Sent: Thursday, September 08, 2005 9:13 AM
Subject: RE: RE:
My name is Chuck Fazio of Alexandria. Here's why I'm writing. As you might know, I am a pilot and this past Tuesday, I flew a 10 hour medical mercy flight bringing back to DC from Baton Rouge to be reunited with her family, a 61 year old paraplegic woman named Lois who barely survived the hurricane.
I'd like to tell you the story of that trip and at the end, make a special appeal to you.
I took off around 7 Tuesday from my airport just south of the Wilson Bridge and flew 4.5 hours non-stop to Baton Rouge landing at a corporate terminal that was packed with a host of rescue pilots, a bunch of hurricane evacuees and Brian Williams of NBC. After flying for almost five hours at 16000 feet, I was a bit fuzzy and the action in that small terminal all seemed to blend together in a surreal kind of way.
As I was walking up to the desk to register and ask for fuel, I heard my first name "Chuck" being called out twice by one of the women behind the counter on the phone. I said "YES" and she looked at me and said "Yeager?" Cool, I thought in the haze, she saw the landing I made next to the MD80 on the parallel runway. Not quite it turns out. THE Chuck Yeager was on an inbound flight and she was arranging transportation.
I need some water, I thought.
In the mass confusion of that terminal called an FBO, I looked for my Lois but she was nowhere to be found so I found an empty room to get some quiet time while I tried to track her down.
Phone service was still sporadic so the best I could do after about ten tries was to leave a message for the graduate student who had been volunteering at the shelter where Lois lived for the past 5 days. 'Lived', I came to find, was a wholly inappropriate term to use to describe the hell and misery this woman endured.
I went back to the desk to find a fuel bill of over $410! And that was for only one way! Despite telling them I wanted the plane topped off with fuel, I could tell by the quantity of fuel on the bill that the fuel guy forgot to put fuel into the auxiliary tanks on the wing tips. "He forgot the tips," I said. "You forgot the tips on seven Victor Charlie,' the nice lady at the desk said into her walkie talkie. "The plane had tips?" the fuel guy disturbingly replied. Scary because a fuel guy should know where to put the fuel. That wouldn't be the last time he screwed up I will come to find.
By now I got a call back from the grad student Marcio who told me Lois was on her way. Sure enough, shortly thereafter a ambulance with lights flashing, came though the gate, drove out on the ramp and up to my plane. I immediately hopped into the back of the ambulance to introduce myself to the poor woman on the gurney. My god she looked like she had been through hell. With tears in her eyes she said, "Mr. Fazio, you were sent by god to me."
"Well ma'am", I replied,''god and I haven't exactly been on speaking terms for many years but don't worry, in about 5 hours, you'll be home to your family." All she kept saying was, "you saved, my life." That coupled with the "I was sent by god" line shook me. Oh sure, I've been told often that perhaps the devil sent me but the god thing was something new. The other thing that struck me was just how in the hell were we going to get this woman laying flat on a stretcher into the back of my airplane! Failure was not an option however.
I still don't know how we did it -- perhaps it was just another of the many miracles Lois had over the past week, but two EMT's and I were able to get this woman into the back of my Bonanza, the inside of which is about the size of a small car. Gracious from the beginning to the end, Lois kept saying she was fine although I knew she was in a great deal of pain.
Once inside and settled, I started the airplane only to see that the aforementioned fuel idiot didn't put the fuel cap back on the tank correctly. My bad, I should have checked. Now what was I to do because to get out, meant climbing over Lois' throbbing legs? I taxied out a bit and saw the fuel truck. I waved the fuel idiot over and pointed with my finger to the loose cap. He fixed it and the only thing left was to call for a flight clearance.
I called up the traffic controllers on the radio and was assigned a 'lifeguard' call sign which air traffic control uses to identify medical evacuation flights. For the next 5 hours, as I flew the almost 900 miles back to DC, I was "Lifeguard 727Victor Charlie" instead of "Bonanza 727Victor Charlie"
Lois and I waited for a C130 to takeoff and then my new friend and I were wheels up into the wild blue yonder. And blue it was as the flight conditions were near perfect. On the intercom, all Lois could talk about was the miracle she was in the middle of and the beauty of the country beneath us. Our route of flight took us south of Jackson, Miss., right over Birmingham, Al., a little south of Chattanooga, over Ashville, NC, Roanoke, Charlottesville and right over the District.
Lois, despite being in severe pain and having just been through what can only be described as hell on earth, told me a harrowing tale that leads me to believe they're gonna find thousands of dead old people in attics soon because I'm sure Lois' story was not uncommon.
Lois, her 83y/o aunt, a male adult next door neighbor and his 15y/o son were advised to NOT evacuate their house because they had more provisions in there than they did at the Superdom. Knowing Lois was sick, the men left their house and huddled together with the elderly women in the aunt's one story house. Had they not, Lois and her aunt would surely be dead.
