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Aftermath: Shep Smith, Alone On The Underpass, Showing Viewers A Nightmare

Following up on this post, here’s more of Shep Smith on The Late Show:

“We ended up on that freeway underpass and actually spent the night there because it was clear to us that there was no other media there. We were doing initial reports saying there are a thousands of people coming out of the sewage with no where to go and even people back in our New York headquarters were going ‘we’re not seeing this anywhere, not on the AP wires, not on the competition, what are you talking about?’…We felt like people had to know what’s happening and it put our crew in a position to see things that we never dreamt you would ever see in the United States of America.”

More quotes after the jump…




“We were expecting a lot of wind and rain and initially we were actually afraid it was going to come ashore as a category five right into New Orleans which would have just been, I mean if you think this was bad it could have been a lot worse.”

“All the weather forecasters say these things are cyclical. The big ones come. The small ones come. Some hit you and some don’t. This was just one of those things. It was that perfect storm that just devastated south Mississippi…and they still need so much help. They need doctors in small poor communities, they need money badly. This is going to go on for months and years.”

“They didn’t get people out. New Orleans has an enormous poor population. One in five, one in six people, depending on whose statistics you believe has no access to a car. That’s more than 100,000 people with little babies and elderly people in wheelchairs who had no way of getting out of town even if they wanted to. New Orleans is a big convention city. We saw satellite photos of all these buses ready. They could’ve used those buses to get people out. Hindsight is very clear but my guess is that one of the things they will consider for next time is maybe taking some buses to poor neighborhood and getting some people who are trying to get out out because so many of them just lost everything.”

“I don’t think we know [why there wasn't a plan] yet, Dave. I think right now they are so busy trying to find the dead and save some of the living that they haven’t gotten there yet. The time will come for that and it may be right on us but I’m not sure it’s now. They should have had a plan to get people out of there. They should have and in the first few days, Dave, we stood on a bridge over the city. Interstate 10 snakes over the city of New Orleans, it’s elevated, and by the thousands and the thousands, they emerged from the sewage and had no where to go but to interstate 10 and they sat on interstate 10 for days with no food and no water. Days old babies, elderly people in wheelchairs without the medicine they need day in and day out. I’m on in the afternoon on studio at 3pm on Wednesday afternoon going ‘exit 235A — there are thousands of people who need food and water, send the cavalry’ and they didn’t come for days and I don’t know why that is. I don’t know where the breakdown is but I’m confident there are a lot of people who didn’t survive because of it.”

“The first night we stayed in a great hotel in right of the heart of the French Quarter which is not destroyed and was very well protected and not damaged. The day after the storm we had a great breakfast to music on a jazz piano and everything was great until the water stated rising and when the water started rising it all changed.”

“We hear a lot of private estimates [of deaths]. The mayor of New Orleans said in the thousandths. A state legislator suggested it might top ten thousand. I don’t think we know yet. We won’t know because what happened, Dave, the storm was over and once again New Orleans had missed it and they went into their homes and the water started rising and eventually got high and to hear from the local officials they went up into their attics and the water continued to rise. And now for weeks and months they will be going through the attics.”

“First you have to rebuild the levies which they are getting towards, then you have to drain the city which is months away, then you have to decontaminate the city and the best of estimates are that they might be done within six months and then you have to dry out…eight months down the road and that means no taxes collected, no jobs there, no commerce of any kind, no schools, nothing for all that time…but the center of the city might be the place where New Orleans might become a New Orleans down the road but they have to bury their dead first.”

“The federal government had designated on its list of potential catastrophes in the United States. Number one was the earthquake in San Francisco which levels the city. Number three on this list from the federal government was the hurricane which destroys and devastates the city of New Orleans and though they didn’t get it, it came close enough and still destroyed.”

“I think there was slowness to react. I don’t know yet where it comes from. You know, Dave, we sat on interstate 10′s overpass and that was our world. Our world was women with children who don’t have formula and an enormous temperature who have been out in the sun for three days and elderly people in wheelchairs who don’t have insulin. That was our whole world. And all we knew help was not coming. ‘Come to exit 235A and come and save these people lives.’ How did that happen? It seems that people were not ready for this. Was it local, was it parish, was it state, was it federal? Is there plenty of blame to pass around? Probably.”

“When we had our disaster in New York. New York notifies Washington. NY notifies Pataki. It’s the same thing anywhere in the country where there is a disaster. I grew up down there. These storms are not surprises for governments. Governments are ready for these things. Hurricane Betsy in 1969 was a wake up call for New Orleans. The army corp. of engineers has known forever that these levies will not stand for more than a category three storm. They said it forever. Well it’s true now and a lot of people have some questions to answer.”

“I think before we blame we have to ask questions and demand answers. I think we have to demand to know what happened, we have to demand to know why this happened. But to start passing blame now before the dead is buried and the alive are collected and before you ask intelligent questions is just wrong. Remember on 9/11 when Rudy Giuliani came out of the bottom of the building and led the troops up Broadway and convinced us that all was going to be alright and he was our savior. There was not one of those moments in New Orleans. No leader stepped forward in the early going. There was never that person to say I’m going to that convention center and I’m going to get these people out of those squalors where things are happening to these human being that we won’t even discuss here. No one led that charge or if they did, I didn’t see that leader. I didn’t meet that leader.”

“It’s not too late…When we were standing on that bridge we were hoping to see a giant Red cross coming down the not flooded areas. We never saw them. That’s because they wouldn’t let them in because of security concerns. There are a lot of things people can do. Food and clothing and that sort of thing is great but they need doctors they need engineers and they need people to volunteer….South Mississippi is sitting in ruins.”

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