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The X Files
Xavier Hermosillo is the President of, a national Crisis Communications, Marketing, and Management firm he founded 23 years ago. He is a former political chief of staff, an award-winning reporter and photographer, and a former radio talk show host and TV commentator in Los Angeles. He has co-founded two publicly-traded companies where he served as a member of the Board of Directors and as the Senior Vice President of Investor Relations and Corporate Communications. He has also served as a Hearing Examiner for the Los Angeles Police Commission on police officer discipline cases, and holds degrees in Administration of Justice and Business and Communications. He can be reached at

September 7, 2005

I haven’t been in this much pain in so long; I can’t recall when I hurt so badly. I haven’t been this shocked since 9/11.

I have always loved New Orleans and the surrounding region. It’s the one city I never mind visiting over and over again. Four years ago, my wife, my youngest daughter and I spent our first-ever Christmas away from home and we chose the Big Easy. The choice was an easy one because the city and its neighbors have so much to offer, so much variety of culture, so much history, so much natural beauty, and such great food and hospitality.

Like so many others, I can’t get my arms, or my mind, around what I am seeing in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Except for the scum of the earth looters and other criminals further victimizing those who have lost every material possession, places of employment, and perhaps loved ones, no one deserves this kind of misery, I keep telling myself.

I keep asking my God why this has happened and why so many innocent people, especially the young and those trying to survive in hospitals, have to deal with such brutality from nature. What’s the point? Is it some form of punishment?

Are we really the evil empire that our enemies claim and is this an answer to Osama Bin Laden’s prayer that Allah destroy us and make us pay for our vicious crime of saving a nation from the torturous reign of the Taliban? Of course not! But it still doesn’t explain why we see people walking in chest high water, or sitting on rooftops with no food or water, no roads to use in search of a way out, and no electricity to power the miracle machines that keep premature babies and the rest of the sick alive.

I feel an overwhelming desire to do something to help. I’ve sent a monetary contribution, the largest I have ever given, because, except for the thieves and murders attacking their neighbors, these are MY people – YOUR people – they are Americans in our own back yard. I can’t offer any skills to clear the streets, fix the broken water system, or help repair the broken levees. My bad legs, which barely carry me around with the help of a sturdy cane certainly are of no use to help rescue anyone, or to stand while distributing food, clothing or anything else that is do desperately needed by these poor people.

At the same time, I am also frustrated by those people who could volunteer to help these poor souls but whose only apparent contribution to our world is to criticize the pace at which help is being provided. Don’t these people watch the news or, heaven-forbid, read the newspapers to see the road system is under 10 to 20 feet of water, that the Metairie off-ramp of Interstate 10 has become a boat launch for rescuers because you can’t drive any further on it?

These uninformed and malcontent critics deserve a very cruel fate, as they pontificate out of sheer ignorance and an excess of ego-centric garbage, and they should be forced to wade through chest-high water, with no shoes on, and feel the sting of the hazardous pool of filthy water, gasoline, human waste, and whatever other evil goop has been dumped into the soup-bowl geography of what was once a beautiful city.
Gone are the beautiful tree-lined streets that offered shade, and that the winds bent gently to seemingly offer a nod of approval to the passing Street Car Named Desire as it took visitors around the city to so many famous landmarks. And these majestic trees also stood as nature’s guardians at the home of famed author Anne Rice.

There are two major points I want to make here: 1) the sad truths I have seen come out of this disaster; and 2) the great truths that have emerged from all the ugliness that prove once again, why we are the greatest nation and people on the face of the earth.

The first sad truth is a hard one for me. I can’t begin to convey the pain I felt as I watched a man in his 40’s, with his two children in tow, break down as he told a reporter he had lost his wife when their home collapsed. Clad only in shorts and a Lakers jersey, he said, “All I have left is my kids. My wife is gone, my house is gone, my job is gone, there’s no electricity so the ATMs don’t work. I have no money, all we have is the clothes on our back, and I just don’t know what do to.”

I can’t imagine that depth of desperation. It hurts just writing about it.

Then I saw an older man, probably in his 60’s, and the father of three grown children, all of whom lived in areas torn apart by Katrina. He hadn’t been able to make contact with one daughter, another daughter and his grandchild were missing after leaving a police station, and the third daughter called to say she had been walking for eight miles on I-10. The father swallowed hard as he then relayed the final words from the third daughter. She told him, “Daddy, I love you, but I don’t think we’re going to make it. I just feel like I can’t go any further and I’m about to die.”

I worry every day about our grown kids who are scattered around the U.S. I can’t cope with the thought of losing any of them, ever, let alone relate to a poor man who may have lost all three of his, and a grandchild, in one horrific day.

I’ll try to end on a positive note.

Every time there is a disaster, we have come to expect the military to play a role in restoring peace and/or fill the sandbags or otherwise help out. The critics of government whom I mentioned earlier could never be satisfied at the work of our brave men and women, either overseas or in our own front yard. The critics despise those who are strong and brave as a way of trying to hide their own inadequacies and lack of self-esteem.

