The Big Easy
Like many of you, I've been watching the news about the New Orleans disaster with sorrow. We knew that New Orleans was vulnerable, and perhaps some people therefore blame those sufferring now for having stayed at all, but each of us lives near to disaster most of our lives. The rich in Malibu regularly slide down the hill when the season of fire, rain, and mud takes their houses, predictably. All of tornado alley is unlivable if your criteria is some kind of storm safety, and that includes quite a few states. Washington is persecuted by a volcano, California by earthquakes, New York by terrorists, Chicago by hard winters, Florida by disease carrying mosquitoes. This world is not safe, and never will be, so we live where there are people and opportunities that make our lives good, regardless of the local dangers. I feel tremendous sadness, loss, and regret that I never visited the Big Easy before it was changed by hurricane Katrina. I hope it somehow recovers.
I don't know if the relief efforts have been competent, or if they've been all they can be. That's for politicians to argue about, news reporters to ask pointedly, petulantly, about. Who cares? For the people in the city, relief efforts have been mostly absent, and people who stay in the stadiums and on the flood free grounds, do so at their peril. There has never been a better example of what not to do in a homeless, refugee situation. Never, ever, ever, head into the central processing areas of a disaster. Don't do it. Remember, "shelters are for someone else" is a principle that applies equally well to disaster shelters and to homeless shelters, run by government, church, or FDNY. No matter how well intentioned, they become hells.
The only thing to do is to leave, and some people have been leaving. They walk out. They swim out. They leave without food, clothes, shoes, half naked, scraps for possessions, with fast friends around them for a little protection. They leave the zone as quickly and carefully as possible, because the only thing that matters is to get out of the disaster alive and unharmed. Work out the rebuilding process from a safe distance.
Good luck to you all.