In all of the reporting that has taken place surrounding Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath, no one can argue that this was a horrible event for our nation to face. However, what did surprise, and infuriate most people was the governments response (or lack thereof) to those who needed help most. People died in Mississippi and Louisiana while troops with trailers, food, and water sat stationed in Alabama, waiting for the word to move in. Lives were swept away, and homes were destroyed.
Hurricane Katrina was one of the worst natural disasters in our nations history for one very main reason: our government failed to do what it promised to do. It failed to protect us. The very basic role of a democratic system of government is to provide for the people what they can not feasibly provied for themselves (military, equal representation, equal distribution of money, cheap education, etc, etc.). In this particular case, the governement was supposed to provide:
1.) protection from a natural disaster and
2.) aid and relief to affected people in a timely fashion after a natural disaster.
The first issue is probably the most dominant reason why New Orleans was hit so hard by Katrina. Estimates dating back 20+ years stated that the levy system in New Orleans, in there then current state, would not survive a direct hit from a category 3 hurricane. The Army Corps of Engineers (responsible for keeping the “Mighty Mississipp” out of N.O.) knew about these problems the entire time. When the documents expressing this concern first surface in the late 1970’s, the estimated time and cost of repairs was roughly 10+ years and $20 million, respectively. In the interim between the surfaceing of that report and the landfall of Hurricane Katrina, the levy system in New Orleans withstood a number of hurricanes, some more powerful than others, but all taking their individually small, yet collectively meaningful, tolls on the levis of N.O. Also, during this interim, more documents and concernes were brough to the attention of the Army Corps of Engineers, the Governer’s Office of Louisianna, and ulitmately the House Representatives and Senators of Louisianna. Somewhere along the line, the ball was dropped. Somewhere, someone’s inaction caused thousands of lives and billions of dollars to be lost, all because someone didn’t want to spend 10 years and $20 million.
The second issue is the government’s lack of respones after the fact. We all can recall some news coverage of bodies floating in the streets, whole families camped out on rooftops, and houses washed off their very foundations. In the aftermath of Katrina, it was the government’s inaction that caused most of the deaths associated with Katrina. After hearing different accounts of who said what to whom, and who didn’t act, I will point no fingers at any one person. I will, however, say that the people of Mississippi and Louisianna were both failed horribly by those elected to serve and protect. Even the police in New Orleans let their people down, loosing well over half their numbers after the storm passed.
So let us not forget the events of one year ago, and how our lives and land will forever be scarred by Katrina; but also, let us not forget how we were utterly forgotten about in the aftermath. When it comes time to vote this November, let us not forget about those who forgot about us.