September 2, 2005 in Current Events

Hurricane Katrina

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My heart breaks for the people currently Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Louisiana who are affected by hurricane Katrina — especially those in New Orleans. Having vacationed there during the summer of 2004, I fell in love with the city. Thus it sadness me to no end to know that all those historic buildings and beautiful homes may be damaged beyond repair. It grieves me to think that all those fine restaurants and fabulous jazz/blues places are no more. More importantly, it upsets me to wake up to the reality that America, the only real superpower left in the world, is struggling to successfully deal with this natural disaster. Clearly the initial response was due to shock and lack of anticipation. But FIMA’s failure to move people and emergency supplies into the area to deal with the problem in a timely fashion is just gross mismanagement. Logistics and communications are critical to crisis management. Perhaps if more of the national reserve guardsmen and woman were at home instead of Iraq, things would have moved more quickly. Heck, maybe even the bureaucrats at the United Nation could have done a better job. After all, they have more experience dealing with natural disasters across the globe. Perhaps then, some of this heartache could have been averted.
Goodness! What is to become of the people who lived there? I’m sure many will never return. It will be a long time before New Orleans can really be considered the “The Big Easy” again. As such, I’m glad that many were able to get out alive and I feel deeply for those who are now dealing with conditions like those more common in third world countries. This sort of treatment or response never should have happened in America. Having said that, contrary to widespread opinion, I don’t think the delay in response is due to the fact that the people in New Orleans are black. No American wants to see other Americans suffer to such a scale. In addition, America has dealt with natural disasters before. Thus as stated above, what I think happened here is that FIMA and other local, state and federal officials never really expected things to get this bad – even though scientists and other academics had predicted it to be a possibly due to the fact that the city is built below sea level and the levees can not adequately deal with hurricanes graded at the highest levels.
So let us not politicize and divide. There will be time for critical analysis but that should be left until the people in the affected areas are taken care of. The government and citizens at all levels need to work together to deal with the problem. The fact of the matter is that New Orleans has a populations of about 450,000 and almost 70% are black. And having visited the city and explored the neighborhoods, I know that there is a thriving white as well as black middle class. Most of these people I am sure got out as they had the mean to do so. Specifically, they had cars or access to cash to pay for alternative transportation out of town. Also, beyond transportation they had money to spend on hotel rooms and other expenses you would expect to encounter with this sort of displacement. In addition, they were more likely to have insurance so could risk leaving their homes and worldy possesions behind safely knowing that if needed, they had the resources to rebuild.
Those that were left behind are the poor working class people of the city living I would bet paycheck to paycheck. Beyond the expense of leaving town, these people I’m sure had no insurance and so stayed back to protect their homes and contents. Thus, this is more a class issue than a race issue. The difference is response is a difference in the have and have nots. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s what I’m thinking and feeling.
To do my part, I’ll probably give money to one of the Animal charities in the area (link via Shasta’s blog). Since people take first priority and will get most of the attention from the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and other charity organizations – in honor of Choo-Choo, I will do something for the animals. So many have already died or will be left behind. As such, if I can help just one animal make safe passage out of the city, I’ll feel better. Thus sort of disaster as well as the Tsunami that happened in Sout-East Asia earlier in the year is almost beyond comprehension.

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