Friday, September 09, 2005

Hurricane Katrina

I live here in Virginia and was watching the hurricane Katrina on the weather channel. Now, I'm not a meteorologist or a weather expert on any level but I could look at this thing on the television for the entire week before it hit land again and see that it was going to be bad. Anyone could have!

No, no one expected the levees to break but these things have to be taken into consideration in any area especially in a city that was built below sea level. It's not paranoia or pessimism by any means but if you always consider the worst case scenario and act accordingly then you should find yourself ahead of the game more often than you'd think. People, governments included, always take solace in the idea that it will always happen to the other guy and not to them but the people who think it can't happen to them never stop to think that the ones that it DID happen to didn't plan on the bad things coming their way! I know that anything that can happen to someone else can happen to me in a blink of an eye. There is nothing, no force field, no magic potion, that offers me protection from the things that affect the "other guy" therefore I act accordingly, learn from the things that happen to others by realizing that they didn't think it could happen to them, and I stay mindful of things in order to protect my family.

Now back to the hurricane:

I think that things should have been put together on standby to be sent out to victims long before it hit. It didn't matter whether it was going to hit New Orleans, Mississippi, Alabama or Florida again, what matters is that when you have a storm coming with winds in excess of 150 mph there is going to be extreme damage and loss of life and property. Did the federal government drop the ball on this? Yeah, I'd have to say they did.

With that being said I will say this. What irritates me is the idea that the state and local government of Louisiana and New Orleans are going for the throat of the President and FEMA relentlessly as if they should shoulder none of the responsibility themselves. The governor and mayor knew better than anyone else of the multitude of poor people living in New Orleans. I sure didn't know how many poor there were in New Orleans! These people had no money, no transportation and many had no where else to go.

What I can't understand is that if the governor and mayor KNEW about the poor people and their plight then why didn't they line up transportation to get them out of there? I have read many times that bus and train service was stopped two days before the storm hit and as far as I'm concerned the service stoppage was a pretty good indicator that people had some idea of how bad this was going to be. There were Greyhound buses, a ton of school buses, etc. that could have been utilized to relocate those poor people temporarily to another area. The resources were there but no one bothered to put them into action. Sure, a lot of people didn't want to leave, most of them wanted to but didn't have the money or the means but as we've seen a vast number of them were more than willing had they been given the chance. The other group that was left behind who didn't have a fighting chance were the infirm. Those confined to beds in a nursing home that drowned as a result of being left behind to fend for themselves. Large scale flooding or not when the threat of the hurricane was bearing down those people should have been moved. I don't know all the circumstances around this but I can say that there is probably a special place in hell for those who would leave the disabled and bedridden alone to die in a dark nursing home.

I have also read that the governor requested five million in disaster aid the day before the storm hit. At least I think it was the day before but that doesn't really matter because whether it is a day before or five days before, even if it is approved the money takes awhile to get to where it needs to be.

All levels of government, federal, state and local of the affected areas, need to accept blame for what has happened. The state and local levels simply cannot sit there and place blame solely and squarely on the shoulders of the federal government without taking some for themselves. If the state and local assumes that they had absolutely no responsibility in this mess then why even have them? They can't expect to always bask in the glory of progress and accomplishment but never reap the whirlwind when things go bad. The good goes with the bad...always has always will.

I will always remember the one time I can recall a politician readily taking responsibility for their actions regardless of the consequences. It was when Janet Reno was grilled over the end of the stand off in Waco, Texas regarding the fire, explosions and loss of life. In the aftermath her resignation was called for. I know everyone has an opinion about this issue but that is not my point as I am not trying to rehash that event. They asked her if she called for the building to be advanced on and she said yes, that she was doing her job and she said that she accepted responsibility for what had taken place. She was not proud about how things turned out but the call and the reponsibility was hers. It was a true "the buck stops here" kind of moment and you could have heard a pin drop in that room. I don't think anyone in there had ever heard someone accept responsibility for their actions without trying to take someone else with them. I'm glad I saw that broadcast on that day because I was pretty sure that I would never hear such a thing again.

To my dear friend Lesley, her husband Kevin and their "little Bunny": I am so glad that your friends and family survived and are as good as they can be. Let them know that I wish them the best of luck.