Feeble Knees

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Women and Children

Stories are coming of women whose babies are being evacuated from neonatal intensive care units in New Orleans. One woman reportedly clutched a photo of her two day old infant, because it's all she has - her baby was med-flighted out to an unknown destination. She doesn't know where her baby is.

Another woman begged someone who was able to board one of the buses heading out of New Orleans to take her two month old baby. Can you imagine having to beg a stranger: "Please take my baby to safety!"

My mother held back tears as she told me about a news report she saw yesterday of a nine-months pregnant woman who was out walking for miles in the heat and the filthy water trying to find a safe place or someone to help her. I'll be nine months pregnant next week. I can't fathom the sheer panic she must be feeling, how fatigued and swollen and hurting she must be. My prayers are with her and her unborn child; oh my dear Lord I hope she is ok.

I was struck by images of some of the buses as they were being boarded. I saw some elderly passengers, and some sick. But I also saw... a lot of young able-bodied men. And the thought struck me: what's wrong with this picture?

In another time, young men might have stood aside and urged women and children to board the buses first, along with the sick, elderly and infirm. But I see healthy strong men in the seats, smiling sheepishly at the cameras. Men who could be helping the National Guardsmen with crowd control, or helping carry people who can't walk. Men who could be responding heroically to do what they can to help those weaker than they.

But I guess times have changed.

Perhaps I should be softer-hearted; after all, I'd be a frantic mess if I had to board a bus to parts unknown, nine months pregnant, and leave Mr. F behind in all that chaos. Perhaps I shouldn't judge. I wouldn't want to be separated from my husband. If I'm honest, he'd probably have to physically chain me to the seat to get me out of there without him.

But seeing those healthy, able-bodied men sitting in those comfy seats....

I dunno. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but it's a little jarring. I can't help thinking of that poor pregnant lady wandering in the streets desperate for help. Or the picture of the elderly woman who died in her wheelchair, waiting for a bus. Someone covered her up. And there her body remains on the concourse outside the Superdome.

And I just can't shake it.
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