Author Archive | Denny Burk

Let’s Hope He’s Wrong

Charles Krauthammer predicts that as Chief Justice John Roberts would vote to uphold the infamous Roe v. Wade precedent. Krauthammer also makes the unintelligible claim that Roberts will be a “traditional conservative” who will move the court to the “left.”

If Krauthammer’s definition of “traditional conservatism” includes upholding Roe and moving the Supreme Court to the left, then I’m afraid Krauthammer is losing touch with what conservatism is.

“Roe v. Roberts” – by Charles Krauthammer

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Lawlessness and Terror at the Convention Center

We passed this police car which was abandoned right in front of the Convention Center. It’s dilapidated condition stands a symbolic reminder of the inadequacy of the force that was left to guard the Convention Center when nearly 20,000 people were stranded there.

As I wrote in my previous post, I spent the majority of my time in New Orleans working at the Convention Center. The rubble left behind there that I witnessed told a terrible and tragic story.

The thousands of people who were turned away from the shelter at the Superdome were directed to the Convention Center just ten blocks away. The place descended into a dark hole of misery and lawlessness. The Washington Post has done a fine bit of reporting on what actually happened there. The piece is titled, “It Was as if All of Us Were Already Pronounced Dead.”

The military police that I talked to confirmed what the Post reports in this article. When they went inside the convention center they found bodies that had been brutalized and murdered.

No doubt, we have only begun to hear the terrible tales that will surely be told about the infamous Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

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Criswell College Students Go into the Aftermath of Katrina


Preparing food for the Salvation Army Mobile Canteens at 3:30am.
Photo by Josh Ramsey.

We parked our Canteen truck right next to the tents where military vehicles were dropping off and processing evacuees in front of the now infamous Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans. This was the site that saw thousands of New Orleans residents stranded without food and bathrooms for days after the levees broke. It became a den of misery and lawlessness.

A Military Policeman informed me that when the army arrived, they found dead bodies inside the Convention Center—bodies that had been brutalized, some apparently mugged and others raped. It is places like these where the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) has been providing disaster relief to victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The work I was doing was part of the SBTC’s partnership with the Salvation Army. The SBTC and the Salvation Army have set up a staging area in Baton Rouge, LA that is providing disaster relief to those who are in the wake of devastation caused by the Hurrican. A group of Criswell College students (led by me) recently joined in that effort.

The SBTC partnership with the Salvation Army in Baton Rouge requires SBC volunteers to load and to man Salvation Army Mobile Canteens. Canteens are trucks outfitted to transport, to prepare, and to distribute food to victims of disaster. The SBTC staging area in Baton Rouge prepares approximately 20,000 to 35,000 meals per day to be distributed by disaster relief volunteers. On Saturday alone, the so-called “bologna brigade” made 20,000 bologna sandwiches to be distributed to victims.

I helped to man a Canteen that provided relief inside the city of New Orleans itself. I found that the catastrophic impact of Katrina was not adequately depicted by the pictures I had seen on the television. Rancid flood waters covered huge swaths of the city, and innumerable buildings lay in ruins. An on-the-ground view of the landscape revealed the sheer scope of the disaster, and it was indeed devastating.

My partner, Mark Bjornholm, and I spent the majority of our time in New Orleans feeding evacuees and rescue workers who were holed up at the Convention Center. A week ago, there were tens of thousands waiting in line to be evacuated. When we served, they were arriving sporadically, and there was no line for them to wait in. The ones who came to our truck were the last hold-outs. One military man told me that these were the ones who would have stayed even longer, but their food, provisions, and will to continue had finally given out.

All the evacuees who arrived at our station looked bedraggled and depressed. And who could blame them? They had lost everything, and now they were leaving home behind. We gave them a meal and a word of condolence for their lost city. And we prayed for them.

We fed a bus driver named Terrence and his family at the evacuation site. Terrence was able to hold on to his job after losing his home and all his belongings in the hurricane. Now he, his wife Raquel, and his three children (Caitlyn, 11yrs; Corey, 11yrs; and Cayla, 7yrs.) have made Terrence’s bus their new home.

