You would think, wouldn’t you, that after two years and four months things on the Gulf Coast would be back to normal, but they are not.
I spent a good bit of today in the car with St. Casserole, touring many of the places I saw two years ago and last year, and while there is a good bit of progress, there are many places where it’s hard to believe so much time has gone by with so little change. Sometimes those contrasts exist right next to each other: the huge new casino hotel next door to the cleared lots that used to hold houses, the devastated town of Pass Christian as the gateway to the new Bay St. Louis Bridge, the shiny car dealership on one side of the I-1o and the still-empty ruined apartment complex just on the other side.
We’ve talked a lot today about why it works out so differently for some people than others. Some people are better-resourced or more skillful at working the system. Some people are just plain lucky. They got their insurance money, or didn’t need to wait for it. Others, meanwhile, fill out one more form for the SBA and wonder if there will ever be an end to the post-Katrina waiting.
This kind of recovery ought not have to be for a lifetime.
The friend we had lunch with yesterday seemed to feel people were healing now, finally. She reported a post-Katrina baby boom, the kind of thing usually seen nine months after a tropical storm with its attendant power outages. This time it did not come, she told us, until people got out of their FEMA trailers and back into their homes.
But of course there are still a minority living in the trailers. And again they are the least-resourced people, and I can only imagine how hopeless it feels to be living in one of the FEMA trailer parks, a good arm-stretch from the neighbors.
At a party tonight, I met local folk, volunteers and a woman who relocated here to work for the Red Cross. That woman expressed concern that by March the money will run out for some agencies, and those agencies will close. She told us that she feels she has done little, and that the need is still so great. But I said to her, "In the grand scheme of things, it may feel that way. But I doubt the individuals you have helped would say that."
It’s nearly 2008. I want to live in a better world, in a place where the money we give goes to the places we mean for it to be sent, in a place where people can hold a thought for others and continue to pray, give and volunteer. The waves that washed through these towns contained countless drops of water. No one drop could have done all this damage, and no one act will make things right. Like the Red Cross worker, I feel my contributions are small, but I
know that it is through the combined efforts of many, many people that
the recovery will end some day.
Have you been to the Gulf Coast since the hurricane? Have you found a
way to give in support of those who are still in recovery? I hope you
will. I hope you will.