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'So I Volunteered' - Purported Observations of a Katrina Relief Volunteer in Houston

Netlore Archive: Forwarded email purports to describe the experiences of a volunteer dealing with 'unappreciative' Hurricane Katrina evacuees at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas.

Description: Forwarded email
Circulating since:Sep. 2005
Status:Unsubstantiated


Example:
Email text contributed by H.C., Sep. 11, 2005:

Subject: Hurricane victims in Houston

This is from a guy in Houston who went to volunteer his time to help the hurricane victims. It is pretty sad and disappointing to think people could be so ungrateful.

SO I VOLUNTEERED..........

I thought I might inform the few friends I have on my recent traumatic experience. I am going to tell it straight, blunt, raw, and I don't give a damn. Long read, I know but please do read!!!

I went to volunteer on Saturday at the George R. Brown convention for two reasons.

A: I wanted to help people to get a warm fuzzy.
B: Curiosity.

I've been watching the news lately and have seen scenes that have made me want to vomit. And no it wasn't dead bodies, the city under water, or the sludge everywhere. It was PEOPLE'S BEHAVIOR. The people on T.V. (99% being Black) where DEMANDING help. They were not asking nicely but demanding as if society owed these people something. Well the honest truth is WE DON'T. Help should be asked for in a kind manner and then appreciated. This is not what the press (FOX in particular) was showing, what I was seeing was a group of people who are yelling, demanding, looting, killing, raping, and SHOOTING back at the demanded help!!!!! So I'm thinking this can't possibly be true can it???? So I decide to submit to the DEMAND for help out of SHOCK. I couldn't believe this to be true of the majority of the people who are the weakest of society. So I went to volunteer and help folks out and see the truth. So I will tell the following story and you decide:

I arrived at the astrodome only to find out that there are too many volunteers and that volunteers were needed at the George R. Brown Convention Center. As I was walking up to the Convention Center I noticed a line of cars that wrapped around blocks filled with donations. These were ordinary Houstonians coming with truckloads and trunks full of water, diapers, clothes, blankets, food, all types of good stuff. And lots of it was NEW. I felt that warm fuzzy while helping unload these vehicles of these wonderful human beings. I then went inside the building and noticed approximately 100,000 sq. ft. of clothes, shoes, jackets, toys and all types of goodies all organized and ready for the people in need. I signed up, received a name badge and was on my merry way excited to be useful.

I toured the place to get familiar with my surrounding; the entire place is probably around 2 million sq. ft. I noticed rows as far as the eye can see of mattresses, not cots, BLOW UP MATTRESSES!!! All of which had nice pillows and plenty of blankets. 2 to 3 bottles of water lay on every bed. These full size to queen size beds by the way where comfortable, I laid in one to see for myself. I went to look at the medical area. I couldn't believe what my eyes were seeing!!! A makeshift hospital created in 24 hours!!! It was unbelievable, they even had a pharmacy. I also noticed that they created showers, which would also have hot water. I went upstairs to the third floor to find a HUGE cafeteria created in under 24 hours! Rows of tables, chairs and food everywhere - enough to feed an army! I'm not talking about crap food either. They had Jason's deli food, apples, oranges, coke, diet coke, lemonade, orange juice, cookies, all types of chips and sandwiches. All the beverages by the way was put on ice and chilled!!!! In a matter of about 24 hours or less an entire mini-city was erected by volunteers for the poor evacuees. This was not your rundown crap shelter, it was BUM HEAVEN.

So that was the layout: great food, comfy beds, clean showers, free medical help, by the way there was a library, and a theatre room I forgot to mention. Great stuff right????

Well here is what happened on my journey -

I started by handing out COLD water bottles to evacuees as they got off the bus. Many would take them and only 20% or less said thank you. Lots of them would shake their heads and ask for sodas! So this went on for about 20-30 minutes until I was sick of being an unappreciated servant. I figured certainly these folks would appreciate some food!!! So I went upstairs to serve these beloved evacuees some GOOD food that I wish I could have at the moment!

