Some Hilights and
Lowlights of the Flood
year people who work for non profit
organizations like Lawrence Com-munity Works make their
fortunes crowding into Lawrences council chambers,
whining about how badly they need more of
your tax dollars to build and secure housing for the
poor people of Lawrence.
Yet, as I witnessed some of the greatest displays of
heroism during last months flood, one question kept
nagging at me (especially when the relief effort started
and the severity of the human devastation became
Where were all the poverty pimps?
Where was Bill Trainor, and Lawrence Community Works?
Where were all those people who say their lifes
mission is to help the poor people of Lawrence?
They certainly have time to sit through hours of meetings
at City Hall when Community Development Block grants are
being handed out. They have plenty of time and resources
to hold mock neighborhood meetings and orchestrate public
demon-strations of how the underprivileged in
Lawrence need them to make their lives better.
And yet, as the floodwaters rose and then fell again, I
saw no sign of these self-anointed champions of the
I saw no sign of them during the flood. I saw no sign of
them during the relief effort. I saw no sign of them
during the curfew. I saw no sign of them when National
Red Cross officials (while trying to skip town) were
literally throwing people out in the streets.
What I did see was this: neighbors helping neighbors.
I saw Lawrence become the model of how to behave and how
to handle a major national disaster. I saw police, fire,
DPW and inspectional services personnel from the city of
Lawrence, Methuen and North Andover, taking amazing risks
to save people from the flood waters and provide
I saw politicians like Dave Torrisi (who did absolutely
NOTHING during the flood or its aftermath) whisking into
Lawrence for a photo opportunity with Senator Ted
Kennedy, and then slithering back out of the city when
the media disappeared.
I saw a senile and obviously sickly Senator Kennedy
taking advantage of flood victims by coming to Lawrence
to make a major announcement. That announcement?
... er, uh everyone is doing a good job ...
and by the way, illegal aliens (er, uh... undocumented)
will get government assistance ... eventually.
I saw volunteers from CERT (Community Emergency Response
Team), The Salvation Army and LOCAL Red Cross volunteers
feeding, housing and clothing those who had lost
I saw community activists (like Isabel Melendez) walk
away from opportunities to be on TV so they could hand
out one more sandwich, one more cup of coffee, one more
dry blanket to someone in need.
I saw people who wouldnt even say hello to each
other one week earlier, working together to try and save
stranded residents in flooded neighborhoods along the
I saw Lawrence public school
children pushing cars out of flooded intersections and
then riding their bicycles all the way to the Methuen
High School shelter to see what they could do to help.
I saw police officers consoling homeowners who had lost
everything, crying along with them while their furniture
I saw the most amazing coordination of emergency response
and relief efforts by local, state and private
individuals, headed by Lawrence Mayor Mike Sullivan,
Planning Director Sweeney, Personell Director
Bonet, and Methuen Mayor Bill Manzi.
I saw Willie Lantigua bringing medication and food to
sick residents in the curfew zone at 2 a.m., long after
he thought the reporters had left for the night.
I saw residents of Lawrence under curfew and lock down
with zero incidents of looting, no deaths and no social
unrest like what we saw from the people of New Orleans
after Hurricane Katrina.
In fact, Chief Romero said that crime was actually DOWN
during the week of the flooding and its aftermath.
I saw average people accomplishing extraordinary things
on their own, without looking for the spotlight, without
looking for credit, and without waiting for the
government to do it for them.
But heres what I didnt see:
I didnt see any sign of (or effort by) Lawrence
Community Works or the other non profits who
breeze into town at budget time to fight for those
And thats really too bad because, for ten days,
people at the Red Cross shelters had nobody making phone
calls to help find temporary or permanent places to
What a tremendous difference organ-izations like Lawrence
Community Works could have made in the lives of those
flood victims, filling the very large void left by the
joke we call the National Red Cross ...
... that is, had they actually bothered to show up and
lend a hand.
After all, housing the poor and under-privileged is their
specialty ... right?
Well, I guess that only applies when the city, state and
federal dollars go directly through them so that they can
take their cut.
But not so much, when someone else is administering the
money or getting all the credit.
Wouldnt it have been wonderful if, while everyone
was pulling together to help those in need, the dozens of
so called non profits and their advocates had
actually pitched in and done something to help...
My hope now is that Lawrence city councilors remember who
was there to help the flood victims in their desperate
hour of need ... and who was not.
And then I hope they act accordingly when it comes to
handing out all those Community Development Block Grants
next month at budget time.
I know I will be at those meetings ... and I will be
Tom Duggan is the president of Valley
Patriot, Inc., and is a former member of the Lawrence
School Committee. He hosts the Paying Attention! Radio
Program on WCAP, 980AM, every Saturday afternoon from
noon-2pm. You can email comments or questions to him at Tdugjr@aol.com
*Send your questions comments to ValleyPatriot@aol.com
The June, 2006 Edition
of the Valley Patriot
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