Phill Otto was vacation in Cancun Mexico when Hurricane Rita hit. As stated in The Wichita Eagle, Nov. 13, 2005, Otto gave some tips as what to do and not to do during and after a hurricane.His second tip was:
“Rely on yourself – and don’t expect help from your government. In my case, this was the only time in my life I needed direct help from my country, and it failed me. In this season of disasters it seems unbelievable that not one in our government would come to our aid.”
There were some additional comments the Eagle left out:
Monday morning was when the British consulate arrived and took information on all the British citizens in the shelter. They were informed that busses were lined up and airplanes staged to get them out as soon as the airport opened. The relief visible on their faces was evident. We had befriended a young English couple there on their honeymoon, and you could see the relief they felt as well as the confusion why the US had not arrived.
That night I heard a radio message from the US consulates office. A Mexican tourist had a radio running on batteries. The talk was all in Spanish until the Consulate came on. She stated, in English, " The US consulate from Mexico City is in Merida, assembling my team, and will visit every evacuation. center tonight and tomorrow morning". Hope renewed. The next day, no one showed up. The roads to Cancun were flooded. After 36 hours of rain I cannot believe they didn't know that. The word I got was that the roads were flooded and they couldn't make it in, so they were in Merida, encouraging Americans to get there, and they would help get us home. If they couldn't get in, I am not sure how they expected us to get out. No one got the message anyway, as we were all in shelters with no power and no communications. Then a lucky break.
One of the members of our group, Brian Hubbard, was from Washington DC, and had worked with the government in the past. He collected information from all the Americans, and was able to get in contact with the Consulates office. At that point he confirmed that if we could get to Merida, we could get help getting out. We were still on our own to get there. He encouraged us to get in touch with our families back home and have them call our Representatives and Senators to see what could be done. We were able to contact our Daughters, and had them start making calls. The results of these calls, and the lack of action by the US consulates office, and is why I say do not trust the government to help. I am not sure why we even bother to have embassies and consulates in foreign lands. I was under the assumption that if you were an American in trouble abroad these people would help. With thousands of Americans trapped, no one came to Cancun. We were told if we could get to them they would help. Now the information from home starts coming in. We were told they did not know where we were. This was not true. As I stated earlier Brian had informed the consulate’s office where we were. The British found us. As the days went on we were visited by representatives from Sun travel, Royal travel, even Expedia.com. They found us, and helped the members who traveled with them get out, some chartering flights for their people. Unfortunately ours, Travelocity, was not one of them. At no time did the US or Red Cross visit us.
Now the responses from our elected officials started coming in. My daughter contacted the offices of our Congressman, (Rep.) Todd Tiahrt (Kansas-R). She asked what was being done to help get people out over there, and she told them the British had already been in. The woman staff member who took the call told my daughter that she didn't know where we were getting that information but we were wrong, no one is over there yet and no one has been rescued, there is no way in.
Mr. Tiahrt, the information was a relay of a first hand account from one of your constituents trapped in an evacuation center. If you don't know it is wrong, don't say it is. The congressman's office was rude to my daughter, and dismissed her without offering any help. Perhaps Mr. Tiahrt has forgotten who he works for. Congressmen don't work for the political party, or the special interest groups, they work for me. -I hire them to represent me, and I can fire them. The callus attitude towards our situation placed my wife's safety at risk, and that becomes personal. She and thousands of other Americans were trapped overseas, and our government was not making any attempt to help.
US House of Representative Todd Tiahrt (Kans. R)