I wrote this yesterday, but the computer gods did not see fit to grant me internet access.
What She Wore: Light purple, short-sleeve tee; brown pleated skirt with teeny-tiny pleats; brown leather heels with purple tweed accents.
As some of you may know, I am deeply connected to my New Orleans heritage. My parents and brother still live in South Louisiana and there are few aspects of my personality that I do not relate to my upbringing in that amazing city.
Lately, when I think about Hurricane Katrina, I am filled with an overwheliming sense of sadness. HBO has been running a documentary about KAtrina, and I begain sobbing as it played the other day. Usually, I stuff down my sadness and ignore it since I know that few will understand it, but today I won’t.
Juxtaposed against 9/11, I feel that our nation is ignoring the tragedy that occured in New Orleans. I will be the first to admit that the poeple of New Orelans never made the greatest photo ops. They didn’t wear business suits, many of them didn’t leave behind beautiful pregnant wives. Few had gone to college or volunteered with disadvanged children. In face, they were more likely to be receiving services than giving them.
Those are the facts. But it doesn’t change the fact that a lot of people ided in Katrina. A lot. Almost a thousand bodies have been counted at this point. And they are not the only ones who suffered. Many were left in the city for up to a week without proper food, water, or shelter. Some of the elderly died waiting for help.
I can’t imagine the horror of being trapped in an underwater city for a week. I simply can’t imagine.
Some people question how you could live in a city with such geographic impracticalities, but I would argue that point. Millions of people live in California which has forest fires, mud slides, and earthquakes–all capable of destroying huge amounts of property without warning. Large swaths of the country are located in Tornado alley, and Las Vegas doesn’t have enough water to support its booming population. Amersterdam and more than half of Hollad sits below sea level, but they are impervious to flooding. The Dutch have even offered to help us rebuild protection that will work, but we will instead have our levees rebuilt by the same people who designed and executed that last sub-standard bunch. In the fifeen years that i lived in my parents’ house, it never flooded once. It may not have flooded during Katrina were it not for the fact that everything that was designed to protect it failed. Where’s the accountabilty? If I failed to teach my students, then I would DEFINITELY be held accountable.
In many ways, I think that this tragedy is much harder to swallow than 9/11. On September 11th strangers invaded our home and attacked symbols of American prosperity. When Katrina hit, mother nature attacked parts of this country that many would rather not acknowledge. Our federal administration failed us, our city and stated leaders were pushed to the brink, and many felt that the people of New Orleans were to blame. They should have known bettter, they should have left sooner, they should have. . .
Regardless of the should-haves, the government could have rushed to the aid of its people, and it did not. Condaleeza Rice went shoe shopping as poeple in our own coutnry drowned in their homes. It took three days for the National Guard to arrive in the city. During 9/11 there were fighter jets in the air within the hour escorting planes that needed to land. The Federal government failed New Orleanians then, and it continues to fail them today. While we spend BILLIONS of dollars to rebuild Iraq, Bush categorically denied funds to New Orleans to rebuild the levees to category five protection. We build bridges in Alaska for five-hundred people, but we refuse to protect the homes of a million Americans–not to mention all the people in surrounding areas who depend on the city for their livelihood.
People have callously argued that New Orleans should not be rebuilt, and I am positive that not all of it will be. But most home-owners do not have a choice in the matter. Mortgage companies are issued the insurance checks and they approve decisons made on the houses. If you choose to abandon your house, you will most likely have to declare bankruptcy—you may even owe fines. The government has agreed to pay up to 100,000 dollars to people who do not wish to rebuild. For most, this will only cover a fraction of their mortgages. Like many urban areas, even a modest home is priced well-above $100,000.
A year later, my parents’ house is almost finished. Their kitchen was just recently installed and they are waiting on a master bath. My mother continues to have anxiety attacks that started in the weeks she spent evacuated in Houston. They are hopeful about the future of their city, but they are also certain that most of the nation could care less about what has happened to them. They know without question that the president does not care.
Yes. Katrina was messy. It leaves us with complex emotions and makes us wonder who is to blame. Truthfully, there are a lot of people to blame, so let’s stop trying to figure that out. Things went seriously wrong, and there’s no changing that. Let’s look forward. New Orleans will continue, she will change, and she will grow. But please don’t forget what happened there. It was its own type of tragedy. While our people suffered, their cries were ignored.
Please don’t let them be ignored forever.