Saturday, August 26, 2006

Anniversary Approaches

So, in just a couple of days, the anniversary of the havoc wrought by hurricane Katrina will be upon us. Now, I don't know exactly what coverage people saw in Jordan (or in fact anywhere other than South Louisiana). I only know what my experience of the events we being an hour down the road and a lifetime away. I also know that whatever pictures you did see were enough to make my inlaws try to call rather frantically. Understandably they were worried, just as my friends and family were when they began to see and hear about the events in Lebanon. It's interesting to see the similarities, in fact, of our experience in both events. As the days loom nearer I begin to think more about it. I've been looking around the blogosphere to find someone to update me on the real perspective on the ground in New Orleans. So far I haven't found much written by the people there, perhaps owing a bit to the slow reconstruction. At any rate, it does have me thinking about how much has changed, and yet how similar the circumstances are in which we find ourselves.

A year ago, we were watching with less enthusiasm and concern what seemed like the 5th potential evacuation of the year. We were hearing about a storm hanging about in the gulf like a lost relative. Three days later, we breathed a huge sigh of relief that the storm, from what we were hearing on the battery-powered radio, had bypassed New Orleans. What we knew at that point was that a) landfall had occurred in Mississippi (we said many prayers for the people there), b) that there were strong winds, and c) that we had no power. That's pretty much it. To give you a mental picture, prior to the storm, strange cars began to line the streets of our small, affluent community. All of the circles and medians had cars parked semi-permanently as people awaited the approach and departure of the water. One of our friends was up to 42 people in their 4 bedroom house. Entire families were living in a small bedroom. So, we breathed our sigh of relief that New Orleans had once again been spared. Then, we began to hear rumors that were confirmed by the media. The levees had broken. The "storm surge" (I had never properly appreciated what is truly meant by this) had shoved into the Greater New Orleans area with waves up to 15 feet high. They seem to have caused the levees to be overtopped and buckle. And then, the nightmare began. Finally, at this point, we found the restaurants across the county line that had power and began to see news coverage of people on their roofs. We began to wonder where the government was. We lived less than a mile from Interstate 10, in the closest intact city and saw no appreciable traffic heading down for rescue.

In the recent war in Lebanon, the situation wasn't unavoidable. However, the devastation it produced was the same. People fled in record numbers, flooding the streets of cities in Syria and even in Amman. Those who were unable to flee holed up in their homes hoping for rescue, often with tragic consequences. Pictures of those killed in the tragedy were heart wrenching. Friend and family abroad began e-mailing to find out our status. It felt achingly familiar. The worst part of it was that again, the US government sat by and did nothing to help. And, so, reflections run rife through me these days and I wonder, will we ever learn anything? What will it take? Does the suffering of people move us so little that we repeat the same scenarios in different countries? I hope that someday we will learn, we'll build global institutions to truly effect change and help in these situations. And, on my little tiny personal level, I'll keep doing what I can.

And, to the victims of Hurricane Katrina who are still (a year later) trying to rebuild their lives and to all of the people in Lebanon who are trying to do triage on people, systems, and infrastructure, my prayers are with you. You are all in my thoughts and I'll continue to pray fro as long as the suffering continues.



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