September 1, 2008
A sweet little building on a quiet street in the French Quarter.
Three years ago, like everyone else who wasn’t stuck in New Orleans, I watched the aftermath of Katrina on TV. I kept waiting for the cavalry to arrive, rescuing all those poor, frightened people from their rooftops and from the hellish Superdome. Like everyone else, I was shocked and outraged by the inability of our government to do just about anything. At the time, however, I didn’t really have a personal interest in the affected areas. I hadn’t set foot in New Orleans or on the Mississippi Gulf Coast since the 1980s.
Inevitably, the rebuilding effort that followed Katrina was a good and important story. It drew me to the region, and since 2005, I’ve made several trips, spending time in New Orleans, Bay St. Louis, and Biloxi, getting to know people down there, people who have worked so incredibly hard to rebuild their own homes and lives, and the homes and lives of their neighbors, and the businesses and institutions central to their communities. I’ve seen firsthand the horrific damage done by the storm surge, both the slow moving flood waters that consumed much of New Orleans when the levees failed and the fast moving wave that rolled in and erased the necklace of historic waterfront towns further east.
And so now I watch the approach of Gustav, my thoughts are with the millions of people who have evacuated, and also with specific people like the Ledners, a New Orleans couple in their 80s who painstakingly rebuilt their flooded home, the Andersons, a family in Bay St. Louis whose unique house survived the storm surge, and the dedicated staff who are in the midst of rebuilding the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum in Biloxi.
I confess that when I first heard that Gustav would strike on the opening day of the Republican National Convention, I thought it was a fine comeuppance for the party that so undermined our government’s ability to protect our own people. Unfortunately, the hurricane will not be making landfall at Excel Energy Center in the Twin Cities, but on the Louisiana coast, just west of New Orleans. It’s another pounding for a region that’s only just begun to recover from the last one. All I can do is hope and pray that the storm surge is less powerful than predicted, and that the levees, somehow, hold.
P.S. And, yes, I’ve been seething over McCain’s choice of running mate. This Alaska-based blog is the best I’ve found on the subject of Sarah Palin. More on this subject later.
P.P.S. McCain, it seems, will be using the aftermath of Gustav as a backdrop for his convention speech. It might be a good time to remember his miserable track record helping Katrina’s victims.