From the January 2006 Idaho Observer:


Eighty-five-year-old FEMA "hostage" home at last

NEW ORLEANS—Thirteen days and about 3,000 miles after leaving Spirit Lake Idaho, Joe Tittiger, 48, had safely delivered Clothilde (pronounced "Cloteal") Mack to her doorstep. Mack, 85, had not been home since finally being rescued after spending 10 days above the post-Katrina flood waters in her attic.

The rescue

After 10 days in her sweltering attic with little food or water, Mack, a property owner, was taken to a private assisted care facility Morning Pointe in Greenville, Tenn. (Indigents were put up in hotels). It was assumed that FEMA or the Red Cross would be paying the costs of Mack’s stay at Morning Pointe. But they had not and it was being discussed that Morning Pointe would lien Mack’s home to secure payment.

Syzmanski got ahold of the story (The IO, Dec., 2005) and quickly put together the plan to rescue this woman and make her so visible that no one would dare to attach her home to force payment for a living arrangement she did not choose nor want.

From Syzmanski’s RBN radio show "The Investigative Journal" Tittiger decided to be the driver and flew to Spokane on Southwest Airlines (which has promised to donate the planefare but hasn’t yet). Syzmanski arranged for a limousine service to pick Tittiger up and take him to Spirit Lake.

The next day he came out to The IO, picked up the motor home and left the next morning —regardless of the freezing rain.

After spending Christmas with his daughter St. Louis, Tittiger arrived at Morning Pointe at about 8 p.m. Dec, 29, 2005. He had called ahead and was greeted by a photographer from the local newspaper, the mayor whose office helped with gas money for the trip and the head of the local disaster relief/homeland security agency. He met Mack (and her cat Jill) for the first time. All packed and ready to go, they decided to leave Morning Pointe at 10 the following morning.

The mayor and the homeland security guy began grilling Tittiger with a lot of personal questions, asked to see his drivers license and wanted to do a background check. Joe, insulted by their apparent hostility, asked to see their IDs.

Morning Pointe attempted to dissuade Mack from leaving but, she said that Joe had come all the way across the country and back to take her home and she was going home with Tittiger. Period.

Because he was not docile and cooperative with the "authorities," Morning Pointe would not let Tittiger park the motor home in their parking lot over night. So he moved the motor home to the church across the street. He couldn’t sleep so he went back to Morning Pointe at about 3 a.m. to see if he could get a cup of coffee and shoot the breeze with the night crew. They gave him a cup but said he could not hang around. So he went back to the motor home. Soon, the police showed up.

Tittiger was convinced that the police were trying to manufacture a reason to arrest him. The reason why became evident later when a Morning Pointe manager was overheard to say, "How are we going to get paid if we let her go?"

Finally, after a harrowing night, morning arrived. Mack boarded the motor home and they left the county.

Mack and Tittiger spent that night and New Year’s Day with Mack’s niece Cynthia about 100 miles from their final destination.

Home at last

On the bright, sunny morning of January 3, 2006, Cynthia, her daughter Yvonne and Tittiger arrived in the lower 9th Ward and Mack was finally home after four months.

The small group had been promised a welcoming committee, but no one was there to greet them and the neighborhood was almost completely abandoned. Their disappointment was short lived as they immediately got to work assessing the damage.

What they found, to Mack’s relief, was that her solid little wood-framed house had withstood the storm (and the flood) remarkably well. However, the entire contents—walls, wiring, plumbing and floor coverings —need to be replaced.

Since their return, it has become apparent that the area is under the control of an insane, discompassionate, federalized bureaucracy. "There are thousands of FEMA stories that need to be told," Tittiger said.

Rather than going home right away, Tittiger plans to stay on and help Mack navigate the bureaucracy en route to bringing her house back to life. When asked what type of friendship has developed between them, Tittiger replied, "Have you ever seen the movie "Driving Miss Daisy?"

Interesting aside:

I have been a ham radio operator since 1960 and have dealt with emergency communications since the Good Friday Alaska earthquake in 1964. So, when watching the weather channel and seeing the radar picture of Katrina on August 25th and seeing the size of that hurricane, I went to the ARRL (American Radio Relay League) to determine radio frequencies being used for emergency operations. Over 2,000 ham radio operators had volunteered their services to offer free communications for the areas affected by hurricane Katrina. Listening to various radio nets that were set, certain things became clear: 1) There was conflicts between federal, state and local authorities and 2) Emergency communications personnel were not allowed into New Orleans right after the hurricane hit the mainland.

After Katrina hit, I started listening to the different emergency nets set up to pass along information. On about August 31, I was listening and heard that the "corps of engineers says it appears that the levee has been blown," which really caught my ear. A few days later, on Fox News, it was reported that career criminals had arrived with boats on the outskirts of New Orleans just before Katrina hit. After the flooding began, these boats were used to help plunder the rich areas of the city and then the looters escaped with their booty by boat. ~Don Markham