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Thursday, February 16, 2006

KATRINA, Katrina, katrina...

Published by cck at 9:47 AM

I remember sitting at Salty Nut, watching the swirling colors the day before Katrina hit. I don't watch much TV and I hadn't really paid much attention to the catastrophe-waiting-to-happen. But that night, as I drank a beer and ate a grilled chicken wrap in the comfort of a wooden shack on Greene Street, I (think I) could sense what was to happen. I (think I) knew it was going to be bad. However, I had no idea that our government would have no idea how to handle the problem. In fact I'll go as far as saying, our government made it worse.

In today's NYT editorial, "A Deadly Vacuum" makes a case against Michael Chertoff.

These are the people charged with protecting us and, failing that, rescuing us. This department was put together based on the belief that everyone would be safer with every facet of preparedness, protection and response under one umbrella. The first time this new system was tested, it failed. And it failed on Mr. Chertoff's watch.

The 520 page report on Hurricane Katrina is a clear indication that the current Administration did not do what they were supposed to do. I don't know if it was a race thing (yes) or a class thing (yes) or an incompetence thing (yes!), but the Bush Administration did not help matters at all. Homeland Security, perhaps, is not the place to stick FEMA.
I realize that Hurricane Katrina was a Natural Disaster of epic proportions. I realize that Natural Disasters can't always be planned for or administrated. But, relief efforts can.
After Hurricane Charlie hit Punta Gorda, Florida in 2004 - my grandmother's little town - the relief effort was amazing. I was there and lemme tell you - things were coordinated. Our senior citizens were taken care of - to the best abilities of relief workers working in a ravaged area. Why wasn't that scenario repeated in the Gulf Coast?
We can debate what happened for years to come - the heart-breaking moments and the heroes and the mistakes... But what we have a chance to do NOW is what matters:

Right now, almost six months after Katrina hit, families are being forced to leave hotels and are moving into shelters in Louisiana. If that is not a disaster, we do not know what is. This crisis isn't over, but officials aren't behaving as if they are on a crisis footing. There is no sense of urgency in the White House or in Congress to ensure that people get the help they need.
Many people died. Many more can yet be saved.