Friday, September 2
As cruel and unusual commentary pours in from the mainstream media, it will be individuals who make all the difference.

From the safety of my computer in Texas, I sit hundreds of miles from the devastation Katrina left along the Gulf Coast this week, but there’s one thing I do know: my family survived. Their homes are damaged, businesses destroyed, lives grievously altered, but they are alive. We are the lucky ones. It is heartbreaking to turn on the television and see the images and hear the stories of the thousands who weren’t that lucky, who have lost it all. There is little doubt that what happened to our South this week is on the same level as the horrors of 9/11 and Asia’s tsunami earlier this year. All three were senseless, earth-shattering tragedies, and just as the world pulled together to help the victims and survivors of the latter two, so we will need the help of all those who are willing to rebuild a once beautiful and priceless piece of our country.

I can’t even begin to express the disgust I feel when turning on the television and opening the newspaper to see those who would take a natural disaster of this magnitude and use it for partisan politics. How men like Robert Kennedy, Jr. live with themselves is beyond me, but probably even worse is the fact that nothing they say surprises me anymore. To be that devoid of critical thinking is one thing, but to be that devoid of compassion is quite another. To see just one family in tears standing in the rubble of their lives, desperate to locate missing family members and decide that is the time to launch a “See, I told you so” attack on George W. Bush is appalling. Even if they were 100% correct in their assessments of global warming, which they most assuredly are not, is now really the time to smugly sip lattes in the newsrooms of Manhattan, sigh, and tell the American people that if only we’d signed that Kyoto Treaty, you wouldn’t be leaping from the top of the Superdome this week? If these people put their educations where their mouths are, perhaps they would be the ones wading through waist-deep, alligator-infested sewage to try and save just one more man or woman from dying. But of course they aren’t, and they won’t, and as we sit praying that our family can make just one more minute-long phone call to us to assure us that they are safe, perhaps those in the news medias around the world haughty enough to play God and assign blame this week should close their mouths long enough to say a prayer instead.

“This house made it through Camille,” said my 82-year old grandfather, a life-long resident of Ocean Springs, MS, located just over the now-destroyed Biloxi Bridge. “I’m not going anywhere.”

How many people along the Gulf Coast made similar statements this weekend? Luckily for my family, that house made it through Katrina as well. My grandfather is nearing infamy along the coast for his unshakeable hard-headedness. He’s made of a combination of piss, vinegar, kindness, and stubbornness, with an unerring faith in God and family, and a capability of inspiring both aggravation and awe in all who know him. People like him are the backbone of the South, and it is going to take both our strength and our stubbornness to recover the hearts and lives lost from Katrina. Watching aerial shots on TV I catch glimpses of the Biloxi, MS I saw just last month. That silly Hard Rock Café guitar stands virtually untouched. The Baptist church is still there. The Catholic Church my grandfather attends every week is beaten but standing. But in between there is nothing. Beautiful antebellum homes lie in ruins. Entire apartment buildings, restaurants, businesses, even the gazebo, have vanished. From New Orleans to Mobile, there is jaw-dropping horror. But once the dust settles, the rescue crews complete their tasks, and people are allowed back to survey the damage, you will see steel-plated resilience. We’re talking about people who still know the importance of being a good neighbor; people who still care about one another. They will take one another in, and they will work together to rebuild. Because in this uncertain world there’s one thing you can always be sure of: the South will rise again.
posted by Jessica at 2:57 PM | Permalink |