This weekend I finally watched Hotel Rwanda, having been inspired to rent it after reading We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families. Both are unforgettable stories of the genocide that took place in Rwanda in the mid-90’s.
There is one scene that’s remained in my mind since seeing the movie. In a driving rain, as Tutsis pour through the gates of the hotel run by Paul Rusesabagina (played by Don Cheadle), the genocide against them is in full swing. Meanwhile Tutsis, along with Americans and other westerners in the hotel are waiting anxiously for the calvary to arrive and save them from the destruction and death around them. The calvary came, in the form of UN troops and a fleet of buses. For a moment, there was joy and relief, because they thought the buses were for all of them. Then they learned that the buses were for westerners only, and only westerners would be taken out of the country to safety. The western world was leaving Rwanda’s Tutsis to their fate.
It was a moving scene, but I didn’t expect to have it come back to mind a day or so later when I was catching up on my blog-reading. At least not unti I stumbled upon a post on the AntiWar.Com blog, which linked to two stories from hurricane Katrina that brought back to mind the stark differences bewteen who gets rescued and who gets left to their fate.
When the hurricane swept through, who did you have to be to get rescued?
It certainly didn’t hurt that these two girls were British. In fact, it probably helped them. Their safety became somebody’s priority.
TWO sisters last night told of the horror of being trapped in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.
Rebecca and Charlotte Scott, 20 and 19 respectively, arrived home in Reading yesterday after five days trapped in the hurricane-devastated Louisiana city.
They spent three nights sheltering with thousands of refugees in the New Orleans Superdome, huddled with other British women inside a ring of men protecting them after terrifying rumours of rapes and murders.
…The sisters paid tribute to an Australian traveller named Bud Hopes and National Guardsman Sergeant Garland Ogden, who helped them get out the stadium.
Rebecca said: “We owe them so much. If we’d been on our own I don’t know what we would have done.”
The girls were moved by officials to a nearby basketball centre, which was being used as a medical centre, on Wednesday.
They spent 24 hours helping to wash and feed elderly evacuees before being transferred to the severely damaged Hyatt Hotel on Thursday and finally getting a coach to Dallas, Texas, and a flight to Gatwick Airport on Saturday morning.
Nice that they were not only fortunate enough to have menfolk willing to spend the night vigilantly protecting their womanhood from the animals running amok in the Superdome, but also to get better accomodations than the rest of the…uh…non-British folks crammed in to the Superdome, and get priority consideration for evacuation.
Who did you have to be to get rescued from New Orleans?
Again, it was a lot more convenient to be …uh… international.
The international contingent were moved to a separate area to keep them safe from the poor and desperate, from drug addicts and mentally ill who also had no means of escape. "On the second night, the military told us the generator would be going out and it would be pitch black. We were told not to use a torch because we could be attacked for it," Miss Sachs said.
"We put all our bags together in the middle of the group, put the guys on the outside and gave them something sharp, just in case they got attacked.
"You could see as time went on that people were getting more and more aggravated. There were lots more fights, more screaming."
After expecting to be able to leave on the Tuesday, the international group was told they wouldn’t be leaving because the levee had broken and the city was flooded.
By then, the military decided it was no longer safe for them to remain in the Superdome and they were moved to the arena next door which was being used as a temporary shelter for the elderly, sick and those who had been attacked or injured outside. I saw an army officer shot in the leg come in, a guy who had been stabbed seven times.
Again, the men protecting their women from the godless heathen savages out there in the dark, better accomodations away from those savages, and priority evacuation (this time on a fruit truck).
Maybe I’m reaching here, but I couldn’t help thinking about that scene from Hotel Rwanda. I was also reminded of a line from another movie, that went something like this: "Like the man said, there ain’t no shame in being colored. But is sure is damned inconvenient at times."