The intensive article in the Jan. 2nd edition of Newsweek about Katrina and New Orleans was a fascinating read. I'd read many articles on Katrina, but this one really gave the whole picture.
One thing is for sure. In the immediate aftermath just about everybody screwed up. From Mayor Nagin to Gov. Blanco, and without a doubt FEMA Director Mike Brown was the worst of the bunch. At one point Michael Chertoff, the secretary of Homeland Security shouted "What the hell is going on with the Convention Center?" After Brown had informed him that he had been told only 1500 people were at the Convention Center. Brown dropped the ball in so many ways he should be totally ashamed of himself. The communication breakdown that occurred is unacceptable.
The stories that have come out of the aftermath of Katrina will break your heart. The only thing that keeps my anger at bay about the whole thing is the way everyone in America stepped up to the plate afterward and gave and gave. I have never been prouder of my city, Houston, than after Katrina. The weekend I went to the Astrodome to help they had 1500 1st time volunteers in one day. It was astonishing.
I found it interesting how the article described how the African American community in New Orleans had for years been divided between Creoles, the light-skinned blacks who where skilled labors, and darker- skinned blacks who did the more menial work. Even though that seems to have changed to some degree, the article says these sharp divisions still exist, which may explain why the light- skinned wealthy Nagin was not very buddy buddy with Oliver Thomas, president of the New Orleans City council or the other council members who represented poor black wards like the lower Ninth. Communication between the two during the horror after Katrina was practically nil.
Which brings me to one of the the interesting parts of the article. In early October President Bush visited New Orleans to dine with Nagin's commission. Here is what Oliver Thomas had to say about him:
"I was ready not to like him because of what the Democrats said about him. But he likes people. He's not a mean dude. He's not a racist."
Then later after meeting Mrs. Bush as well:
"I got a sense that Laura and her husband really do care about us."
So here our President who Kanye West declared on national TV "didn't like black people" because of the Katrina disaster, and the man who represents the poorest black sections of New Orleans meets our President and comes away knowing that Kanye West doesn't know what he is talking about.
You can disagree with Bush's politics, his faith, and his policies, but you simply cannot say that he isn't a good person. (although I am sure some of you will)
The sad thing about New Orleans now is that it's "well deserved reputation for corruption" has prevented many things from moving forward. Not to mention political infighting. On the one hand, there are those who look at the situation from a practical point of view and say that places like the lower ninth ward should not be rebuilt. On the other hand, there are all those people who lived there. This was their home. What happens to what they had? To uproot a life and a family and give them no way to return is heart wrenching to say the least.
Looking back, I hope that our government, especially state and local government, learned valuable lessons regarding this kind of disaster. There is no doubt that the Federal government must be better prepared, but it is the local government that must respond first and know how to respond.