CHARLEY UPDATE: YES, THERE REALLY IS AN AMERICAN SPIRIT
Wednesday, 18 August 2004, 3:07 p.m.
The human spirit is an amazing force of power, compassion, and strength. I am amazed at what is happening around us. It is NOT any government or agency group that has taken on the crux of the relief efforts here: The AMERICAN PEOPLE ARE THE PRIMARY RELIEF EFFORT.
Since yesterday, privately owned pick-up trucks, vans, and utility trailers filled with food, water, tarps, gasoline, generators, candles, and all sorts of other needed items, have been arriving at neighborhoods freely distributing everything they have. I spoke with a man who came from Georgia with 12 new generators and new 5 gallon gas cans for each one, all filled with gas. He and his neighbors pitched in and bought all that equipment. No-one asked them to, they just did it.
A young mother from Naples in a red Ford Van showed up with her 2 small children to distribute hundreds of loaves of bread she had bought. The little girls were handing a loaf of bread to an old man and the younger sister said to him, “You look like my grandpa. You can have my peanut butter and jelly momma brought with us for lunch.” She went to the cooler and handed him her half jar of peanut butter and a jar of strawberry jam.
A contractor from Bradenton arrived in his pickup towing a Bobcat tractor, followed by his two dump trucks trailering well-used bucket loaders. They unloaded their equipment, started up their chain saws, and cleared out a block of debris within an hour. He and his employees are volunteering their time and equipment just to help in the way they know best. The owner told me, “We don’t want to accept money for what we’re doing. We don’t want insurance companies or any government to pay us. We’re here because we’re needed. Let's just leave it at that.”
One small box van truck was loaded with new Coleman camping stoves, Coleman lanterns, and cases of small propane fuel tanks for the stoves. He was going door-to-door asking if anyone needed the stoves or lamps, and he gave them to those in need free of charge. The tag on his truck was from Texas. I saw another truck from Georgia handing out the last of his cases of bottled water.
These are not State Agency employees or federally funded groups. These are Americans who have compassion. They too are devastated by all this, but in a different way: They see what has happened here and they weep as they get out of their cars and pickups. They give hugs to strangers and they keep saying to everyone that they are sorry they couldn’t bring more food or supplies, but they’ll be back tomorrow with more... and so they are.
Small caravans of pickups and personal vehicles are traveling in on I-75 today, headed for Pt. Charlotte, Punta Gorda, Arcadia, and all the other devastated areas. I passed perhaps hundreds of them as I drove north to post this report. These people are organizing their neighbors, family, and friends into a relief effort of compassion we have never seen or experienced before. They are buying all the supplies and food from their own pockets and distributing it as fast as they can, then heading back to their neighborhoods and jobs to reload and rally their neighbors or co-workers into a new caravan of supplies and food.
Many are arriving with camper trailers and Motor Homes for family and friends to live in. I have even seen a man handing out $20 bills to those who have lost everything. No-one has told them to do this. No-one has given them an incentive to purchase all these items. Not one of them is expecting to be re-paid for what they’re doing. They are doing this from their heart and from their spirit.
Curfews are in effect basically from dusk to dawn, so some arriving with supplies and food are sleeping in parking lots in outlying areas waiting for 7am so they can enter in, unload, and head back for another load. Their efforts are genuine and they are blessing people who thought there was no hope of help. But some government agencies are trying to stop these humanitarians and insisting they only do this through government distribution points. In theory, that might eventually work, but in reality, the distribution is not working efficiently right now to reach each neighborhood. Many victims of Charley are elderly and have no vehicles to come to the “official” distribution points. It is only through the efforts of individuals and small groups that this is working.
I have been contacted, through email, by various mainstream newspapers and other controlled radio media asking for interviews and copyright permission to publish my posts. My answer to them is if they couldn’t report the truth before, then I doubt they will report the truth now. More so, I am not about to let any of them increase their profits via the larger readership they will receive from these updates or eyewitness reports. As for the alternative media groups who have contacted me, I will try to get back with you as soon as I am able.
Regarding the repeated email requests that we post pictures of the fatalities: The pictures we have will not be posted or published anywhere for the near future. We all voted and it was unanimous that these pictures be kept safe and eventually be used to expose the mounting untruths that are unfolding from this disaster. Besides that, we feel there is enough death surrounding us at the moment; enough horror has already been seen and experienced. If we post any of those kinds of pictures, others will use them for their own purposes, for personal fame, or for political gain.
