Two Years After Katrina: “If We Don’t Get This Right”

The video below is much more important than any “Video of the Day”. This video marks a tragic milestone in our nation’s history.

Two years ago last week, the levees off the shores of New Orleans succumbed to the pressure of rising waters brought on by Hurricane Katrina as it passed east of the city. It was arguably the most deadly hurricane in recent history, taking with it over 1800 lives across the Gulf Coast, and over 80 billion dollars in property.

On August 26, 2007, Senator Obama visited the First Emanuel Baptist Church in New Orleans and spoke to the members who still make their homes there. He also visited other sites in the area, places that are still in disrepair, and where entire neighborhoods are still as ravaged, waste-infested and uninhabitable as they were just days after the waters of Katrina subsided.

The pain and defeat on the faces of some of the people in this video are as heart-wrenching as the look of hope is on others. It is hard to believe watching this video that they could actually be talking about a major urban center in the richest nation in the world.

I wasn’t personally impacted by Hurricane Katrina – but I know many people who were.  I can’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like for so many of those who were trapped in the homes they had worked so hard to buy, or who had to watch helplessly as their loved ones were washed away by the swiftly rising flood waters.  The horror of it defies description. More horrible still was our government’s criminally slow response to the tragedy, and the harshness with which those who would prefer to turn a blind eye to the poverty and hopelessness that was evident in the inner cities of New Orleans even before Katrina, judged its victims.

No sooner than the government began to distribute aid to the victims of the hurricane, the stories about how survivors were spending money began to pop up all over the media like rotten daisies. Stories of people buying electronics, jewelry, blowing money in casinos – the media hammered on these people day after day, until they got close to convincing Americans that these people were not victims of a horrendous natural disaster, or of generations of impoverished conditions, but some strange population of meteorological opportunists, just waiting for the next natural disaster to strike so that they could dupe the government out of a couple of grand to buy their next big-ticket item. They got close to convincing some. But not me.

See, I happen to believe that if you or I had been living in the conditions that many of those who were virtually abandoned during the half-hearted rescue efforts found themselves in pre-Katrina, and someone handed either of us a small financial windfall, it would probably be hard for us not to give in to the temptation and fulfill some small dream of a new gadget, or a trip to some place we thought we’d never see – even at our own peril. For many Katrina survivors, it was more money than they had ever seen at one time in their lives. Do I condone the way that many of them foolishly squandered the money meant to help sustain them? Of course not, but I definitely understand why they did it.

There is a much deeper story here than just the marking of a horrific anniversary – there are still so many people displaced, with no place to call home; so many who lost everything that they had worked a lifetime to build, who after paying into expensive insurance premiums year after year, decade after decade, were told that their policies would not cover their losses. Can you imagine? So not only do you no longer have a place to live, you’re stuck paying a mortgage for a house that’s nothing more than a pile of rubble, and your government has cruelly turned its back on you and said “we’ve helped enough”. Ludicrous.

Senator Obama understands that there is something very wrong in all this. In this video, he is surrounded by local leaders, and residents of one of the neighborhoods in New Orleans still struggling to recover. When asked by one woman who could hardly contain her sorrow, whether or not he would forget about New Orleans after he left, he said, “If we don’t get this right, it will be a symbol of what kind of country we are. [It will say that] we as a nation have forgotten to look out for one another.”  And then he pledged to fight for New Orleans, no matter what happened in the upcoming Presidential election.

The fact that I have no doubt in my mind that Senator Obama means what he says, and will work and follow through on his promise to the woman in the video is why I support his candidacy so fervently. Senator Obama has walked with the down-trodden, and dined with heads of state, and yet his ability to keep his eye on those who America would forget is what makes him different than any of the other candidates in this election, Democrat or Republican.

If you want to do something to help the victims of Katrina who are still in need of aid, go to the American Red Cross website. You can read a special report on their response to Katrina and other recent hurricanes by clicking here. The other thing you can do? Encourage others to cast a vote for Senator Obama, a man who has worked first-hand to organize communities and bring people together to find solutions to problems. With a President Obama in the White House, we’re all assured of a chance at a brighter future.

About Patricia Wilson-Smith

Patricia Wilson-Smith is a freelance writer and author of the romantic comedy "Duped By Love". She is a regular contributor to She Unlimited Magazine, and covers special events as a special on-air correspondent.
This entry was posted in Commentary, Did You Know?, Hurricane Katrina, Issues, Speeches, The Campaign Trail. Bookmark the permalink.

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