Sunday, November 4, 2012

Did What We Learn from Katrina Help Us with Sandy?

I'm back!

For a number of reasons, I've taken a few days off from posting. Quite a bit has happened since I've been away. The U.S. economy created 177,000 new jobs. That makes over 5 million jobs in the last 8 months. I had a birthday. Tuesday is Election Day (if you're registered and haven't voted PLEASE exercise your right on November 6!). And the so-called 'October Surprise' in the election may not be a person or a data point, but an event - a natural disaster: Hurricane Sandy...

A confluence of a hurricane, a northeaster and the most populace and internationally significant region has produced human suffering the likes of which we haven't seen since Hurricane Katrina. And I think that's worth remembering.

Hurricane Sandy Devastation

Hurricane Katrina Devastation

The national reaction to Sandy's devastation has been remarkably different from that of Katrina. While there are always people who ignore evacuation warnings and those who do and return to find that they have lost everything. Yet I think we have been far more sympathetic to those victimized by Sandy than the victims of Katrina and the broken levees.

I've not heard anyone berate those who have stayed behind with Sandy

I've not heard anyone wonder aloud whether or not we 'need' a boardwalk in New Jersey

I've not heard one person suggest incompetence on the part of the mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey, whose please for help were at least as poignant as those of then New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin.

Granted, mistakes were made by the Louisiana state and local government in 2005. In due time, we will identify mistakes made in the Tri-State region. The difference in attitude can be explained, in part, by the response of President Obama when compared to that of President Bush during Katrina.

My hope is that it is also a sign that we have learned some lessons about human suffering. Maybe we have learned that all people are vulnerable to catastrophe and simply because you lack wisdom, foresight or money, doesn't make you less worthy of compassion and support. And perhaps we have learned that the 'boot straps' that we call on people to use to pull themselves up can be lost in a hurricane...or maybe even a Great Recession.


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