The first VP to land in New Orleans was Al Gore, who chartered a rescue plane to medEvac Charity Hospital patients to Tennessee.  Gore declined interviews last weekend while he was shuttling the evacuees, but the doctors who flew with him talked about the experience.

Gore had to work around sequential blockade by FEMA and NDMS – which naturally denied his team permissions, repeatedly (after the flip).

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.(AP) - Al Gore helped airlift some 270 Katrina evacuees on two private charters from New Orleans, acting at the urging of a doctor who saved the life of the former vice president's son.

...    [Gore] refused to be interviewed about the mercy missions he financed and flew last Saturday and Sunday. . . .

On [Thurs] Sept. 1, three days after Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, Simon learned that Dr. David Kline ... was stranded with patients at Charity Hospital in New Orleans.

"The situation was dire and becoming worse by the minute - food and water running out, no power, 4 feet of water surrounding the hospital and ... corpses outside," Simon wrote.

Gore responded immediately . . .


Gore responded immediately, telephoning Kline and agreeing to underwrite the $50,000 each for the two flights, although Larry Flax, founder of California Pizza Kitchens, later pledged to pay for one of them.

The skinny on Al Gore's coordination of the airlift:

At TPM Cafe, Greg Simon, the pres of FasterCures, recounted the determined (and agonizing) logistical coordination that resulted, finally, in the 2 airlifts of patients and evacuees to Tennessee. (If you have time, you should click over and read the fuller story yourself.) Here's my take on it.

Gore flew from Tenn. to Dallas (to pick up the chartered plane), to La. to Tenn. – and then did the whole thing again the next day.  The idea was hatched Thursday night, and the advocates for the mission, including Simon, Gore and staff butted heads with the bureacrats for the next 2 days through mid-day Saturday.

At nearly every turn, FEMA or NDMS and military officials tried to stop these 2 flights.

The 1st flight out on Saturday was mostly patients in need of supervised care, including dialysis and insulin, and the second one on Sunday had more evacuees and fewer patients.

After landing slots were denied numerous times during the planning, the one person in Washington who would grant the 2 landing slots ended up being the single Democratic member of Bush's cabinet, Norm Mineta.  That took a personal call from Gore to Mineta to override the instructions from below to withhold landing slots.

An amazing read at TPM Cafe (link above).

The first flight to Knoxville brought about 100 patients and 40 non-patients.  The second flight on Sunday transported 130 evacuees to Chatanooga.

More info is also found in local coverage from Tennessee.

     Haven from fury Mercy Flight Brings Evacuees to ET (=East Tennessee)
     Gore accompanies about 140 arrivals from New Orleans but declines to take credit

   "Gore chose not to speak to the assembled media, but he was seen in a black T-shirt and jeans moving rapidly from one side of the plane to the other assisting with the off-loading operation.

"Participating in the operation were the Knoxville Fire Department, the Blount County Rescue Squad and the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency. Cruisers from the Tennessee Highway Patrol escorted the buses to hospitals.

"Additional medical personnel within the regional emergency system also were on standby.

"Units at the airports included at least 10 ambulances, a phalanx of buses, fire trucks and other equipment."

It's about time the press pick up on this.  Before this, it had only been covered in Tennessee papers.

Originally posted to joan reports on Fri Sep 09, 2005 at 10:54 PM PDT.

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