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Boldly Going Nowhere

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Katrina and the Big Easy

Hurricane Katrina roared through the Gulf Coast a couple of weeks ago, creating a lot of havoc. It was Mother Nature's way of once again reminding us that we aren't really in charge, we just live here.

Sunday, August 28 -- Hurricane Katrina gains strength over the Gulf of Mexico. At the urging of President Bush, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin orders the mandatory evacuation of the city. Roadways leaving the city are jammed. Many people hunker down in shelters, including the Superdome Stadium. Others remain in their homes or head down to Bourbon Street to attend various all-night hurricane parties.

Monday, August 29 -- Katrina slams into the Gulf Coast. Over 90,000 square miles of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama suffer catastrophic damage. The city of New Orleans, which is located six feet below sea level, sustains ruptures to multiple portions of the surrounding levees causing extensive flooding.

Tuesday, August 30 -- As waters continue to pour into New Orleans, 80 percent of the city is now flooded. Dead bodies can be seen floating everywhere. Helicopters and boats begin to pick up survivors off of rooftops.

Wednesday, August 31 -- Mayor Ray Nagin declares the hurricane has killed thousands and orders a full evacuation. Looters roam the city, stealing non-essential goods, including liquor and guns (a bad combination). Bush declares a public health emergency to speed up the delivery of food and water to the region.

Thursday, September 1 -- Anarchy prevails. Anger mounts. Looting becomes rampant. There are random shootings and car-jackings. Buses and helicopters begin to take the most vulnerable out of the overcrowded Superdome and transport them to Baton Rouge and Houston. Shots are fired at helicopters.

Friday, September 2 -- Military convoys arrive with supplies of food, water and medicine. National Guard troops are deployed to stop the looting and lawlessness. Reports of violence, including rapes and murders, are reported by evacuees. Tens of thousands of people are still stranded, many on rooftops and in attics.

Saturday, September 3 -- Relief workers open a mortuary and begin collecting corpses. More than 10,000 people are removed from the Superdome and transported elsewhere in the largest airlift operation in U.S. history. Under mounting criticism, President Bush sends several thousand more troops to the area.

Sunday, September, 4 -- Security has been restored and full federal support is now in place. Much criticism is leveled at the federal government for its slow response. Rev. Jesse Jackson, always eager to voice his opinion in a crisis, blames bigotry for the lack of swift action. Apparently the white government wanted blacks to suffer.

Monday, September 5 -- Residents who fled are temporarily allowed to return home to collect belongings. Rescuers scour the streets by boat looking for survivors. An estimated 10,000 people still remain in the city, many of whom refuse to leave. Former presidents Bush and Clinton join forces to launch a relief campaign.

Tuesday, September 6 -- City workers begin pumping water out of the city as the Corp of Engineers repairs breaches in the levee system. Mayor Ray Nagin orders a forced evacuation of the city amid health concerns. Congress, not wanting to be left out of the spotlight, vows to form a joint committee to investigate the situation.

Wednesday, September 7 -- The flood waters begin to recede. Several people are confirmed dead as a result of contaminated flood waters (E. coli, bacteria and lead). Thousands of bloated bodies are yet to be recovered.

And so it goes. Mother Nature collides with human nature. Those in peril demand instant resolution. Those in charge are slow to react. Charitable folks jump in and help. Concerned non-reactors watch the human drama unfold. And unconcerned non-reactors couldn't care less. In the end, human nature remains constant.

Unfortunately, human nature will repeat the same mistake it made the first time -- building a city below sea level near the ocean. Only an idiot would do such a thing and we have plenty of idiots making such decisions.

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Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels, which are available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at bret@centurytel.net.