On the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, let’s reflect back on what history will likely regard as George W. Bush’s biggest mistake: allowing a great American city bo basically drown while the rest of us watched events unfurl on television.
Let me preface this by saying I vote both ways, but in most of my social circles I’m considered the token moderate among liberals. And, in those circles, former President George W. Bush gets plenty of blame for what has happened: two wars, the bad economy, record unempoyment. When history looks back at his presidency, though, I think President Bush’s legacy will instead be the loss of a great American city, the one-of-kind New Orleans.
On Aug. 23, 2005, what would become the most expensive natural disaster in American history, began taking shape. Hurricane Katrina skirted southern Florida but was clearly aiming for New Orleans. Meterologists had long feared a Category 5 hit on New Orleans, America’s only city in a bowl, with most of the city lying below sea level surrounded by water. Those meterologists’ worst nightmare was about it happen.
We all remember the call to evaculate and the parking lot full of flooded school buses. We remember the scary tales coming from inside the Astrodome, where the roof began to fly off as the storm raged. We remember families holding up makeshift “SOS” signs. Almost every community held drives and sent volunteer peace officers and health care professionals. Despite such a willingness to help, poor organization and political hacks prevented the delivery of these services. The storm hit Monday morning. Even though the government had a 72-hour heads up on the probably devastation, real help didn’t start arriving until Friday.
And later we would learn that much of the aid wasn’t delivered. The FEMA cash cards were exploited by fraud. The FEMA trailers caused breathing and skin problems. Even the Red Cross diverted aid.
The government also failed to intervene, and no one cracked down at insurers who balked at making payments. (Hey…you knew the risk when you insured a house in Saint Bernard’s Parish, but you took the payments for 20 years.)
I know two families who left after Katrina and soon realized they had nothing reason to return. Both have been able to establish better lives thanks to welcoming communities but most of all thanks to their own determination and hard work.
Personally, I dreamed of going to New Orleans all of my life. And, as destiny would have, my husband I were planning to go the weekend following Hurricane Katrina.
Should the damage still being repaired be blamed on Katrina? Or should it be blamed on an ill-prepared government who never hesitates to respond to overseas natural disasters…yet allowed an American city to be destroyed while we watched live on television.