Why Did the Convention Center Relief Take So Long?

I was in the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans last fall for the Macromedia MAX2004 conference. I was only there for a few days, and it was my first and only time (so far) in New Orleans, so I don’t claim any expert knowledge.

But, as someone who has some problems walking distances once in a while, I do remember making the mistake after a day wandering around New Orleans’s cemeteries and the French Quarter of walking over to the Convention Center from my hotel and having to walk a looong way to find the registration desk, down at the far end of the building. The Morial Convention Center is over a half-mile long, not too far if you know where you’re going, but it seems much longer if you don’t.

One thing that came to mind as I was watching television coverage of the thousands of people waiting days for food, water, and rescue, was that US90 goes right over the south end of the center. As each correspondent asked why relief hadn’t gotten there yet, and people like FEMA chief Michael “Brownie” Brown expressed surprise that anyone was even there, I was thinking about the freeway ramps that dropped down from the freeway to practically the front of the building. Police were reportedly on the ramps preventing people from getting onto the freeway and crossing over to the unflooded eastern bank of the Mississippi River on the Greater New Orleans Bridge (or walking anywhere else). They would have been literally on top of the starving, thirsty throng, just a hundred-fifty feet or so up, there would have been no way to miss them or to see that they weren’t getting any supplies.

If security had actually been an issue, supplies could have been tossed off the overpass onto the area around the convention center in the kinds of high-impact containers they use to drop supplies from planes. But seriously, how much security was needed to get a truck down a half-mile ramp from the bridge overpass to the front of the conference center?