Other Criswell College students who manned Canteen trucks made it outside of New Orleans proper and into some of the suburbs that were ravaged by Katrina. Johnny Guthrie and John Ailie went into Kenner, LA where residents were still living with standing water and without power. All of the residents, afraid to come out of their homes for fear of a forced evacuation, were relieved to see the Canteen come rolling into their neighborhood. Guthrie and Ailie reported that the people they served said that the SBTC/Salvation Army truck was the first disaster relief team that they had seen, and this nearly two weeks after the storm. Ailie told each person that he fed, “We’re here to serve you and to serve Jesus Christ.”

Even though the Criswell College students’ primary task was to distribute food, they also found time to distribute the Gospel. In just two days, students estimated that they had made 67 Gospel presentations, given out 119 Bibles, and handed out 1,126 tracts.

Bill Davenport, the director of SBTC disaster relief and leader of the staging area in Baton Rouge, said that his biggest concern is that after the media-hype of Hurricane Katrina dies down he will be left with all the food, equipment, and provisions for relief, but no help.

Needless to say, there is much left to do in New Orleans and in the outlying areas that are sheltering evacuees. And there remains a huge question as to what the impact will be when Hurricane Rita reaches the Gulf Coast this weekend. My hope is that whatever the disaster, God will send more workers out to embody the Gospel in disaster relief efforts.

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More Scenes from New Orleans

Band of Cobelligerents: Denny, Mark (SBC), George, and Mike (Salvation Army). These are the four who manned our Canteen truck. Denny and Mark are from Dallas, TX; George and Mike are from Ohio. It was a real pleasure working with these guys.


The filth and stench outside the Convention Center was unbelievable.


Terrence and his family came through the line at our Canteen truck. Terrence was able to hold on to his job after losing his home and all his belongings in the hurricane. Now he, his wife Raquel, and his three children (Caitlyn, 11yrs; Corey, 11yrs; and Cayla, 7yrs.) have made Terrence’s bus their new home.


USS Harry Truman docked at the Riverwalk which runs alongside the Mississippi River in New Orleans.


It was eerie to see that the Mississippi River Bridge going into New Orleans was deserted.


Denny in front of the Canteen talking to an immigration officer.


Evacuees arriving at our position in front of the Convention Center.


It was our pleasure to serve members of the 82nd Airborne stationed inside the evacuation site.


Flooded street in New Orleans.


Pure D nastiness.


This is a view of downtown from I-10 looking south. We could only drive so far north before having to turn around because flood waters had cut off I-10.


Here we are making nice with the guys who are now running the streets of New Orleans. They weren’t forcing evacuations, but boy is it intimidating to see these guys rolling down the streets of the neighborhood in their armored vehicles.


What can I say? I just like Humvees.

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Scenes from New Orleans

These are two signs I found on a building on St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans. The sign on the left is the initial warning to looters that the owner left. The sign on the right is the update on his status as of September 4.

Evacuees being unloaded from a military personell truck near our Mobile Canteen unit.

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Going to New Orleans

Dear Readers,

I won’t be blogging for the next few days because I’m going to New Orleans. I’m leading a group of students from the Criswell College to a staging area in Baton Rouge where we will link up with Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief. We will man a Salvation Army Mobile Canteen and will be responsible for distributing 300,000 meals per day in New Orleans.

The last several days, I’ve been blogging a lot about the political side of the Hurrican Katrina tragedy because I think the news coverage has been reflexively condemning of federal authorities. I am happy to say that I think that that tide is turning. In any case, I am hoping to have something very different to write about when I get back. I hope to tell some of the story of our trip after we return because I don’t think that I will have access to the internet while I am there (and I don’t think I’d have time to write anyway).

I would greatly appreciate your prayers.

