Friday, September 02, 2005

Life Goes On?

I'm in my own apartment with power, and air conditioning. It's exciting.

I had a revelation today. For the majority of people in the United States, Katrina is not the only topic that consumes their minute to minute existance. I find that hard to comprehend, because every topic of conversation here, every action, every everything, revolves around Katrina. On the off chance you have a conversation that is somehow not about Katrina, guilt sets in and someone tries to turn it back to that.

And you know, I think we get a little ticked off when we realize that there are people who are living there lives as business as usual. A friend just IM'd me and said, "how are things?" I responded:

  • My power just came on today after being off for four days
  • Baton Rouge has doubled in size in less than a week
  • And my company is working to account for and accomodate 200 employees and 1300 patients
  • How are you?

And he just responded, "I'm fine," like it was a casual conversation and what I said wasn't anything out of the ordinary. It made me really mad.

But you know, I can't stay mad about it. The fact of the matter is that unless you are down here and are experiencing what is going on, you can't understand what an all-encompassing nightmare this is.

My manager had to tell one of our employees that she does not have a house to come home to. As she watched the national coverage, they kept referring to New Orleans and showing pictures of the Ninth Ward. She never heard the name of her town (Metairie) or the name of her parish (Jefferson). She didn't know that her house had been completely covered in water. She showed up at one of our agencies in Georgia and the director was just so impressed with how positive she was. She didn't know then.

Now, that co-worker can barely think. She can't make rational decisions about her future. She's paralyzed.

My manager cries everytime she things about it. She also cries about the fact that an employee at another Georgia agency offered our co-worker a 2 bedroom apartment rent free, and that the employees in the agency where she showed up took up a collection for her to allow her to buy the necessities.

That's reality. It's also reality that there are over five thousand people living in our convention center dowtown, and another few thousand living in various churches. It's reality that our school system has to figure out what to do with another 40,000 students. It's reality that tempers are flaring in everyone in this city because we know that we can't support another 250,000 people in the metro area, and we feel terrible about it.

Even though my life wasn't terribly affected by Katrina, I know I will never be the same person. I find myself becoming more passionate about the poor in our community, since they were the ones who wer hurt the most by this mess. They are the ones who were forgotten about. They are the ones who will likely never recover from this.

I find myself very bitter about the national government. Now you may think that is normal for a quasi-liberal like me in a conservative administration. And to an extent you are right. But when I see and think about what a mess FEMA and the federal and state governments have made of all this, I am sickened.

Life will go on. But it will never be the same.

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