Sunday, September 04, 2005


I've written a lot about Katrina's effect on New Orleans, mainly because I have some ties there. This is not to ignore or discount the swath of utter destruction this storm visited upon Mississippi and Alabama and the resulting loss of life.

Maybe there is an additional reason that I have tended to focus upon New Orleans. I'm not from "Hurricane Country" and the destruction from these storms that I have seen, admittedly, has been restricted to television viewing. I expect to see piles of rubble that were once buildings, upended trees and large boats sitting atop houses or strewn about far inland like so many toys. These are the images that give me a mental picture of the incredible power of a hurricane and the fragility of our physical surroundings. The next day, the sun comes out, the rubble is cleared, the dead are buried and the process of rebuilding broken lives begins.

New Orleans is different. The calm after the storm brought about an excruciatingly slow slide into oblivion. The morning after Katrina passed, the talk was how the ol' Big Easy dodged another bullet. A little superficial wind damage, but nothing more. The I-10 freeway over the lake suffered major damage, but the city was virtually intact. As the day wore on, it became increasingly clear that this was a city that was terminally ill. As New Orleans felt the relief of dodging The Big One once again, The Big One had delivered a mortal blow that was all but unnoticed at first and the city began to die, not with the anticipated bang, but with a whimper. It's all so surreal, so un-hurricane-like.

I've heard Katrina's destruction on the gulf coast of Mississippi and Alabama likened to a nuclear blast, smashing everything in her path and doing her killing swiftly. In New Orleans, Katrina is waging what could be likened to biological warfare, killing slowly and inflicting a protracted misery on those who are currently survivors. Those survivors, however, may well fall victim to her insidious wrath in the near future. In Mississippi and Alabama, the killing is done. In New Orleans, the killing is still in process.

The two faces of Katrina is something that we will not soon forget.

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