Disaster, Living in This World

Still in Recovery

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.

7 thoughts on “Still in Recovery”

  1. It’s good you remind us. It’s good St. C reminds us. Kauai took forever to recover after Iniki. As with other aftermaths. Katrina was astonishingly worse than most. It shouldn’t take so long. It calls to mind the great immediacy of recovery that the Amish create as they gather together, shoulder to shoulder, never stopping until the recovery is complete.

  2. It is good to be reminded. Our diocese has done a great deal of Katrina relief, and our church is sending a group to build houses with Habitat in the spring, but I know that there is still more (and MORE) that needs to be done.
    It still makes me angry that the government has done so poorly helping the people who need it most–all the while spending billions in Iraq on a needless war.
    I want to live in a better world, too.

  3. 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 want to live in a better world too. When those caught up in earthquakes in the third world, and those caught up in Hurricanes in the USA are helped to recover and not forgotten about.
    The biggest shock about Katrina is that it was in the mainland US of A, and people are still suffering. But we easily forget those for whom it is far far worse – death from cholera, starvation and exhaustion – after similar (and sometimes far less severe catastrophies) because there is NO insurance, there is NO infrastructure, and there are very few who care.
    I’m glad you are with St C. I’m glad you can bring a little light and hope to the people you meet and I am so so glad you remind us that a world worth living in is something to fight for – for us all 🙂
    Blessed New Year

  4. As the friend who has witnessed the baby boom, I would just like to say….that while a LOT of people are doing better, and New Orleans is a LOT better (please come visit and spend some tourist dollars)…..a LOT of people are still suffering.
    Currently there is an entire tent city living under the interstate just a half mile from the French Quarter/City Hall/Uptown New Orleans. These people have few places to shower, few indoor places to pee, and are cold and wet.
    We are doing better, but there is a big BUT to this….some are not and when I see that in the mainland of the US of A, I have a hard time explaining to myself and my teenager why America is great.

  5. sherry, we saw the tent city as we were getting on the highway. It’s wretched to see that there are so few choices available to those in most need.

  6. I went to New Orleans on a work trip through my Association in October, which I believe was an important step for me in understanding the true devastation of the situation. Another trip is being organized for February (the week of Mardi Gras, actually!), but I’ve already got my time off planned through June.
    It truly was unbelievable to see just how much there is left to do. The touristy stuff may be back, but seeing it up close it was easy to tell that New Orleans itself isn’t “back” yet.

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