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Natural and Human Disasters:
Katrina and 9/11

I’ve held back on writing about 9/11. I tried to get a hold of my friends and family who were in New York and Washington D.C. for days, then the best I could do was talk about it in performance art shows. After this disaster caused by kamikaze pilots incarnate and after everyone pointed fingers and placed the blame from 9/11, I tried to stay out of that arena.
Then a few years passed of hurricanes. My parents (who live in southwest Florida) stayed in a hotel because of a hurricane one year, and my aunt & uncle lost parts of their home because of a hurricane once. And year after year I’d worry about my family because of the potential natural disasters caused every season, but I never thought it was anything to write about.
And then hurricane Katrina came along, after hitting Florida and then ducking back out into the water before coming in for an attack again. Everyone in New Orleans was told to prep for a category 3 hurricane, so they figured that this would be like most other hurricanes and they could live through it with no problem.
They didn’t know hurricane Katrina would be a category 5 hurricane.
But still, although it was touch, people still in New Orleans weathered the storm and started to go back into their homes.
That’s when the levy broke.
And that’s when most of New Orleans flooded, about the same time that hurricane Katrina started to move north and weak havoc on Mississippi and Alabama before being downgraded to a tropical storm in Tennessee.
So this was the second major catastrophe in recent years for me, but lucky for me I didn’t have to call friends and family in this case my parents were up in Illinois, the hurricane didn’t do major damage to my family’s part of Florida, and for writers as all know like Michelle Greenblatt, she survived as well. And although I hard many people discuss the terrible things that happened on 9/11, people did not complain as much about what the Government could have done until the 9/11 commission started getting together for find evidence for all of the things we feared could have been done to prevent 9/11 from happening.
But the things that make me want to argue and write usually stem from my hearing some loudmouth’s opinion on talk radio and I heard it after hurricane Katrina came and left. And yeah, maybe I bring it on myself by listening to talk radio sometimes, but when I’m driving home and don’t want to listen to music, I figured talk radio and news radio would be a good way to catch up on what is happening in the world, and what people think about it.
I know the problem with news radio and talk radio is that I’m actually catching up on what is happening in the world, and what Republicans think about it, and although Republicans have a lot of valuable points, some of the conclusions they jump to can be so inconsistent, that I can’t help but rip on their conclusions, so I can come to be better conclusion of my own.
But the thing that usually happens is that I hear someone on talk radio making a rash complaint about something, and I have to clear the issue for them. Like last night, when I heard people on talk radio complaining about the lack of federal government assistance both before and after hurricane Katrina struck. Now, I heard that even though the news reports before Katrina struck were that it was only a category 3 hurricane, people still left New Orleans (a coworker of my husband has a family of 9 who came to visit after hearing the hurricane was coming and they had no place else to go). The problem was that (A) some people thought this was another bearable storm and that there wouldn’t be a flood from a levy break, but the bigger problem probably was that (B) some people didn’t have the money to get out, so were stuck in the storm and trying to recover from the aftermath of hurricane Katrina.
And that is where people start to argue that the government should have done more to help the poor. (Wait, that was probably politically incorrect of me to say that these people are poor. Forgive me.) I heard people complaining that FEMA should have been there earlier to help these people. Then I heard people get angry at President Bush for not setting in to help these states with national money to help them. I even hear the media comment that the help to these people in New Orleans (these “refugees”) is slow for racial reasons (though no one has been about to ever verify that, but people like to find things to argue about...).
But as soon as I heard these thoughts I thought that as far as I know, FEMA is not a group to step in immediately to help people in situations such as this, but FEMA can coordinate what will be done in emergency situations when everything falls in place for proper execution. I also know that the federal government can’t take action to help a state with a natural disaster until the state literally asks for it (in other words, states should control their fate, and that not all problems are the federal government’s business).
I’d also go to far as to say that it’s not the government’s business to get people out of the way if they think the weather is going to be really bad where they live, but hey, I’m just a wacko who thinks the government shouldn’t be in every aspect of our lives. But I might be wrong to think that the government shouldn’t step in, because apparently the New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin declared a state of emergency, and ordered a mandatory evacuation of the city two days before Katrina struck, even though people without money or transportation could evacuate. People argue that the local government should have used any of the many public transportation buses or school buses to give anyone a ride away from town, to safety. Well, they have a right to argue, because the kick in the pants is that the City of New Orleans Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan clearly states that “The City of New Orleans will utilize all available resources to quickly and safely evacuate threatened areas,” and “Transportation will be provided to those persons requiring public transportation from the area.”
But they didn’t. Have you seen all the photos on the news of all the buses stuck in feet of water on the streets?
So apparently the local governments did have some sort of edict out spend money to help people, and they didn’t do their job. So not there are a ton of people still stuck in New Orleans, some sick, some with infants, all without food or water, as people now try to get them small rations of food and fresh water, since everyone is living in waste water until they can pump all of the water out of the city (which is estimated to take about 3 months).
So... for once maybe we shouldn’t be blaming the federal government for our problems, but we could be asking some serious questions to the local governments for why they didn’t step in to help sooner.

