A disaster unlike any other before it
Reading about the levee break on the morning of August 29, and knowing the city was being slowly drowned, was horrible. However, what really got me that morning was the fact that President Bush was here in the San Diego area making a speech comparing the war in Iraq with World War II and comparing 9/11 with Pearl Harbor.
I was livid. New Orleans, a vital, unique, historical city was being flooded and President Bush was talking about something that happened 60 years earlier.
I went caching two days that week with Princess Toadstool, but got on my computer each night and caught up with the developments. That Tuesday and Wednesday, FEMA was still missing in action and the victims of this natural disaster were still begging for help on the nightly news. Only the Coast Guard was visible making daring rescues of people stranded on their roofs by helicopter.
People who had managed to evacuate from New Orleans were being referred to as "refugees." When people had to flee the devastating fires here in San Diego County in 2003, they were "evacuees," not "refugees." Some of the stories coming out of the region had very racist tones. This was possibly the largest natural disaster in the history of the United States and people were politicizing the victims and the state and local officials, who were overwhelmed because of the damage to their infrastructure.
Thursday I listened to an interview with Michael Chertoff on NPR. Robert Siegel kept stating there were thousands of hungry and thirsty people at the Convention Center and Chertoff kept denying that and trying to correct Mr. Siegel by saying people were at the Superdome. When Mr. Siegel repeated that he was talking about the Convention Center, Chertoff stated they didn't act based on "rumor and innuendo." Robert Siegel had to tell him, in no uncertain terms, that this was a fact being reported by seasoned reporters who had reported from war zones and other disaster sites.
Finally, Chertoff said he would look into it. That was Thursday! The hurricane came through on Monday morning, the flooding started Monday night. Chertoff later stated that he didn't know about the flooding until he read about it in the newspaper.
He is the head of Homeland Security and he gets his information about a major natural disaster from the newspaper! That made it into the list of the 25 Mind-Numbingly Stupid Quotes About Hurricane Katrina And Its Aftermath
I visited New Orleans twice. Once as an 18-year old college student and another time three years later on a trip with my parents, the last trip I would take with them.
The city was so incredibly different from where I grew up in Colorado, and the town where I went to college. Both of my visits were brief, but my memories of walking through the French Quarter, listening to jazz in Preservation Hall, going to an incredible female impersonator "showgirls" act in a nightclub, and seeing the art displayed by artists in Jackson Square are vivid. So is my memory of sitting at the counter in an oyster bar watching the man shuck the oysters he arranged on my plate. I ate a dozen and a half oysters for lunch that day. They were only $1.39 per dozen.
I took a Grayline Bus tour and got a crush on the tour guide as he told us about the history of New Orleans, showed us the beautiful antebellum homes in the Garden District, pointed out the above-ground tombs in an old graveyard, and explained the incredible drainage system the below-sea-level city had in place.
A few months ago I learned about a wonderful Geocache in New Orleans, the "View Carre." I day-dreamed about getting in my car someday and driving back to Louisiana and down to New Orleans just to see that highly-touted cache.
Maybe I will be able to make that trip someday. Maybe New Orleans will be rebuilt, by and for the people of New Orleans in a few years. Maybe this disaster will make things better for victims of future disasters by forcing the government to put qualified people in the positions that deal with disaster preparedness and response.
It quickly became obvious that having someone as the head of FEMA who previously ran Arabian Horse Shows poorly was not a good person for the job.