Sunday, September 11, 2005

The Healing Has Begun, Time to Look Forward

Yes, I have stayed away from my blog for the duration of the Katrina Katastrophe. Partly because I have not had much time with my extra workload and my work here at the Louisiana Pink Cross HQ. And partly because there is just too much that could be said, and sometimes too much that is being said.

But I wanted to chime in now with some thoughts and observations. The clouds have broken and the sun is starting to shine through. (I'm meaning this metaphorically) Calm is beginning to return and reality is setting in, and in some cases the reality is not as bad as we thought it would be 2 weeks ago.

I had the unique experience to go down to New Orleans this past Thursday. I was working with a group that is "rescuing" computer equipment and files for government offices and law firms. Why? Because people are moving on and getting back to business. Anyway, we went into the heart of downtown New Orleans. Getting there, we went through many of the residential suburbs around New Orleans. We were able to pass through the many armed checkpoints into the city because we were on government contracts. I got to see first hand some of the things that have been talked about. What I saw was impressive (re: left an impression). I had never seen such destruction first hand. Aluminum siding literally peeled off building leaving their innards exposed. Roofs completely crushed by trees. Brick walls that had been blown off, landing on and crushing cars. Debris EVERYWHERE. And in the middle of downtown, the scars of desperation, markets and fast food joints with doors and windows broken by people looking for food. I did see some standing water on some blocks, but amazingly much of the streets had been drained in just a matter of days.

On the flip side, a good bit of what I saw appeared to be fixable, some rather easily. And just 10 days following the storm, there were crews on the streets cleaning limbs, leaves and debris. And, there were evacuees returning home to some parts of the New Orleans area that even had electricity. Just 10 days after the worst natural disaster in the history of our country.

I know, there are still a lot of rough things going on. Some communities will be rebuilding literally from the ground up, but I have yet to see anyone say that they won't and that they give up.

Another reason to set aside the despair, is the response from the human family. The last 13 days have been filled with overwhelming offers of help and support. Whether it be people opening their homes to strangers for undetermined periods of time, to volunteers from all professions rushing down to lend help and support, to rich celebrities and athletes putting their money where there mouths are and not rushing in for the accompanying photo op (I'm not referring to you Mr. Penn). The radio is flooded with ads from local franchises and businesses begging that their employees check in with them and promising a job to all who've been displaced. Even the Secretary of the Department of Labor has repeatedly pledged that anyone who lost their job and still wants to work will get a job. Doors across the country have opened for these unfortunate souls.

I will not get into the failures that occurred in the wake of this disaster. As a communications professional I cringed at times when I dealt with or witnessed breakdowns from civic leaders as well as other organizations. Suffice to say, things could/should have been done differently. But, can anyone say that the last time a Category 4 storm hit New Orleans things were handled better? This is new ground people. Let's just make sure that no one says the next time a Category 4 storm hits New Orleans things were handled worse.

In conclusion, my deepest sympathies to my friends and neighbors. Devastation is especially difficult to handle when there is no one on earth to blame. The Good Book says that there is "a time to mourn" but it also says there is "a time to heal." The healing has begun. Let's look forward to the opportunities that are being presented. To paraphrase a line from a well-known source: We can rebuild it, we have the technology. And we can make it better.