•••


But it is nice to see how the American people join together to help those in need, whether it be for tsunami victims last year or to people looking for aid after hurricane Katrina (I don’t know how many blogs there are of people trying to find a way to get a bus with food near New Orleans to help people and then to drive people out of harm’s way, and I’ve heard people call in to talk radio saying they would house a family from the hurricane Katrina aftermath but they can’t get the people up here from New Orleans, and every charity under the sun is collecting donations for the relief of these Katrina survivors even Fed Ex said they would collect unopened products to deliver to the area), can the compassion reminds me of the compassion and empathy we all felt after 9/11 for all of those who were put in harm’s way only because they went to work in new York. I remember actually watching the planes crash because my husband was watching the news before he left for work that morning, and for days I tried to get a hold of my friends and family. My friend with the Aid Force was scheduled to have a meeting at the Pentagon that day, but they opted to reschedule their meeting for a week. My brother-in-law was supposed to be meeting at the World Trade Center that day, but he decided not to go there that day. And all I keep thinking about is that news reports were stating after 9/11 that if flight 93 that crashed in Shanksville Pennsylvania landed less than 30 seconds later, my nephew would have been killed while in school from that crash. Flight 93 crashed very close to my sister-in-law’s house, and after 9/11, my nephew couldn’t sleep for days. My friend who lived in DC wasn’t near the Pentagon but dealt with the tight security and the constant roads being closed. He talked about how different streets would be closed on different days and that there were so many military guard there you felt like you were in a war zone, which in a way, you were.
I’m sure we all have stories of losing, or almost losing, someone close to us from 9/11. And these terrorists were stopped on 9/11 from being on different additional flights, and I believe it was in their plan that one of them was slated, I think, to sun into the Sears Tower. I know that for months afterward whenever we were driving toward the loop, taking the Kennedy expressway where you could see the Chicago skyline get closer and closer, I know that every time we drove by, I would be sitting in the passenger seat and I would imaging seeing a plane fly right into the side of the Sears Tower, toward the top, to the side, exactly like how it happened in the television footage to the second World Trade Center building. I imagined it, just like how you saw it over and over again on television, when we were flooded with images of it on the news. I’d see a plane flying right into the tallest building, this landmark to Chicago.
I saw that for a while, whenever we would drive into the city, but after all this time that image is starting to disappear from my memory.
After 9/11, we may have felt like we wanted to prove to the terrorists that we weren’t afraid of them, that we would still fly in airplanes after they tried to use our technology and accomplishments to destroy our spirit. But although those images from that horrific day may fade from our short-term memory, we will always make a point to look over our shoulder and try to be both more cautious and more safe when we know that there are people that will try to do anything to tear us down.

•••


Looking back over the years, I realize that there are many thingsthat can hurt us, but in our day-to-day lives, we think of things like car crashes, or things more mundane that can cause our downfall. It becomes so unsettling when the things we have to fear are either natural disasters, or enemies who try to use our accomplishments as weapons against us.
I guess as civilization has evolved we have always had battles to fight, so now that we don’t have to fight wild animals for survival and food, and now that we have the sciences to save us from many viruses and diseases, we will still always have something fighting against us. Even though we know where it is more safe to live because of weather patterns, we still will choose to live where it may be more dangerous. So we will continue to deal with natural disasters, and we will always have some sort of enemy to face.







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