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Thoughts of the Lady in the Tower

2005-08-31 - 10:58 a.m.

Katrina Thoughts

I have to admit I stayed up late last night watching news coverage of Katrina. It started as an engineering interest. . . how did the levees break? How are they going to fix them? How are they going to get the water out? It's like an engineering mystery movie going on in real life.

I was struck and sobered by the total devastation. I was annoyed at the comparisons to the tsunami. Those people didn't have any warning, they didn't have any insurance to help rebuild.

I had compared their experiences to my own in dealing with hurricanes. Growing up in Charleston, SC, we experienced probably over a dozen, the biggest of which was Hugo, a category 4 and (before Katrina) the second costliest to hit the US.

After the storm was over, we'd go back home (if it had been bad enough to evacuate) and start to repair the damage. The storm was over in a matter of hours and we could start our lives again. Sometimes it took longer than others; after Hugo my sister and I spent two weeks with relatives in Harrisburg because the house wasn't fit for two kids, 9 and 7.

Last night as I watched the footage it hit me. The people of New Orleans can't go home to assess the damage. They can't start to build their lives yet. They can't even stare at the ground where their house once stood (the beginning of the grieving and healing process).

They haven't just lost everything; they are watching their city turn into a cesspool of seawater, sewage, industrial waste, and who knows what else?

Last week they had the same concerns as you and me. Can I get an iPOD? Can I fly to Seattle to visit a friend next month? Do I have time to do laundry tonight?

Those who are left in the city aren't worried about these things. They are weighing their hunger against the threat of discovery if found looting. They are wearing the same clothes that they wore when they entered the SuperDome on Sunday; it's been almost 4 days (without air conditioning) since their last change of underwear. They're worried about the diseases breeding in the water (which may be on their clothes). They're worried about finding water to drink and food to eat.

A section of the United States has been rocked back to a level of development that echoes that found in the third world... and the waters are still rising. The scope and duration of the devastation is unbelievable.

Yes, this is New Orleans's tsunami. God help them.