Tuesday, September 06, 2005

"When my kids were little I used to lose them in Target"

This heartbreaking story is all over the blogosphere, children all by themselves on a downtown New Orleans street:
In the chaos that was Causeway Boulevard, this group of refugees stood out: a 6-year-old boy walking down the road, holding a 5-month-old, surrounded by five toddlers who followed him around as if he were their leader.

They were holding hands. Three of the children were about 2, and one was wearing only diapers. A 3-year-old girl, who wore colorful barrettes on the ends of her braids, had her 14-month-old brother in tow. The 6-year-old spoke for all of them, and he told rescuers his name was Deamonte Love.

Thousands of human stories have flown past relief workers in the last week, but few have touched them as much as the seven children who were found wandering together Thursday at an evacuation point in downtown New Orleans.

In the Baton Rouge headquarters of the rescue operation, paramedics tried to coax their names out of them; nurses who examined them stayed up that night, brooding.

Transporting the children alone was "the hardest thing I've ever done in my life, knowing that their parents are either dead" or that they had been abandoned, said Pat Coveney, a Houston emergency medical technician who put them into the back of his ambulance and drove them out of New Orleans.
It was reasonable to conclude so. Why else would seven children, so young and unable to fend for themselves, be alone in the wake of a terrible natural disaster? As we'll see later, they children were abandoned...just not by their parents.

This caught my eye:
"When my kids were little I used to lose them in Target, so it's not hard for me to believe," said Nanette White, press secretary for the Louisiana Department of Social Services. "Sometimes little kids just wander off. They're there one second and you blink and they're gone."
"Used to" implies not only more than once, but regularly or even habitually. What a perfect embodiment of big government! Louisiana's social services deals with families, and would presumably have the jurisdiction to accuse parents of being negligent or otherwise unfit. Yet its chief media representative "used to lose" her children in a retail store.

What the article doesn't seem to care about is that the children wound up alone after a helicopter was used to "rescue" them:
In a phone interview, [Deamonte's mother Catrina] Williams said she is the kind of mother who doesn't let her children out of her sight. What happened, she said, was that her family, trapped in a New Orleans apartment building, began to feel desperate.

The water wasn't going down, and they had been living without light, food or air conditioning for four days. The baby needed milk and the milk was gone. So she decided they would evacuate by helicopter. When a helicopter arrived, they were told to send the children first and that the helicopter would be back in 25 minutes.

It was a wrenching moment. Williams' father, Adrian Love, told her to send the children ahead.

"I told them to go ahead and give them up, because me, I would give my life for my kids. They should feel the same way," said Love, 48.

The helicopter didn't come back.

While the children were transported to Baton Rouge, their parents wound up in Texas. Days passed without contact. On Sunday, Williams was elated.
Am I missing something here?

The hurricane didn't separate the children from their guardians. Who sent the helicopter, where did they take the children, and who was given the responsibility of watching them? Those are the people ultimately responsible for the children wandering around on their own. Perhaps Nanette White was watching over them, and they "just wander[ed] off"?

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