think we got out and they didn’t. It hurt seeing that.

“We watched all that at first because we wanted to know what was going on, but we stopped watching because it got so depressing.”

The response from members of the community in the central Arkansas area has helped lift those spirits, though, Tigler and Chess said. From the donation of meals to friendly conversations, the two said they’re grateful — and a bit surprised — at the response of complete strangers.

“We didn’t even know there was a Jacksonville, Arkansas, before this,” Tigler said.
“This has just been amazing. Every meal has been donated, people have brought stuff to us, and a guy even came from Searcy and brought his grill and barbecued for us,” she said.

“It just feels so good that people you don’t even know, people you don’t know if you’ll ever see again, are being so nice to us, regardless of their background.”

“To me, this is a city full of color-blind people,” Chess said. “With us being black, automatically we were not sure what people around here were used to.

“In New Orleans, it’s a big party city, and as long as you’re partying it doesn’t matter what you are. But coming to a place like this, a place we could be staying so long, we didn’t know what to expect. But we’ve had a big sigh of relief that the people here haven’t cared what color we are.”

While flood water damage to the Tigler and Chess homes was minimal, no electricity, phones and food will keep their family from returning anytime soon. Seven of the nine children are starting school in the area today.
“If we went home all we’d have is running water,” Tigler said. “No power, no telephone and no stores are open.
“Why rush back?”

TOP STORY >> District sends its buses to transport evacuees

Leader staff writer

Nearly 90 Pulaski County Special School District personnel, driving 62 buses, answered Gov. Mike Huckabee’s call Labor Day weekend, transporting more than 1,100 storm evacuees from Fort Chaffee to relocation centers around the state.

“Late Friday we received a call for assistance,” said Brad Montgomery, the district’s transportation director. “We put the word out to our drivers and the response was amazing, to pick folks up at Fort Chaffee and disperse them throughout the state.”

In addition to the Pulaski County Special School District buses, Little Rock School District provided 10 buses and Laidlaw Transportation another 20, according to Montgomery.
“We arrived at Fort Chaffee and found just a sea of humanity,” he said. “These poor souls had been sitting all night waiting to be processed.”

Fort Chaffee was prepared for about 4,000 evacuees, but about 9,000 arrived by motor coach directly from rooftops, the convention center and the Super-dome, all in New Orleans.

Montgomery said his drivers delivered the refugees to centers in Conway, Garland County, Pine Bluff Convention Center, Redfield, Little Rock, Van Buren, Russellville and other locations.

With First Lady Janet Huck-abee on one of the buses, state police provided an escort to one convoy.
Montgomery said he bonded with an 80-year-old man named Stanley, a recent stroke victim, who survived on a rooftop for two days before a helicopter rescued him and took him to Louis Armstrong International Airport.
That night at Fort Chaffee was his first bed, first hot meal and first shower in five days, according to Montgomery.

“He had lost contact with his daughter, his only family,” he said.
“There were a lot of heart-wrenching stories. We would do it again in a heartbeat,” said Montgomery.
“I thanked the governor this morning and the drivers thanked us. I’ll never forget the last three days. I saw a lot of tears on the faces of employees.”

Montgomery said that eventually the district would be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for its fuel and employee costs.

TOP STORY >> Foreign aid arrives at base

Leader staff writer

At least 15 aircraft from as many as eight foreign countries will discharge their hurricane-relief supplies at Little Rock Air Force Base by Thursday, where airmen will load them onto commercial freight liners headed into the heart of the storm ravaged South, according to Lt. Jon Quinlan, base spokesman.

“Little Rock Air Force Base has played a vital role in (hurricane relief) efforts,” Quinlan said. “We’re proud to be involved. This is a chance to alleviate suffering and save lives, and that’s extremely important to us.
“This is about the busiest time I can remember,” he added.

Among the countries sending aid through the base, which has been designated as the hub for the international relief effort, are France, the United Kingdom, Spain, Egypt, Italy, Israel and the West Indies.
That’s not the base’s only contribution.

“As of this morning, we have flown 25 C-130 mission sin relief,” Quinlan said Tuesday.
Those missions have been everything from transporting sick and injured from Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans to transporting cargo to Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., and to other locations. “It’s been a vital airlift in relief,” he said.

Among the various aircraft that have delivered about 185 tons of aid to the base are the 747, DC8, C-5, AN 124 Russian jets, some C-130s and a CASA 235.

Airmen from logistics readiness use forklift loaders to unload the planes.
The base expects another 250 tons by Thursday.

The aid includes water and meals ready to eat (MRE), Quinlan said.
The Times of London reported that 50,000 meals had been airlifted already from Britain to the base, with blankets, tarps, camp beds and military tents likely to be shipped later in the week.
The Times reported that British logistics experts would help coordinate distribution of aid from about 50 countries and in-ternational organizations from around the world.

Many of the international crews are being housed at the base until their trip home, Quinlan said.
“Little Rock Air Force Base stands ready to take on the hundreds of thousands of cargo tons coming in,” he said. “This is an excellent opportunity to put our training to work.”

An Office of U.S. Disaster Assistance is on the base serving as a liaison, and is responsible for contracting for the semi-tractor trailers taking the supplies south into the hurricane area, Quinlan said.

Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee directed the Arkansas Air National Guard’s 189th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base to active duty today to airlift evacuees from Louisiana to Fort Chaffee in northwest Arkansas.
“We’re preparing to fly evacuees around the clock,” said Col. Jim Crumpton, 189th Airlift Wing vice commander.
“We’re calling in our aircrew members, C-130 maintainers and a few others to launch, recover and fuel the fleet.
“We have seven aircraft — six of ours and the Louisiana bird — available and ready to fly today,” Crumpton said.

C-130 Hercules aircraft can carry up to 92 passengers per plane. As of Sept. 5, C-130 aircraft and airmen assigned to the 50th Airlift Squadron of the 463rd Airlift Wing had relocated more than 60 sick and injured hurricane victims from New Orleans to aeromedical evacuation hubs at Kelly Field, Texas, and Ellington Airfield, near Houston.

The base is also housing 173 airmen and dependents from Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss., which took a direct hit from the hurricane.

“We will do everything we can to get families situated here and to be comfortable,” said Brig. Gen. Joseph Reheiser, commander of the 314th.

The base also has 36 personnel deployed as part of Joint Task Force Katrina, including two from public affairs.
Most are support personnel such as drivers and medics.

Quinlan said the cooperation between the three groups on base has been important, including the 314th Air Education Wing, the 463rd Airlift Wing and the 189th Air National Guard.