Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Day Hurricane Katrina Opened the Door

August 29th 2005 is a day few will ever forget.
On that day, Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, creating mass destruction and widespread deaths. It was months before some of the bodies were found, and many families were relocated to other parts of the country without the opportunity to keep in contact with family members bused elsewhere.
Three years after that fateful day, some residents are still in dire need of help; yet, aside from groups of volunteers who have stepped in to bring some relief, and residents who have taken matters into their own hands, government aid has mostly focused on selected areas. In a video released on YouTube,, former president Carter has exposed some of the areas of the Ninth Ward that have received little help, and has denounced our government for its lack of commitment to the people of New Orleans.
To make things worse, FEMA was recently under investigation for having withheld supplies that were donated in the aftermath of Katrina, while people were still in need.
Lack of response from our government, and the widespread blame game, have left people scratching their heads for answers.
Most of the people left without help were minorities and were some of the poorest. They were blamed for not having left the area during the mandatory evacuation, although some lacked the resources to make the move, or were unable to leave because of factors out of their control. Government agencies blamed one another; the Federal Government blamed the State for not taking prompt action; the State blamed the Federal Government for their lack of quick response. Everybody blamed the next person, yet, few were willing to accept individual responsibility. Although Katrina was, and still is, viewed as one of the worst events to ever hit New Orleans, it did indeed open a door of awareness. The socio-economic and racial implications unveiled hit the rest of our country with the cold slap of shame. Katrina exposed all that. We spend millions of dollars promoting events that will bridge our social and racial divides, yet in the face of a calamity, those bridges crumble as fast as the levees of New Orleans. Wounds must come to the light and cleansed, before they can heal. Katrina didn’t heal our separateness, but it certainly drew the map to show us the flaws we must all work on as a nation and as a people.
Coincidentally, the anniversary of this sad event is falling on the same week the Democratic Convention is taking place in Colorado.
Barack Obama appears to have a much wider vision; his message of unity and his peaceful policies have set him aside from the many politicians who seem more interested in promoting corporations, rather than caring for the genuine interest of our country. We pride ourselves with being the leading nation around the world, and fight other countries if they fall short on our scale of peace and justice. Yet, we are not able to achieve peace, unity and justice among our own people. In our country, the poorest minorities are still cut out of our aid budgets, and women can still die unattended in the waiting rooms of hospitals. These flaws considered, we have little room to flash our way of living as an example for others to follow.
Thanks, Katrina, for opening the door.

1 comment:

Dena said...

Very insightful...thank you for making note of this tragic anniversary, Sandra. As you say, it is also an opportunity to see the truth -- on many levels -- and work toward healing.

Especially in light of Gustav heading toward the Gulf on this third anniversary of Katrina.

Something you wrote reminded me of a quote from one of the speeches from the Democratic Convention last night. Of all the words spoken last night, and throughout this week, President Clinton uttered one rather obscure sentence that had a resounding impact on me: "People are more impressed with the power of our example, than the example of our power."

Great job, and thank you again!