The reason my update was not posted here last night is that in my foolishness to try to do it all, I was overcome with heat exhaustion. What is making matters more difficult here is the 100 degree heat and extreme humidity. We all sweat just standing outside, so this is making our work slow down to a very slow pace. A warning to all volunteers arriving to help out: PLEASE be careful not to overheat. Force yourself to drink at least a quart OR MORE of water per hour if you are working outside or in a building without fans or air conditioning. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are a major concern for everyone right now.
I spoke with 2 soldiers from a National Guard road security patrol yesterday afternoon. They confirmed to me that the body count being at least 400 (as I reported in an earlier update) was much lower than the current count. I was told to look for “ice company delivery trucks” parked near, but not at, the destroyed mobile home parks and badly destroyed housing neighborhoods. “People simply think they’re delivering badly needed ice, but they’re not moving from their parking places for a reason.” There is no doubt that the deaths here are far higher than even what we have been able to find out for ourselves in different areas. The major question is this: Why and for what purpose is this not being reported by the government or the mainstream media? Every Floridian and American should be demanding that the truth be told.
The Florida National Guard is in charge of Sanibel and Captiva Islands. We learned about this from the NG patrol right before Tom Ridge arrived in Ft. Myers. How nice that they are protecting the mansions and multi-million dollar homes while less influential neighborhoods – where the great majority of Americans live and where the worst destruction took place - have yet to see an Army Humvee on their street. I guess the elite take care of their own while the rest of us pay taxes for the National Guard to protect their island mansions.
Don’t worry yourself, Director Ridge... we’re taking care of ourselves, have our own neighborhood security with local police to back us up; and more importantly, we have real Americans helping one another without any need for your Agency to tell us what to do. Just stick to what you do best... posting different colors on TV for your purported terror alert system. And by the way, please stop forcing those of us getting fuel and supplies off the two lane roads with your 12 police car motorcades with lights and sirens blaring. You are not a tenth as important as the least important survivor of Charley. All you big shot politicians and government “officials” are in the way, so just head back to your government offices and let Americans take care of one another.
Publix and Albertsons food stores have seemingly done more to help than any Federal Agency. They have given away water and food to those who simply asked.
Because different local and county communications are not on the same frequencies or systems, and due to an urgent need for communications with rescue and relief efforts, the local disaster coordination groups are asking for the immediate assistance of HAM operators with MOBILE HAM RADIO UNITS, either hand-held or in their vehicles. Just come to any community center or Sheriff’s department post in Charlotte, Desoto, or Lee counties. This is vitally needed especially for rescue and relief efforts.
The local police and Sheriff’s departments are doing one heck of a job. Just traffic control alone is no easy task, especially at night when there are no traffic lights or street lamps at busy intersections. These men and women are standing out in the 100 degree heat on 8-12 hour shifts wearing hot reflective vests. If you happen to be driving past one of them, please hand them a bottle of cold water IF you will not disrupt the flow of traffic in doing so. It would be greatly appreciated.
For all the picture takers and morbid gawkers, please stay home. This especially applies to those asking where the worst damage was and where the most deaths were. This is not a Hollywood movie set and we do not appreciate you driving by with your cameras. Please, allow us to keep our dignity. We don’t need your kind here. That includes the mainstream media reporters and photographers... just stick to your staged government media tours, take more pictures of the National Guard troops, and save your film.
I am at a loss for words to accurately describe the compassionate love from those Americans who have taken it upon themselves to clear debris from streets, nail tarps onto leaking roofs, supply food and water, and so very much more. ALL of them are doing this from the depths of their hearts. I know that there is not one victim of Hurricane Charley who would disagree with us in saying, YOU ARE THE HEROES OF THIS DISASTER.
From our own small group of retired vets, we salute every one of you who are voluntarily doing so much. Thank you for your honor, integrity, and courage to do all you are doing. You are fighting to keep dignity in our souls and food in our mouths. Without you, the battle would have been lost already. It is because of your American Spirit that we are overcoming the great odds put up against us.
Yes, Virginia... there really is an America. It is not measured by borders, political boundaries, or by fancy maps. America lives and dwells in the hearts of those who help one another and care about their neighbor. God Bless the real Americans.
Only the harmonics of the LifeCross will bring Living Light to humanity - Michael Edward