Monday, March 20, 2006

"The front door of hell"

Dr. Toby Nelson was traveling to New Orleans with a FEMA disaster response when he learned he would be headed to the Superdome.

“I had never heard of the Superdome. I didn’t know anything about it. But I had a feeling that this was going to more difficult than any of us had anticipated.”

Along the way, his car came across a woman who was lying in the middle of the road. They stopped the vehicle and got out to see if she was still alive. That’s when the shooting started.

The group threw the woman in the back of the truck. She died soon after. Before they made it into the dome, throngs of people swarmed the vehicle, hoping for food or water. Adults thrust babies in front of their windshield, hoping to get their attention. But none of that could prepare them for what awaited them inside.

For more than an hour Monday night, Nelson shared the horrifying stories of what he saw inside the Superdome. The event, organized by the alumni of Leadership Mountain View and supported by city hall, drew an audience of more than 60 local residents to the Mountain View High School Theater.

Nelson insisted several times that the rapes and shootings reported and later retracted by many papers did in fact happen, as well as the well-publicized shootings at federal aircraft. He told a story of delivering a baby while standing in sewage, wrestling with a psychotic who had been off his meds for four days, watching rescue workers throw up from the stench as they administered insulin to diabetics.

One particularly devastating story revolved around a group of 30 nursing home patients that were dropped off at the Superdome as his team was leaving. He met up with them again soon after, at the airport morgue. When he discovered that some of them were still alive, he approached the nurse, who told him, “These people have been sent here to die.”

Nelson spent two days straight treating patients in 90-second intervals, in the lobby of the Superdome. Monday, he said, was the first time he’s been able to discuss what he saw without breaking down into tears.

“I’m still searching for words to describe what I saw,” he said. “It was, from my perspective, every bit as spiritual as it was physical. I truly believe I was standing at the front door of hell.”

2 comments:

Kathy Schrenk said...

And in Australia, they don't seem to have much difficulty dealing with a similar "natural" disaster. Hmm...

joc said...

Wow. That's powerful. And awful. But of course.