At 4:30am, they noticed water seeping into their house but at that point, they weren't worried. 45 minutes later however, there were 4 feet of water and an hour after that, Lois was floating on her air mattress with her nose on the ceiling. The fact Lois had an air mattress instead of a regular one is the only reason she floated. That's miracle 1. The 15 y/o, now in the attic, was with great panic, tearing through the ceiling dry wall in a desperate struggle to get to Lois. They were somehow able to cut enough ceiling away and pull Lois into the attic for miracle 2 but that's a short lived one as water is rushing in so fast that at this point they realized that if they didn't now get out of the attic, they would all soon drown.
Somehow, they were able to cut a hole in the roof just big enough to get the 15yo out for was miracle number 3. He was able to flag down a boat that just happened to have a chain saw in it and an hour and a half later, Lois, for miracle number 4, is on the roof and then in the boat on her way to the Superdome.
I am so riveted by the story I'm hearing that I don't hear air traffic control's call telling me to switch radio frequencies.
Lois goes on to tell me that her stay in the hell that is the Superdome is less than 24 hours before miracle number 5 happens and despite the thousands at the Superdome trying to get out, she's evacuated to a hospital. The only problem is that it's a hospital in New Orleans that's about to be flooded. A day late after she gets to the hospital, miracle number 6 happens and she gets evacuated yet again to the Maravich Center in Baton Rouge where she spends the next five days flat on her back in a military cot spending her time talking to the nice woman next to her who sadly happens to die at 8:30 Tuesday morning because they gave her too much insulin the night before. I feel bad because had I gotten up at three am like I had planned, I would have been down there in enough time to get Lois and thus sparing her the two hours she spent lying next to a stiffing corpse.
Lois finally gets the word that her nightmare is almost over, corpse aside, as miracle number 7as she calls me is waiting for her at the airport to take her home.
The whole trip, she kept saying that god is our co-pilot. Great, I though at one point, because after 8 of ten hours in the plane, I'm freaken beat and could use the help. My headset feels like a vice and my temporary crown is throbbing so much that I'm cursing my dentist and everyone he loves. Then I feel like a whining wuss as Lois reminds me by her gentle voice what real suffering is about. The strange thing is although it hasn't worked properly for months, my autopilot worked flawlessly on this trip taking a huge workload off me. I told that to Lois who said, "I told you so, baby." The woman had been in hell for a week yet she didn't lose her sense of humor.
4 and a half hours later, we were in the local airspace and Washington Center, the air traffic controllers that cover airspace as far south as the Carolinas switches me over to Potomac Approach which controls the airspace near DC. They advised me that I would be routed around to the east of Washington in order to avoid the restricted airspace. As if! After spending close to five hours in the plane, Lois needed to get on the ground so I replied in no uncertain terms that I had a woman in the back in pain who has been holed up in an evacuation center for the past week and I'd really like to go direct. A couple of seconds later I was told "Lifeguard 727Victor Charlie, fly direct to DCA, stay clear of the downtown prohibited areas and then on to College park airport". Cool. That saved at least 20 minutes.
So, 5 hours after we took off, we were touching down into a beautiful sunset. "You're home, darling," I said to that wonderful woman as I slowed the plane down.
The airport called the local EMT's, who after much work, got Lois out of my plane and into their ambulance where she lay alone. I climbed into the back to say goodbye to her and after showing such incredible strength all day, she was just overcome with emotion. Tears were streaming down her face.
'You saved my life, you saved my life, you saved my life god sent you, god sent you over and over again."
I squeeze her hand and said goodbye. She looked up at me now, too tired to make a sound, she mouthed the words, "I love you."
After 18 hours, it's more than I can handle
I wish I could make these trips every day until every last person is out of that hell but I can't because quite honestly, this trip cost over $800 in fuel alone. I just can't afford it to do it anymore unless I get some help so that's why I'm writing to you now. Could you spare a few bucks to help out so we can immediately evacuate more people like Lois?
If you have a Paypal account, you can send money to email@example.com Or you can send a check to me @ 600 N. Henry St Alexandria 22314 or you can call 703 894-9000 and tell Chris you want to help Chuck by donating with a credit card. The money isn't tax deductible but I hope that's not what matters to you.
Rather than being put into some big budget, your contribution will be spent on gas that will be used by me and other local pilots who are trying to take human beings out of inhumane conditions. I feel bad for asking but I'd feel worse for not.
I appreciate very much you taking the time to read this note and I again apologize if it was inappropriate to send it to you.
Peace, Chuck Fazio firstname.lastname@example.org 703 801-0700
If you know anyone else who might be able to help, would you please forward this email to them? If you have any questions, please call me.