Tears for New Orleans

I have been shocked speechless by the events in New Orleans. Or should I say non-events? Its been a week since Hurricane Katrina hit and the news is still showing people stranded on their rooftops. Why? Wasn't FEMA supposed to rush in? Bodies are floating in the streets. They say that the breaks in the levies have been plugged with giant sandbags and that the water is going to start going down now. Air boats are moving through the streets, still trying to find people. They estimate that the death toll is going to be in the tens of thousands. The city has been abandoned (supposedly). There are no jobs, no resources, no electricity and won't be for awhile.

Let's look at some numbers. The first permanent settlement in the New Orleans drainage basin was in the early 1700's. Even then, the settlers were advised that a unique problem was presented by putting a settlement in that area. It was, after all, a basin. New Orleans today was about 60% Black, with a poverty level about twice the national average. Any reasonable American would have to ask themselves that if New Orleans was any other (whiter, richer, take your pick) city, say one in the Midwest, would a solution have been found for the problem earlier? Would the levies and flood walls built to with stand only a category 3 storm been improved to withstand the storm that researchers said has been coming for years? A mandatory evacuation works only if those being ordered to evacuate have the means to do so, and its obvious that many, many people didn't. But does that mean they didn't have the right to be safe from drowning in their sleep, even when they didn't know it could happen?
More facts, the US Cut the Army Corps of Engineer budget, only approving a budget of about 42 Million when they wee asking for more than twice that, but built multi million dollar bridges in relatively unihabited areas of Alaska. We spent money hunting down non-existent weapons of Mass Destruction on the other side of the world. The National Guard is still there so there were no helicopters to go in and help New Orleans. One unit is coming home from Iraq to help in New Orleans.
Its easy to see these things in retrospective. Hindsight is that way. But what next? Give to the Red Cross? I heard the president say that on TV. But wasn't there a problem with misappropriation of funds or something after 9/11? No one seems to remember. We obviously have to find a way to take care of people and help them re-start wherever they have landed. The city won't be dry for two months and then they will have to clean up and count the casualties.
The tragedy of New Orleans brings another question to mind. My brother has been asking about a family disaster plan for years now, and we have all poo- poohed him. He wanted to know, in the event of a disaster, how would we find each other if there was no phone, no electricity, no TV. Where and how would we meet when everything else is gone? Well?


parnel said…
Tears have been shed. Prayers are beingg set. And help is being given. The American Red Cross? The Salvation Army? Sounds good, but ae they sound? Fortunately, thousands of those from New Orleans are in my city. Instead of waiting for another oganization to give help, my family and church have decided to help those already her, and get them started. We've heard their stories and it outrageous how thins were. I've seen them, happy for being out and alive, but sad and angry for those left behind, whether alive or dead. Going back after being rebuilt? It doesn't seem like the ones we've talked to are consdering that option. It is as if we've adopted. Now, we have to help them grow in their new surroundings.
Anonymous said…
Word. We have to help them now, we have to help them later too. Economic fallout from this will last for years.

We helped sort clothes and I delivered my share of larger-sized clothes (I too wear size 13 shoes, so I feel the brothers who will find it hard to fit into donated average-size 9 shoes - so I actually gave up several of my nice ones, and bought a few very goods ones for all the walking, bus riding and job hunting). Anyway, we helped and there was a FLOOD (no pun inteded) of folks there to help. We tripped over ourselves trying to be an Austin communitee that gives. My hope is that we will be patient, giving, tolerant, and open in 3 to 4 months when evacuees become residents who have to make a living and support thier lives. I will hope, and help as best I can.
Anonymous said…
Let's hope those on government assistance will not continue to feel they don't have to work. What a great opportunity for them to stretch out and get jobs...maybe for the first time. I hope FEMA and other government agencies realize this and try and encourage those used to sitting on their butts for a paycheck, that the the job fairs are for them as well. I'm sure they can't use the excuse about having children and who will watch over them. There are too many helping hands right now to be able to use that excuse. We have a chance now to see those who've had nothing but what the government hands out, make a difference in the new neighborhoods that they find themselves in. It would be a shame for them not to take advantage of this situation. It will just show "you can take the section 8 person out of housing, but you can't take the section 8 mentality out of the person". Let this be the start.
I appreciated this blogger so very much. I have prayed and have searched my heart for suggestions as to what I can do. I have decided to volunteer my time at the DC Armory here in Washington D.C. In addition, I have decided to collect toys for the children and novels for the adults. I can't even began to imangine how they must feel by being displaced from their homes. And when I think about it, I realize even more that I must do something to help and also that I am blessed.
casa/chico said…
....let's also cheer and await the renascence of New Orleans. The people are resilient, the town is mythic and mystical, and there is a lot of attention focused on how to rebuild it. can't say i would ever live there, but i can see so many future celebrations, so many families working together to make it, so much potential to shine (sadly a small part of this also can see this being the nation's largest gentrification effort after all is cleaned up and rebuilt - but that's anoother blog)...

the port is economically vital, the poor response will drive attention from the executive branch for years to come, and the vibe that is new orleans cannot be found elsewhere (not in on vegas' strip, dallas' deep ellum, new york's tribeca, san francisco's ). and too many folks need that vibe to settle inside of for brief moments so they can get away from this world, and live in another world with the semblance of impunity, before waking and getting back to the real world again...

new orleans will rise...hope she keeps all her spirit when she does.

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