Sunday, September 04, 2005

New delays threaten homes

It's a day more than a week since I arrived in Pensacola. Tomorrow morning will be one week since Katrina struck the Gulf Coast. In that time, two very esteemed and beloved grandmothers in the family passed away, adding to the grief everyone feels. Yesterday, I celebrated a landmark birthday with solemnity. My prized possession: a coffee pot. It's a week that feels like a year.

For me personally, after reading a number of encouraging Town Hall posts on, and after viewing the NOAA imagery georeferenced in Google Earth, I now have some assurance that my house has survived, as well as the possessions inside. If I had to, I would sacrifice the house if I could salvage my sentimental possessions. Nevertheless, how selfish it seems now to want to recover family photos, books, and possessions of mere sentimental value, when other families have lost so much more.

Those of us who live in that strip of land adjacent to the Mississippi, with its historic deposits of sediment, live on a natural ridge - a blessing of geography which has saved our homes. All the rest, in particular those who lived in New Orleans East, live on low land developed after the levee system was improved and the pumping system engineered to drain the swamps.

I know people are trying to downplay the race issue by pointing out that whites and blacks, asians and hispanics, were all mixed together among those who remained in New Orleans. Furthermore, they say that white people, along with people of every other race contributed to the rescue and relief effort. What those race detractors fail to see, however, is how the poor are pushed out to the margins of society. My sister remarked, what else would you call it when blacks are marginalized to swamp land? Then there's the lack of resources dedicated to issue of moving the poor, mostly black population out of the city when a mandatory evacuation was ordered.

My hope is that now, finally, city, state, and federal leaders will begin to recognize that we can no longer live in a de jure "integrated" but de facto unequal society. The New Orleans public school system has to be fixed, just as much as the levees need to be raised and hardened, the coast needs to be restored, and wetlands need to be withheld from development. As is almost always the case, however, it's tragic that change is borne, literally, on the graves of society's disenfranchised.

I'm encouraged by recent reports that National Guard troops are patrolling the city of New Orleans in intimidating numbers, and that the rescue, relief, and evacuation are nearly complete. Horrific casualties will probably be forthcoming as the water recedes - when it recedes.

The body recovery operation now begins, while the remainder of us wait to return to our homes to assess the damage, salvage what we can, start the claims process, and then evacuate once more. It doesn't sound like we'll be able to return to our homes to live for weeks or months, but we're all desperate to get a look at what remains, so we can plan for the future.

None of this can happen while the Corps of Engineers has just one backhoe filling in the 17th Street Canal. Furthermore, the commander of the Corps of Engineers has been saying that mere gravity will be used to drain water out of the city. Any New Orleanian would tell him to go bite a dog's butt for making such an assinine judgment.

I called Senator Landrieu's office this afternoon to commend her for her newly-discovered aggressiveness in attacking the criminally negligent federal response this week (including President Bush's staged photo ops), but I expressed my hope that she would light a fire under the Corps' butt to get them working inside of a shorter time frame to drain the flood waters.

Not only could the flood waters take weeks to recede without pumps, but houses exposed to water for more than a couple of weeks will be considered total losses structurally. That delay could be turned into days if the water is pumped out.

Pass the word, and call Senator Landrieu (202-224-5824). Tell her to:
1) Get the levee breaches fixed,
2) Repair the existing pumps, or bring in new ones.


At 9/07/2005 12:25:00 PM, Blogger Rob said...

I'm glad your house is okay. My shotgut apartment's dry, too; I found out after repeated visits to But I still don't understand why the TV news media couldn't just tell us what was dry when they were flying over the city every day. Or what happened to the other cities besides N.O., Slidell, and the MS Gulf Coast.

At 9/07/2005 08:24:00 PM, Blogger Schroeder said...

Hey, if watch national news coverage, you'd think Katrina only hit New Orleans East. Very piss-poor. They need some locals in the mix.


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