So I want to close with some specific information on how our often-criticized local, regional, state, and federal government agencies, as well as our non-profits, have responded. In addition to swift-water rescue fire crews from Los Angeles, urban search and rescue crews from everywhere, and of course, the great American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and others, I leave you with a list of how our young military men and women responded.

The critics claimed they were nowhere to be found because they are all in that “evil, undeclared” war in Iraq, that “quagmire”, that “another Vietnam”. Damn it’s nice when the truth about our great America speaks so much louder than the droning sound of those anti-war saps.

Beginning the day after Katrina hit, the Air Force Special Operations Command out of Hurlburt Field, Florida flew an MC-130 aircraft into New Orleans International Airport with a team of special operations forces to work to reopen the runway. A team of combat controllers (My Son was a combat controller in Iraq and Afghanistan) and a medical team established operations at the airport, which had no electricity or air traffic control. The combat controllers, who are certified air traffic controllers and special operators, usually open airfields deep behind enemy lines or in other hazardous areas. Using self-powered lights and other navigational aids, the combat controllers functioned as air traffic controllers with portable radios so that other military aircraft could land and help evacuate around 2,500 ill, or injured people from the New Orleans area.

The special ops guys out of Hurlburt also flew more than 34 aircraft to Jackson, Mississippi to support Hurricane Katrina relief. They deployed 19 HH-60 Pave Hawk rescue helicopters specifically designed to find and recover victims in hazardous areas, and they also deployed 11 C-130 aircraft with various special mission capabilities, including helicopter refueling and the ability to operate from dirt or unimproved airfields. The crews included pararescuemen and combat controllers to work in conjunction with the aircraft. By the way, Pararescuemen are highly trained emergency medical technician special operators. The combat controllers and pararescuemen are accustomed to operating in the most difficult and hostile conditions and are trained in numerous special operations skills such as SCUBA and parachute operations.

The same day, helicopters from the 920th Rescue Wing at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, carried FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) assessment teams to the areas affected by the hurricane. One C-130J transport aircraft from the 403rd Wing at Keesler AFB, Miss., flying out of Asheville, N.C., returned home to the base delivering supplies to the base hospital. The 908th Airlift Wing at Maxwell AFB, Ala., geared up two C-130s, aircrews and aeromedical evacuation people to help move people stranded by the hurricane damage.

A C-5 Galaxy from the 60th Air Mobility Wing, Travis AFB Calif. and a C-17 Globe Master III from the 305th Air Mobility Wing, McGuire AFB, NJ, transported tanker airlift control elements and contingency support groups to Gulfport and New Orleans International Airports respectively. Another C-5 from Travis helped search and rescue teams from California, including L.A. City and L.A. County swift-water pros and urban search gurus, get to the affected area.

Fifteen HH-60s helicopters and crews from the 347th Rescue Wing at Moody AFB, Ga., and the 16th Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Florida were positioned near the affected area in Jackson, Miss., and crews were credited with saving stranded survivors of the hurricane. Additionally, Critical Care Air Transport teams and an obstetrics team from Wilford Hall Medical Center, San Antonio, Texas, helped patients and expectant mothers evacuate Keesler AFB, and the surrounding communities and the patients and pregnant women were evacuated to Wilford Hall in Texas.

Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, home of the Tanker Airlift Control Center, generated missions of Air Mobility Command aircrews to help FEMA fly relief supplies to the stricken region. They flew five strategic airlift missions into Lafayette Regional Airport in Lafayette, La. Four of those were C-5 (Galaxys) and the other was a C-17 (Globemaster III).

A mix of active-duty, Guard and Reserve bases nationwide flew missions that moved everything from inflatable boats to urban search and rescue team members and their equipment.

Davis-Monthan Air Force base in Arizona sent 100 Airmen and four HH-60G "Pave Hawk" helicopters from the 55th Rescue Squadron to conduct search and rescue missions in support of the hurricane relief efforts. This deployment was in addition to the more than 100 Airmen from the 943rd Rescue Group who also conducted rescue missions in the region.
Then there’s the group out of Robins Air Force Base in Georgia, the 5th Combat Communications Group.
This unit provided a makeshift hospital in New Orleans with much-needed communications networks. A priority of its relief mission was to provide public telephone capabilities to the medical facility. The 5th set up voice data communications, e-mail and air traffic control communications and they also delivered additional loads of communications equipment for quick response to any additional needs for the relief effort throughout the stricken areas.

The list goes on and on, and this doesn’t even include the Army units, the four Navy ships that made their way from Norfolk, Virginia, or the Navy medical ship Hope that steamed its way from Baltimore down to New Orleans.
Next time you hear people complain about the military, or that they’re not around when we need them, or that we have too many military bases, remember the men and women of our military who answered the call when America needed to save the people of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

Next time, the disaster could happen a lot closer to home for any of us.