Hurricane Katrina was one of the deadliest and costliest hurricanes to hit the United States in decades. The economic losses were extraordinary; however, it was the human losses that stuck Americans at their core. The media brought into our homes graphic images of the destruction of New Orleans. Its mayor had ordered a mandatory evacuation of the city and yet 150,000 citizens are said to have stayed. Like most of the nation I asked myself, “Well why did they stay? If a mandatory evacuation is issued, it stands to reason that state officials considered the situation to be precarious.” It is only recently, when I’ve seen reports of New Orleans slow rebuilding, that I have really given thought to the undisclosed factors that lead to such devastation.
Having worked with the low socioeconomic segment of our ...view middle of the document...
I have come to realize that it could very well have been me if my circumstances were similar. That said, I never faulted any individual shown on the media because they were “looting”; and yes, almost exclusively they were African Americans. Easy to judge when you’re sitting dry and warm in front of the TV with your chips and soda. The reality is that under those circumstances any person would seek comestibles and provisions anywhere possible. Our New Orleans neighbors were not looting they were scavenging. Dare we believe we would act differently?
In regards to criticism of government response, the first responders in situation such as this are the local government. They were ill prepared for the magnitude of the damage to the levees, compounded by the large number of individuals unable to evacuate. The Superdome and the Convention Center were designated “refuges of last result” but it is unlikely that they were part of the city’s refuge network. These two structures were merely big enough to accommodate the amount of citizens that were stranded in the city; hence they were lacking the resources necessary to be effective refuges. Social stratification, inadequate evacuation measures, poor leadership among those coordinating relief efforts, ill conceived and equipped refuges, and delayed action in recruiting county, state and federal relief assistance all contributed to make a terrible situation disastrous for the people of New Orleans.
Have we learned anything, maybe not since on a much, much smaller scale Florida was recently affected by acts of nature for which we were ill prepared – atypical and prolonged periods of cold temperatures that caused hardship and financial damage to Florida’s citizens, fauna and flora. We were not prepared for those low temperatures lasting and many suffered. New Orleans was unprepared and the city was destroyed and many of its citizens perished. What will be our learning curve?