How this tragedy happened is something that can be resolved later. Right now, though, there is an immense human tragedy unfolding in the Gulf:
Blanco said she wanted the Superdome – which had become a shelter of last resort for about 20,000 people – evacuated within two days, along with other gathering points for storm refugees. The situation inside the dank and sweltering Superdome was becoming desperate: The water was rising, the air conditioning was out, toilets were broken, and tempers were rising.
At the same time, sections of Interstate 10, the only major freeway leading into New Orleans from the east, lay shattered, dozens of huge slabs of concrete floating in the floodwaters. I-10 is the only route for commercial trucking across southern Louisiana.
The sweltering city of 480,000 people – an estimated 80 percent of whom obeyed orders to evacuate as Katrina closed in over the weekend – also had no drinkable water, and the electricity could be out for weeks.
“The logistical problems are impossible and we have to evacuate people in shelters,” the governor said. “It’s becoming untenable. There’s no power. It’s getting more difficult to get food and water supplies in, just basic essentials.”…
“Oh my God, it was hell,” said Kioka Williams, who had to hack through the ceiling of the beauty shop where she worked as floodwaters rose in New Orleans’ low-lying Ninth Ward. “We were screaming, hollering, flashing lights. It was complete chaos.”
These are real people, not just characters in a made for cable news ratings bonanza. And they are going through sheer hell. The full mobilization of the state and federal governments simply is NOT ENOUGH.
And this is just the urgent immediate stuff- food, water, medical attention. The rebuilding is going to take years (and depspite these astute questions from Mark Kleiman, they will rebuild), and there are costs and issues that we have only yet begun to fathom.
-Where will these people live?
-Where will we put all the dead?
-Where will we find the immediate resources (wood, labor, concrete, rebar, steel, oil) to rebuild?
-How will the victims support themselves?
-Can they rebuild? Will people want to come back?
In short, what will happen? And there are so many other personal tragedies, intimate horror stories, that can not be overlooked. I have a soft spot for animals, and my first thought is the added grief of all these people who have lost family pets. I teach, so I wonder what is going to happen to all the students at Tulane and the other universities and high schools.
And this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. This is an unprecedented emergency, the most awful thing I have ever seen on our shores. This will be worse than 9/11, and will require more effort and funding and patience and compassion.
And that is the bad news. But it isn’t all bad. There are hundreds of thousands of survivors, and if I know anything about middle America, it is that we will remain undeterred and, despite the odds and despite how corny it sounds, optimistic. It is what we do. it is who we are.
Yesterday I saw a marching band on CNN parading down the streets of ravaged Biloxi. Heads held high, drums beating, a crew of clean-up workers aremed with rakes, brooms, shovels, and chainsaws were letting their presence be known.
It is time for you to let your presence be known, as well. You can help. You can do something. You must do something.
Here are a list of links to sites which are already knee-deep in the muck, doing what they can to help. Open up your wallet, and give until it hurts:
*** Update ***
I am giving to the Red Cross today, but I also intend to send money to Noah’s Wish. Thanks to a commenter who pointed me in their direction.