***The following statements are graphic, truthful, and discuss UNRATIONAL behavior***

Evacuees come slowly to receive this mountain of food that is worth serving to a king! I tell them that we have 2 types of great deli sandwiches to choose from i.e., ham and turkey. Many look at the food in disgust and DEMAND burgers, pizza, and even McDonalds!!!! Jason's deli is better than McDonalds!!!! Only 1 out of ten people who took something would say thank you; the rest took items as if it was their God give right to be served without a shred of appreciation!!! They would ask for Beer and liquor. They complained that we didn't have good enough food. They refused food and laughed at us. They treated us volunteers as if we where SLAVES. No not all of them of course...but 70% did!!!!!! 20% where appreciative, 10% took the food without any comment and the other 70% had some disgusting comment to say. Some had the nerve to laugh at us. And when I snapped back at them for being mean, they would curse at me!!! Needless to say I was in utter shock. They would eat their food and leave their mess on the table... some would pick up their stuff many would leave it for the volunteers to pick up. I left that real quick to go down and help set up some more beds. I saw many young ladies carrying mattresses and I helped for a while. Then I realized something¦their where hundreds of able bodied young men who could help!! I asked a group of young evacuees in their teens and early twenties to help. I got cursed at for asking them to help!!! One said 'We just lost t our ****ing homes and you want us to work!!' The next said 'Ya Cracker, you got a home we don't'. I looked at them in disbelief. Here are women walking by carrying THEIR ****ING BEDS and they can't lift a finger and help themselves!!

WHY THE **** SHOULD I HELP PEOPLE WHO DON'T WANT TO HELP THEMESELVES!!!!

I waved them off and turned away and was laughed at and more white boy jokes were made at me. I felt no need to waste my breath on a bunch of pitiful losers. I went to a nearby restroom where I noticed a man shaving. I used the restroom, washed my hands and saw this man throw his razor towards the trash can...he missed... he walked out leaving his disgusting razor on the floor for some other Cracker to pick up. Even the little kids where demanding. I saw only ONE white family and only TWO Hispanic families. The rest where black sorry 20% to 30% decent blacks... and 70% LOSERS!!!!!

I would call them ******S, but the actual definition of a ****** is one who is ignorant, these people were not ignorant...they where ARROGANT *******S. The majority of which are thugs and lifetime lazy ass welfare recipients. We are inviting the lowest of the low to Houston. And like idiots we are serving the people who will soon steal our cars, rape, murder, and destroy our city while stealing from our pockets on a daily basis through the welfare checks they take. We will fund our own destruction.

By that I don't mean a specific race, I mean the people who work hard, work smart, have values and morals. Only people who want to help themselves should be helped, the others should be allowed to destroy themselves. I do not want to work hard, give the government close to half the money I earn so they can in turn give it to a bunch of losers.

I don't believe in being poor for life. My family immigrated here, we came here poor, and now thank God, and due to HARD WORK we are doing fine. If immigrants, who come here, don't know the language can work and become successful... WHY THE **** CAN'T THE MAJORITY OF THE HOMEGROWN DO IT!!! If we continue to reward these losers then we will soon destroy our great country. I just witnessed selfish, arrogant, unappreciative behavior by the very people who need help the most. Now these same people who cursed me, refused my cities generosity, who refuse to help themselves are DEMANDING handouts on their own terms!!!!!!! They prance around as if they are owed something, and when they do receive a handout, they say it's not good enough! Well you know what; these types of people can go to hell for all I care!