Sincerely,
Denny

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State of Louisiana Prevented Red Cross from Providing Relief to New Orleans Superdome

This is an unbelievable story being reported by Major Garrett of FOX News. The following is from Hugh Hewitt’s website:

“The Fox News Channel’s Major Garrett was just on my show extending the story he had just reported on Brit Hume’s show: The Red Cross is confirming to Garrett that it had prepositioned water, food, blankets and hygiene products for delivery to the Superdome and the Convention Center in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, but were blocked from delivering those supplies by orders of the Louisiana state government, which did not want to attract people to the Superdome and/or Convention Center. Garrett has no paper trail yet, but will follow up on his verbal confirmation from sources at the highest levels of the Red Cross.”

You can read a transcript of Hugh Hewitt’s interview with Major Garrett here. According to Garrett, the Red Cross is unequivocally confirming his story.

If this story is accurate, it changes the entire political calculus. It would show that the tragic aftermath of Katrina was not due to a failure of federal authorities, but to a failure of authorities in the State of Louisiana.

(HT: Justin Taylor)

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Mayor of New Orleans Had Responsibility To Evacuate

The city of New Orleans had a set of emergency procedures in place before Katrina hit that pertain to such events as catastrophic Hurricanes. The document is titled: “City of New Orleans Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan.” This document outlines the plan that the city is to follow in case of an emergency evacuation. It says the following:

“Conduct of an actual evacuation will be the responsibility of the Mayor of New Orleans in coordination with the Director of the Office of Emergency Preparedness, and the OEP Shelter Coordinator . . . Transportation will be provided to those persons requiring public transportation from the area . . . The evacuation must be completed before the arrival of gale force winds.”

The plan also puts the New Orleans Office of Emergency Preparedness in charge of providing shelters for those citizens who need to evacuate.

“Emergency shelter operations are the responsibility of the Office of Emergency Preparedness Shelter Coordinator. Shelters are provided by the Orleans Parish School Board, while manager training and support activities and supplies are provided by the Office of Emergency Preparedness . . . Shelter demand is currently under review by the Shelter Coordinator. Approximately 100,000 Citizens of New Orleans do not have means of personal transportation.”

A supplement to this plan titled Louisiana Emergency Operations Plan (supplement 1A) states the following:

“The primary means of hurricane evacuation will be personal vehicles. School and municipal buses, government-owned vehicles and vehicles provided by volunteer agencies may be used to provide transportation for individuals who lack transportation and require assistance in evacuating.”

The State of Louisiana Emergency Operations Plan also addresses the issue of authority in the event of a disaster situation:

“The governor of Louisiana has the ultimate responsibility for direction and control over state activities related to emergencies and disasters” (source).

What is clear from these documents is that the Governor of Louisiana and the Mayor of New Orleans had the primary responsibility to evacuate and shelter the citizens of New Orleans.

For some reason, these responsibilities are not being accurately reported in the news coverage of the disaster. I don’t think that the reporting should focus on who’s to blame at this point. That can wait until we have a more accurate account of the response from city, state, and federal officials. But what this does demonstrate is that reporters should cease and desist from framing this disaster as a failure of federal authorities. Such an assumption is wrong on its face.

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John Roberts to Be Nominated As Chief Justice

CNN is reporting that President Bush will nominate John Roberts to succeed Rehnquist as chief justice of the Supreme Court.

By appointing someone from the outside, the President ensures that there will be only two confirmation battles, not three (If he would have nominated a sitting justice to be chief justice, the senate would have to confirm the promotion as well as the filling of the two remaining vacancies).

When she announced her retirement, Sandra Day O’Connor’s made her retirement contingent upon the President’s appointment of her replacement. In her resignation letter, she wrote: “This is to inform you of my decision to retire from my position as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, effective upon the nomination and confirmation of my successor.”

Thus she will remain on the court until President Bush names her replacement. President Bush must move quickly to nominate here replacement. Otherwise, the confirmation process will become more difficult as we move into the mid-term election season.

I hope the President moves quickly.

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