I had planned on making a monster post giving a long diatribe against...well, where to begin? My thoughts on the disaster that is the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina seem to swarm in so many different directions at once. One hears all sorts of things - the government should have done more, the people were too poor to leave, the help came too late...I won't accept or deny any of that. This thing is so large that many have come to the point that they can no longer watch or listen anymore. And it's understandable. But I cannot. This event seems even larger than that of the terrorist attack of 9/11. This was not an act of aggression - this was a natural disaster, pure and simple. This does not excuse certain aspects of the lead up and eventual reaction, but the fact that many wish to make it a "blame game" is unbelievable to me.
If you want to blame someone, blame two parties. One, the officials in charge of making sure that the city was able to withstand a hurricane of such magnitude, and the other - all those that dismissed that this particular hurricane was of such magnitude. There are many groups that comprise those two catagories. Those responsible for building and maintaining the levees. Those responsible for developing a proper plan of evacuation...and before the crisis hit. Those responsible for their own lives in deciding to stay after knowing full well that the water was rising. And yes, those responsible for restoring whatever possibility order had in the days after the crisis hit - from the local all the way to the federal government.
I find it so difficult to watch these events after hearing that this was a possibility for years, at least since 2001 or 2002. Why was there no effective plan of evacuation? Why was there no effective preplanning if something like this happened? Why were the local, state and federal governments seemingly so slow to act? I cannot answer these questions. But I know that they are being asked, and by many. Knowing that this was a possibility, should there not have been a registration of some kind for those unable to move freely? Of course it is not possible for invalids and some elderly to make their way through what most certainly were dangerous waters. Knowing the size of the city, should there not have been some sort of effective way to call for and institute a full evacuation of the city, even after the storm had passed and the flood waters began to seep in?
Knowing that water had risen from the ankle to the knee, should there not have been some natural reaction for those that were physically able to get out? Swim if need be, but do not stay any longer. Knowing that certain elements of the city already present would take advantage of the situation, should there not have been an effective counter-force already in place to react were such to begin? When looting becomes more than just taking the vital needs, I would have presumed someone...anyone, to take charge and gain control. Who's responsibility is that? Local, state or federal? Or a combination of the three working from set contingency plans, knowing the state of the region.
These questions will haunt us, I am sure. I have my own answers for the above, as I am sure you do as well. But second guessing can get us only so far. My immediate thoughts have been primarily to see that these people, whomever they might be, get out and get safe. Fault and the possible fix of such can be established after the fact. I'd like to think it would be and done so effectively, but I wonder. If I have any worry at all right now, it is that four years after 9/11 we still obviously have no effective plan in place to deal with such catastrophe. Think if this had been a dirty bomb of some sort. This reaction and leadership just does not cut it.
And that is the full diatribe as short as I could have made it. As much as my thoughts move around these directions, I cannot spend my time trying to find someone to blame. Especially since today, the tide seems to have turned. Once the national guard showed up, order began to be restored. It is not safe yet, but the move in that direction is positive, and this we can be grateful for.
The title of this post speaks to my two trains of thought. Both revolve around the prospects for the future of this once great city of New Orleans. On the one hand, I hear that the city will never be the same. Will Collier gave a brilliant elegy on Vodkapundit today (and between he and Stephen Green, they have done a wonderful job blogging this tragedy.) Read it here. And a taste,
This week has been like watching an old friend die. Every horrible news story is another icicle in the chest. So much has been lost. So many have been taken. So little may be left. The long-term question we ask each other, over and over, is, "Can it ever be what it was again?"
The answer is, probably not. Some of the physical damage can be repaired or rebuilt. Much can't be, or won't be. The dead are gone, and the survivors will never be the same. Just who and how many people will return is a very open question. There's no economy to return to; the city's only remaining industry was tourism, and it won't be fit to host a single tourist for many months. That doesn't even begin to cover all the lost housing. Even if there were resources and the will available to rebuild every home (there won't be, not by a long shot), rebuilding them will take years.
Will makes many valid points above. As well, if you enjoy Bill Simmons as I do, his reaction is noteworthy (and touching.) His summation is this:
Like everyone else, I'm going to pray for these people, send money to the Red Cross, never stop hoping that things turn around. Selfishly, I'm going to keep thinking about the New Orleans that doesn't exist anymore, the city that challenged me in every respect, the city where the Patriots won their first Super Bowl. I loved that place.
And as sad as this sounds, I don't think it's coming back.
Heartbreaking, to be sure. But as someone who has twice been to this great city, and both times had the time of my life, I refuse to accept either as truth. I recognize that recovery will take time. And it will not be easy by a longshot. But this is a city that cannot be brought down. They may be counting at the edge of the ring, but this fighter will rise again and continue to play the rope-a-dope that they are known for. Think about it. Granted, I am probably a borderline alcoholic, and almost certainly a drunk at times, but I know when to say when. This city pushes even me beyond limits. I cannot wait until I have the pictures of my most recent trip here (which ended just over a week ago and just before this storm hit.) Those shots will show you the fun that is to be had here and will be had again. For Christ's sake, there were people at the bars on Tuesday night!
I guess what my final thought is for this train of thought - no matter what happens, New Orleans will not die. They may never be exactly as they are now, but who is to say that they will not be better in the long run? The worst of the worst did not happen, that is a Cat. 5 hurricane directly hitting the city, and possibly redirecting the Mississippi in the process. That might have killed them, most certainly as a port. This was missed, thanks God. But to rebuild seems to me a no-doubter. It may not be the wisest decision in the world, and there will most certainly be things that will need attending to in terms of possible future devestation, but no matter what happens over the next few months, this city will rise again. And that is not just an American sentiment, it is a N'Awlins sentiment. It is not ironic or a coincidence that their most famous drink is called a "hurricane."
I was to travel back to New Orleans at the end of September to visit with some good friends of mine. I regret that two of the four of us have never seen the city in it's glory. But we cannot control the events that mother nature has in store for us. That time will have to wait. But I vow this very day that I will once again sit in Pat O's and have that very same Hurricane that I spoke of above. And I might even be able to salvage the glass this time...they have a certain way of breaking on the journey home. Don''t ask me why.
I vow to go back to the Tropical Isle and have another hand grenade...or four. I vow to trudge up and down Bourbon Street deciding exactly which sound of music pleases me that evening, and go into to hear it with the same excitement and pleasure as I have ever felt before. It may take some time to fulfill those vows, but vows they are and vows they will remain. I've no doubt that they will come true. That, folks, is hope. Call it to optimistic. Call it foolish. Call it anything you wish. But we have seen the worst this week. And soon, we will begin to see the best. Of that, I can assure you. That is all.