September 10, 2005

Katrina Log, Part 3

(The following was written on 9/3)

Part 2 can be found here.

Still no internet access. I was told that my service would be restored yesterday, but it is still down. When I called this morning, I was told that this whole area is down with no ETA for service to resume. Thus, I continue this Katrina log to be posted eventually.

It looks like conditions in New Orleans are finally starting to improve. At the same time, residents of the Mississippi coast are still not receiving sufficient aid. Relief efforts have been botched in a major way, and I sincerely hope that there will be accountability when everyone is safe. I am really not after punishment here (although it is clearly warranted); I am after sweeping procedural and budgetary changes to insure that our response to the next disaster is much more rapid.

Here in the Hattiesburg area, there continues to be meager progress. Major roads have been cleared. Restoration of electric power continues slowly, and much of the town remains without power or water. None of us have safe drinking water yet (those of us lucky enough to have power must boil water for at least 2 minutes before it can be considered safe to use). Telephone and cellular service remain spotty but are showing marginal improvement. Food, water, and ice continue to be scarce, and there is still no clear communication from local officials about where people are supposed to obtain these items. Information provided to local radio stations by private citizens is the only information we have, and it is not always reliable. Gas is slowly becoming easier to find, as more stations are starting to open. Lines are extremely long, rationing continues, and hours of operation are limited, but this is still a step in the right direction. Postal service started to return yesterday although we are told that mail is still going to be delayed by at least 1-2 days. The last garbage pick-up was a full week before Katrina hit.

Questions have been raised in the media about the role of race and class in the recovery efforts (at least in New Orleans). I think there these questions have considerable merit, and I hope that they will spark a national discussion once the immediate crisis is resolved. Of course, I know that this will not happen. Republican leaders are already moving to dismiss these claims and discredit their sources. When the immediate crisis is resolved, Americans will return to their lives and not give the situation a second thought. In fact, I suspect that many Americans are already getting tired of hearing about the Gulf Coast. Sure, there will be a spike in Red Cross donations. Maybe there will even be a pro forma investigation into the federal response to Katrina. But like 9/11, we will be encouraged to forget and move on as soon as possible.

I want to see a national discussion on poverty in America. I would like to see those of us who care about such things (many of whom are religious and many of whom are not) provide a voice on behalf of those who desperately need such a voice. We need to make it clear that whoever is elected to Congress in 2006 or the Presidency in 2008 have a plan for a "war on poverty" in America. This is more important that our futile anti-drug efforts. This is more urgent, less expensive, and tremendously easier to accomplish than this administration's "war on terror." Let those images of suffering Americans in the streets of New Orleans be our catalyst.

On to part 4.

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