Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Eye of the Storm has passed

Eye of the Storm, a blog by Pulitzer-prize winning journalists Josh Norman and M Kellier of the Biloxi (MS) Sun-Herald, is ending it's run. For the last eight months they have chronicled the struggles of the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Katrina.

First, congratulations to everyone at the Sun-Herald and to everybody at the Times-Picayune on their well-deserved prizes. (especially former colleaues: Dennis, you finally got your Chicken Surprise, and are hereby nominated for next year's Worst Newsroom Pun Award).

I don't often write about the coast or about south-west Louisiana, even though the immediate Folse family is spread out from Bayou Lafourche to Bay St. Louis. My first concern has always been New Orleans. I don't mean to slight our neighbors and cousins to the east and west. Their sufering and loss was tremendous, in some ways more horrific than that of New Orleans. And in the parishes around Lake Charles and in many small communities of Mississippi, the people are just as forgotten by their government.

I have counsins on the coast, who have twice in their lives lost everything. I remember my first trip into Waveland post-Camille. What I remember most clearly is my uncle pointing out where a stone bank had once stood. There was a foundation, and a massive safe that had moved from the rear of the building to the front.

That was the first time I truly understood the power of storm, even more than walking from my cousins gutted home along the tracks up the block to where the houses disappeared, and only foundations remained. I also remember the trailers, and the sound of saws and hammers. Right there on the coast looking out into the Gulf, after Camille, people were returning.

The closing of Eye of the Storm rasies the question: when will it ever end? When does it stop being about the storm or the flood and start becoming about the future? As the sub-title of this blog "Remembering Katrina, Envisioning New Orleans" implies, I've always tried to make it about both from the very start.

It was clear from the start that massive reconstruction, would be required, with battles over preservation of the historic and over which areas could be saved in something like their existing character, or saved at all. Because most of the damage was the result of the Corp's negligence, we should settle for nothing less than being made whole. They did it for the people of 9-11, and they must do it for the people of New Orleans. And the future of the area, especially coastal restoration financed by a full 50% share of off-shore lease revenues, will be the work of several generations.

This blog will continue until all those issues are settled, I can find nothing else to say about the Flood Formerly Known as Katrina, when the last remnants are stone or metal memorials to the tragedy of it, boxes of papers in the library, and the memories of the old. I don't expect that to come to pass in my lifetime.

Recovery will be the work of a generation, and I believe I will always find something worth comment. And, no matter how high they build the levees, everyone will always remember that we were once the Wet Bank. We will never let them forget.

Mark, you are asking a question that no one who was born in this country in the last century can answer. We thought Camille was the Mother of all storms. Then came Andrew. WOW! Can't top that. Well, I think Rita did.

But nothing and no one can comprehend what Katrina did to the United States Mississippi Gulf Coast or what the inadequacies it exposed in a levee system that was suppose to be able to handle a Cat. 3 storm.

It's nearly 8 months post Katrina. Look at your "link list". Look at the activity. Look at the progress.

Look at the number of answers you've gotten so far!
You know, I wonder the same thing when I look at my posts tagged Katrina. Am I going to have more under the subheading of New Orleans tagged Katia, Norma, Wilbur, etc.? As humans, we think of things in terms of The Big Event. But, I've gone through two big events (war and hurricane) and have to remind myself that the end is not in sight. Or it is if fate is extremely kind to our part of the world.

We find many ways of moving on.
The closing of their blog reminded me that Katrina was not a unique event, that in living memory the Gulf Coast has been destroyed twice.

It will happen again, to someone.

That is one reason why people outside the area need to be remined, and never allowed to become complacent. The nation has to make a decision to abandon the coasts entirely (east and gulf to hurricanes, the west due to seismic/vulcanic activity), or prepare to deal with these events.

I don't think they plan to evacuate the coasts, so the great task of this generation should be not the war on terror, but the campaign to make the nation a safe place to live.

War can destroy civilizations, especially as our weapons grow more fearsome (c.f. Einstein's remars about World Wour 4). Just as many have likely died due to natural causes: famine, flood, quake.

If we can't address these issues, then we are no longer a great nation, and are on the downward path towards becoming a chapter in history texts with a clear end, another stop on the world culture and history tour.
While I was serving in coastal Mississippi the first two weeks after Katrina, I relied on the Sun-Herald and said to anyone who would listen that they deserved a Pulitzer. They truly exemplified public service journalism, and were the only source of local news (other than Jackson County EMA handouts and ham radio)in the Gautier shelter. I snagged one (FREE) copy each day for all shelter staff and residents to share, and it was a lifeline. They deserve every bit of glory.
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"And when we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcome, but when we are silent we are still afraid. So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive." -- Audie Lorde

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