MAUREEN DOWD COLUMN
DVD to cure Bush's A.D.D.
Posted on Fri, Sep. 16, 2005
NEW YORK - I hate spending time in hospitals and nursing homes. I find them to be some of the most depressing places on earth.
Maybe that's why the stories of the sick and elderly who died, 45 in a New Orleans hospital and 34 in St. Rita's nursing home in the devastated St. Bernard Parish outside New Orleans, haunt me so.
You're already vulnerable and alone when suddenly you're beset by nature and betrayed by your government.
The managers of St. Rita's fled Katrina, abandoning 34 seniors, who fought to live with what little strength they had as the lights went out and the water rose over their legs, over their shoulders, over their mouths. As Gardiner Harris wrote in The Times, the failed defenses included a table nailed against a window and a couch pushed against a door.
Several electric wheelchairs were gathered near the front entrance, maybe by patients who dreamed of evacuating. Their drowned bodies were found swollen and unrecognizable a week later, as Harris reported, "draped over a wheelchair, wrapped in a shower curtain, lying on a floor in several inches of muck."
In Memorial Medical Center, victims also suffered in 100-degree heat and died, some while waiting to be rescued in the four days after Katrina hit.
As Louisiana's death toll spiked to 423 on Tuesday, the state charged St. Rita's owners with multiple counts of negligent homicide. "In effect," said State Attorney General Charles Foti, "I think that their inactions resulted in the death of these people."
President Bush continued to try to spin his own inaction Tuesday, but he finally may have reached a patch of reality beyond spin. Now, he's the one drowning, unable to rescue himself by patting small black children on the head during photo-ops and making scripted attempts to appear engaged. He can keep going back down there, as he did again Thursday when he gave a televised speech to the nation, but it never will compensate for his tragic inattention during days when so many lives could have been saved.
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