Where to start
There are a very few people in this world that can comprehend the magnitude of the catastrophe that is the flood of New Orleans. The mayor of New Orleans and the Governor of Louisiana are not two of these people. Nor should they be. That would not be a reason they would or should be elected. It is not to their discredit that they were completely overwhelmed. Before I say anymore, allow me to break this issue down into the two natural components. The first is the Hurricane itself with the wind damage and the storm surge damage that has inflicted hell on most of the Gulf Coast. The second is, of course, the flood of New Orleans. Though the hurricane caused the flood, they must be looked at as two distinct events for any of this to make any sense. So, for example, if the flood doesn’t happen, you have the “normal” hurricane clean-up stories in the news. Major damage was done to Biloxi and Gulf Port and these are indeed worthy news stories, but not the kind of drama we saw unfold at the Super Dome and Convention Center in New Orleans. That was close-up, human drama that makes great TV. My point is that without the flood, there is no “Blame Bush” story. Blame him for global warming maybe, but not this week.
So that leaves us with the flood. I was at work when I read on Drudge that the levee had broken. It was about mid-day. I went straight into my boss’s office and said, “The levee has broken in New Orleans; should we add more newspapers for tomorrow?” His response was something like, “let’s wait and see what happens.”
Didn’t everybody know that the levees might break? Didn’t everybody know that if that happened, it would be…well, big? Didn’t everybody know that the whole city could be flooded? The whole city!?
Yes, everybody knew that.
A few quotes to remind you:
(The New Orleans) TIMES-PICAYUNE published a story on July 24, 2005 stating:
City, state and federal emergency officials are preparing to give a historically blunt message: “In the event of a major hurricane, you’re on your own.”Staff writer Bruce Nolan reported some 7 weeks before Katrina: “In scripted appearances being recorded now, officials such as Mayor Ray Nagin, local Red Cross Executive Director Kay Wilkins and City Council President Oliver Thomas drive home the word that the city does not have the resources to move out of harm’s way an estimated 134,000 people without transportation.”"In the video,made by the anti-poverty agency Total Community Action, they urge those people to make arrangements now by finding their own ways to leave the city in the event of an evacuation.
And here’s a pull from the actual evacuation document for the city, most recently revised in 2000. On page 13, paragraph 5 it states:
The primary means of hurricane evacuation will be personal vehicles. School and municipal buses, government-owned vehicles and vehicles provided by volunteer agencies may be used to provide transportation for individuals who lack transportation and require assistance in evacuating.
And then this from New Orleans On-line from 8/28/05:
Previous hurricanes evacuations in New Orleans were always voluntary, because so many people don’t have the means of getting out. Some are too poor…
Stop and think about that one for a bit. And remember, after the President called, the order was given for a mandatory evacuation.
I’m asking everyone to stop wondering and worrying about blaming somebody. Or, go ahead and blame every resident of New Orleans, every mayor, every Governor of Louisiana, this President and the thirty before him. No, accept the frail condition of humanity, physical and spiritual.
Now, back to the real story: THIS IS A HUGE CATASTROPHE! No amount of adjectives would do it justice. As I stated in my opening comments, very few people in this world could be prepared for something of this magnitude. I’m reminded of huge battles in huge wars with famous generals in charge. Eisenhower, McCarthur, yeah, these guys could get their minds around a problem this big. Not a mayor or a governor, though. It’s just not fair to expect that from people like that. And guess what? You or I couldn’t do it either. And you or I can’t even begin to grasp the logistical problems of something this big. Were there “snafus?” Of course there were. Please read the details of any major battle campaign to see a list of errors and misjudgments that will make your heart sick.
People are doing the best they can. What can we do to help? As usual in domestic catastrophes, the churches are on the front lines. That’s simply because they’re already there with a network of people who are familiar with what it means to “help people.” I suggest giving to the relief arm of you favorite church. Here is mine: