Thursday, September 2, 2010

shameless promotion (2.0), part x

Editor's note: In the ongoing effort of this blog to shamelessly promote its author's floundering career, here's this week's column from the St. Clair Times. As always, feel free to vent your disagreements here or visit me on Twitter. We thank you in advance for your feigning of interest.
Moving on after anniversary of disaster ... kind of

Here’s something astonishing: It’s been five years since Hurricane Katrina.

(No, really. Look it up. I’ll wait.)

Kind of incredible, right? That five years have passed since one of the worst, saddest, most politically divisive natural disasters in our history? It’s really been five years?

It was something I realized Thursday during the local Red Cross’ “Media Day” function, while talking to new branding officer Chris Osborne. Osborne, as part of his introduction for Preparedness Month (September), casually mentioned the fifth anniversary of Katrina.

“(Katrina) changed the Red Cross,” Osborne said. “It changed how we prepare for storms and other disasters. People didn’t understand the realities of the Red Cross until that storm.”

Like most people, I watched, horrified, as the events of the Category 5 storm unfolded. It had blown through New Orleans (as well as parts of rural Alabama and Mississippi), and some property was destroyed, but mostly everything seemed fine.

And then all of a sudden it wasn’t. The levees were breached, the news said. People were stranded.

Wait, stranded? How could they be stranded? People aren’t stranded in major American cities. Right? Um, right?

Even if the stories that originally came out of New Orleans — of gang-rape, savage murders and other terrifying mayhem — were eventually proven somewhat overblown, it couldn’t have overstated the sad fate of one of America’s favorite cities.

People like me were alternately sad and angry; as a group, we were torn between blaming the local and state governments, the federal emergency responders and the people themselves (for losing their sense of humanity so flippantly). If Sept. 11, 2001, brought out the best in Americans (by bringing them together through tragedy), the Katrina debacle seemed to bring out the worst (by tearing them apart through tragedy).

Meanwhile, entire ways of life were going by the wayside. Refugees poured into every part of the country (some even wound up at Shocco Springs in nearby Talladega). And many of them wondered if they could ever go back, and what life would await them if they did.
I remember thinking nothing would ever be the same.

In a sense, nothing ever really has been the same. We’ve visited New Orleans a few times since the disaster — either because of football or mindless vacations (is there really a difference?) — and there’s a real sense that, even though life has returned, nothing’s really the same.

We were all reminded of that fact during the summer’s Gulf oil crisis; so much of the area was laid waste that summer (and, to some extent, the summer before it) … I mean, insult to injury doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Of course, the oil spill, like Katrina is “over” now. At least it must be, since it’s not the lead story on the news anymore and people have mostly put it out of their minds, much as we did after Katrina.

Lucky us.

1 comment:

Amanda von Herrmann said...

Ugh, that makes me sad to hear that it's not really the same now. I haven't been back since Katrina, but some of my first memories are from New Orleans and the Superdome even, so I have always had a special place in my heart for New Orleans and was devastated watching all the Katrina coverage 5 years ago and even the anniversary stuff this year too.