Thursday, September 01, 2005

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?

I sat down a couple of times yesterday and started writing a post. Each time I stopped, because I was saying too much and I wasn't saying enough. I'm speechless when I see the images of the devastation, and R and I are feeling extremely helpless.

The National news coverage has been, in my opinion, really bad. They seem to only be covering the easy stories. Looting. High gas prices. But the human tragedy is playing itself out on blogs and forums where people are desperately looking for information about loved ones in the affected areas, and in local reports. The looting is easy to understand when you consider the desperation of people who have no information about where the basic necessities of life will be coming from, but the situation is out of hand and opportunism seems to be running the streets. Everyone seems to be shocked about the looting, but it's hardly a surprise. Area officials should not have had to wait for 24 hours before receiving more Natioanl Guard troops for security. And you know that we have more helicopters for rescues, but they just happen to be stuck in Iraq. Additionally, we need to stop asking about why these people didn't leave. I know who these people are, in the general sense. For the most part, they are people who couldn't leave. They were ill. They were poor. They didn't have a car, and the city did nothing for them until the relative last minute, Sunday. They weathered the wind, but they didn't count on a levee breach.

It appears that the news media has overblown some reports about the destruction within parts of the city of New Orleans. It appears, from those who remained, that Uptown (including the universities) and most of the French Quarter weathered the storm with only minor flood damage. Part of the confusion comes from the national correspondents who do not understand the geography of the city's neighborhoods (i.e. they don't understand where the French Quarter begins in relation to the rest of the city). At the same time, the destruction in the city's impoverished 9th Ward and in St. Bernard Parish is complete. The local news media is recounting the tales of those who have been rescued from these areas who tell of their neighbors pounding on the ceiling of their attics until they drowned. Those stories are almost too much for the American public to hear. I've found that the best local information can be found at NOLA.COM (the site for the NO Times Picayune; the forums give excellent information about individual neighborhoods) and WWL-TV. Yesterday, I found these reports of people still needing rescued to be particularly heartbreaking. But on the same site, it's heartwarming to see people offering their homes and other assistance to refugees.

I have no doubt that the city of New Orleans will recover, but it is going to take a long time. And they need your help. Please consider making a donation, no matter how large or small, to a charity of your choice. (Thank you to Mason Dixon Knitting for the link.) My brother-in-law and his girlfriend live(d) in a shotgun style house Uptown, and they have no idea what they will return to, when they will be able to return, or if they will. I fear that many people will just start over somewhere else, because it will be so long before the city is habitable and people need to be working. But again, they are the lucky ones who had a way to get out and have somewhere to stay. But then there are those who are ready to come back and get to work, even without power and water. The hub's parents live on the north side of Lake Ponchartrain, and all things considered, it appears that their communities are relatively intact. They will likely be back to some sense of normalcy much much sooner than New Orleans. The other side of their parish, Slidell, is quite devastated.

The images are unreal. I feel so disconnected. It all plays out on TV like some bad disaster movie. I keep waiting for the Coast Guard rescuer to pull off his helmet and reveal that it is really Bruce Willis. Then I'll be able to turn the TV off and say, "That could never happen, and the movie was worse than Armageddon." But it's real. I just hope that they can get to all those who are stranded in time. Most have been over 3 days without a source of water. But I fear that they won't. The cost in human lives will be staggering. All of this is in no way meant to trivialize the massive destruction along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. They are both hopelessly desperate situations, but in different ways. Here's hoping that the streets of New Orleans don't turn into scenes from Blackhawk Down before the city can be controlled and evacuated.

Updated: Attention Knit Bloggers, Margene and Susan are hosting a Katrina relief drive.

There are also many images from Katrina on flickr. There's auctions going on too. You can purchase a print of the images and proceeds will go to disaster relief.

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