Analysis:Among the many good reasons to doubt the veracity of this hateful, racist diatribe is the fact that other folks who volunteered to help Hurricane Katrina evacuees at Reliant Astrodome and the George R. Brown Convention Center have shared their experiences, too — and virtually all of them say the opposite. For example:

  • "We ended up spending the day at the George R Brown Convention Center, setting up the shelter there and helping with the evacuees," wrote one Houstonian in a letter to a friend. "I went to serve food, and I have to say that everyone I met was so gracious and nice, and just thankful for everything that was being done for them. No one really was talking much, for the most part I imagine everyone is just exhausted at this point. But every single person made a point of saying "thank you for helping us." More...
  • A doctor describes tending to patients in the Astrodome: "They hadn't had their medications for days, along with no food and water. But they were so thankful for the treatment they were getting and were so patient about having to wait so long. They were just so grateful to be in Houston. I had to hold back tears so many times at how horribly these people had been ravaged by this storm and what it had done to their lives." More...
  • Another volunteer at the Astrodome: "I took in everything for a few moments and then figured I was there to help, and the best way I could do that would be to connect with individual people somehow. So over and over I picked up flats of 24 water bottles and walked around and handed them out; many people were overjoyed by that one small thing.
  • "It was an amazing cross section of humanity... young, old, big, little, etc. Nearly all were black, and practically everyone appeared like they'd been through a war zone. Most seemed content with their lot at the moment; I saw no arguing or frustration... I think they were just glad to be inside and settled for a bit." More...
  • Joan Samuelson, another Houston volunteer, writes: "Though sad and horrifying, the experience was also magnificent: this country, and this city, at their best; people who wanted to help; people who had lost everything but were smiling, crying, and hugging us.... The survivors also come from all walks of life and professions with skills to offer their adoptive homes. They are wonderful people: when you volunteer with them, you find out lots of details about who they really are that are not in the TV images." More...
  • From a volunteer in Reliant Center: "We greeted hundreds of people with a smile and a simple "good morning". The response was moving for me. The vast majority of these people are extremely poor. These faces are very tired. These hearts are broken, and these passing souls are lost thanks to a storm that showed no mercy. And despite what you've falsely been shown by our media, the majority of these displaced former residents of New Orleans are passing me with a polite smile to answer my kindness."

You get the picture. In all of the personal accounts I could find, volunteers described evacuees as hungry, tired, distraught, and disoriented, but never "unappreciative," "arrogant," or "selfish."

Indeed, the alleged observations of our anonymous emailer are so much at odds with what other Houstonians have reported that I'm inclined to conclude that most, if not all, of the story was fabricated; worse, it appears to have been fabricated for the express purpose of fostering resentment toward the mostly-black hurricane evacuees and arousing racial tensions in a situation which, for everyone involved, is already about as difficult and heartbreaking as it can be. For shame.

Update: Based on message board discussions of the text around the Web, it appears it was originally published on a MySpace blog authored by a Houston resident named Maher. I emailed him to verify this and give him an opportunity to respond.

Update #2: Maher replied to my email and acknowledged writing the piece on his blog on September 4, 2005. Though he can't account for why his observations differ so much from everyone else's, he stands by their accuracy and denies being a racist, adding that as an immigrant from the Middle East he has been a victim of racism himself. He claims, rather, that the real target of his criticism is people with a "Welfare mentality" who expect the government to take care of them, a description he seems to believe fits the majority of New Orleans evacuees.

Update #3: A variant has surfaced which appears to have been "signed" by a Richard L. Johnston, M.D. of Jackson, Mississippi. Dr. Johnston is a real person, but he did not write this text; like thousands of other people, he simply forwarded it to friends and family. Unhappily for him, however, his email program automatically appended his name and address to the message, and copies with that signature have been forwarded, forwarded, and forwarded again, to the point where many people now assume he was the author. He was not.


Sources and further reading:

Your Stories: Report from Volunteer at Astrodome and More
Houston Chronicle, 3 September 2005

Evacuees' Sense of Calm Grows After Thousands Turn out to Help
Houston Chronicle, 3 September 2005

Voice of Katrina: Stories from the Aftermath of the Storm
Houston Chronicle Archives, 12 September 2005

A Day at the Dome
PNNOnline, 16 September 2005

Email from a Friend in Houston
CultureCat blog, 4 September 2005


Last updated: 09/17/05


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