Waiting for Answers at Kmart

As the mobile hospital went up in the middle of the Waveland Kmart parking lot Sunday, Vicky Strong thought: Oh, good.

She and her family -- a fiance, two sons, daughter, mother, father, brother, two uncles, one aunt and a chocolate Lab -- have been camping on eight parking spaces at the Kmart lot for a week after escaping her flooded attic by boat. They're ready for help.

"We lost everything," Strong said. "Our houses, our trailers, boats, cars -- absolutely everything."

The mobile hospital, courtesy of the state of North Carolina, offered hope that help was coming. A state-of-the-art, air-conditioned double-wide trailer, it came with a triage center, a separate tent for minor injuries and ailments, and most importantly, 100 North Carolina volunteers, including nine doctors, 20 nurses, five pharmacists, a couple of dozen technicians and paramedics, and six officers from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department SWAT team deputized as U.S. marshals. But all the do-gooders bustling around them didn't mean more help was on its way.

And Strong's family, along with about a dozen other families from Bay St. Louis and Waveland -- the hardest hit towns in Mississippi -- are stressed and tired, parked on beach chairs, waiting for word on how they can get out of there.

"We've been left alone here," said Baybay Pulliam, Strong's mother. "FEMA passes by and they just shout out: 'Call the 800 number, call the 800 number.' Well, we don't have any working cell phones. How are we supposed to call?"

It was midafternoon when they got at least one dire question answered. Strong's aunt, who had had breast cancer surgery three months ago, had been in a lot of pain from an infection in her incision. The mobile hospital team admitted her straightaway. She would become the second surgery patient since the unit opened.

-- Evelyn Nieves

Comrades Remember Police Sergeant

Life wasn't supposed to end this way for Sgt. Paul Accardo: alone in chaos.

He wrote a note telling anyone who found him to contact a fellow officer. He was precise, and thoughtful, to the end. Then he stuck a gun into his mouth and killed himself.

Accardo, 36, was one of two city cops who committed suicide last week as New Orleans descended into an abyss of death and destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina. He was found in an unmarked patrol car this weekend in a downtown parking lot.

Back when life was normal and structured, Accardo served as one of the police department's chief spokesmen. He reported murders, hostage situations and rapes in measured words, his bespectacled face benign and familiar on the nightly news.

"Paul was a stellar guy. A perfectionist. Everything had to be just right," recalled Sgt. Joe Narcisse, who went to police academy with Accardo and worked with him in the public affairs office.

Uniform crisply pressed, office in order, everything just right on his desk. That was Accardo.

"I'm the jokester in the office. I'd move stuff on his desk, and he didn't like that," said Capt. Marlon Defillo, Accardo's boss. "He was ready to call the crime lab to find out who messed with his desk."

Like the rest of the department, Accardo worked long, difficult days -- sometimes 20 hours. He waded through the mass of flesh and stench in the Louisiana Superdome. He saw the dead in the streets.

Defillo remembered how bad Accardo felt when he was unable to help women stranded on the interstate and pleading for water and food. One woman said her baby had not had water in three days.

He even wanted to stop and help the animals lost amid the ruin of New Orleans, Defillo said.

Unable to stop the hurt, Accardo sank into depression.

Narcisse remembered being on the telephone with him, complaining about the flooding when his buddy cut him off midsentence: "Joe. Joe. I can't talk to you right now." He couldn't handle it anymore, Narcisse said.

-- Associated Press

XM Radio Puts Red Cross on the Air

XM Satellite Radio, the District-based subscription radio company, has teamed up with the American Red Cross to launch the Red Cross Radio Channel, a 24-hour channel dedicated to disseminating information to Red Cross field personnel and volunteers working in the hurricane-stricken Gulf Coast region. XM is also donating 300 radios to the relief organization to distribute to its workers.

Channel 248 went live last evening and can be heard by all XM subscribers. However, it is geared toward relief workers who have had difficulty communicating with each other in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Because XM beams its signal from a series of satellites in orbit, it was one of the few broadcasters active in the area that was not silenced by the storm. Many local radio and television stations in the Gulf Coast area remain off the air. The Red Cross plans to use the XM channel to make announcements to staff, XM officials said in a statement.

The Red Cross channel will supplement XM's emergency alert channel, which was launched during the 2004 hurricane season and reactivated last week. The emergency alert channel broadcasts information such as possible evacuation routes and announcements from federal, state and local officials. XM spokesman David Butler estimated that XM has several hundred thousand XM subscribers in the affected area, out of a total of 4 million potential listeners.

-- Annys Shin