With all the resources of the United
States, Americans still sat night after night watching in horror
and disbelief as their fellow Americans died from starvation
and dehydration. As Americans, many of us are led to believe
we are great and possibly invincible, but Hurricane Katrina reminds
us, we are only as great as our leadership.
In the days that followed the hurricane, many victims and rescue
workers looked dazed and confused. They were waiting desperately
for someone to step up to the plate and say “follow me,” and
no one in the federal government did that. From the local level
all the way up to George W. Bush, no one could tell who was
in charge. Was it FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency),
it Mayor Ray Nagin, was it Louisiana Governor Kathleen Babineaux
Blanco, or was it President Bush? For a week we followed the
aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, until we got sick of watching
people die, people whose lives could have been saved if only
the government had had a plan and a leader to carry it out.
CNN.com, on Sept. 2, stated that more than 7,000 people stranded
at the New Orleans Convention Center did not receive food or
aid until four days later, when a convoy of military troops brought
food. Why did it take so long for authorities to get the information
that there were people at the convention center? Why did the
media, and therefore the rest of the world, know before FEMA?
Was anyone paying attention?
As I write this opinion piece, the local government is still
in disagreement with the federal government on whether or not
it’s safe for the people of New Orleans to be let back
into the city. Can some one please step up. Give these people
some leadership, for many have just lost everything and all
they want is a straight answer.
The media is not blameless. It focused too much on the looting
when the important thing it needed to cover was human lives being
lost and where people were stranded and needed help. While some
of the looters were opportunistic, many were only taking things
they needed to survive: food, water, blankets, toilet paper,
and diapers for their babies.
I would have done the same thing. I would have taken food,
water, and things for a makeshift shelter from the store. My
is that “it’s just going to rot or be ruined anyway.”
The lawlessness of the city can be blamed on lack of leadership
as well. CBS News, on Sept. 11, reported that nearly a third
of the New Orleans police force is unaccounted for, whether they
had quit, perished, or are with loved ones. Would they have left
if they had good leadership, or if they felt supported by the
military and government officials? Even within the police department
there was chaos and confusion about their mission. Was it to
save those stranded in the flood? Or was it to stop the looting
and secure the buildings? There were at least two policemen that
committed suicide because they could not deal with the stress,
loss of life, and the enormity of the whole situation.
Floods caused by Katrina destoyed homes and cars thoughout
Whenever a natural disaster occurs, one can almost count on the
water and power being out. The government should have had troops
ready to go in with food, water, and medical supplies, along
with volunteers the day after the hurricane hit. What the military
does, aside from bringing in medicine, food, and water, is provide
a sense of law and order and make residents feel safe and minimize
As for the sick and elderly people, it is obvious that they
move as quickly as the rest of us. The government could have
prepared better by making sure there were other hospitals
with room nearby that they could have easily been evacuated
Or maybe, a hospital ship could have followed the storm in,
been right on the Golf Coast to hospitalize and care for
The national, state, and local government knew the levees could
not withstand more than a category 3 hurricane. All levels of
government failed to prepare.
Despite the failures, Americans can take heart at the acts of
kindness and selflessness that our country has shown, as well
as the acts of courage and bravery the survivors (not refugees)
of New Orleans have displayed.