"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it." - Ferris Bueller

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

It doesn't seem like two years ago.

Sitting at my desk watching the images from Hurricane Katrina flowing endlessly into the newsroom. Completely horrified that this was happening, right here in our country, right before our collective eyes. Absolute chaos. We thought it might happen, but we didn't really think it would. Did we? But when I woke up earlier that morning and turned on the television before my shift hoping that the news was good and that the levees held strong, I saw Brian Williams standing in a puddle of water in the middle of the French Quarter. They hadn't. And the worst was yet to come. Come, it did.

That week, FOX News' Shepard Smith was standing on a bridge where people were wandering around aimlessly trying to find help, shelter, food, water, anything. He was there, a reporter, literally begging the government to respond. Where were they? Where was anyone? There were thousands of people trying to escape the rising water, to the Superdome riddled with filth and crime, people dying outside. Unprepared hospitals. People, children, being plucked from rooftops. Children lost without their families. Homes and lives destroyed. The images were so horrifying that that's the only word I can think of to describe it, even now.

Each tv on each producer's desk has a screen that can watch several satellites worth of video at once of video coming in from all sorts of sources, local Louisiana tv stations, CNN, and FOX networks. No, I wasn't there. But we didn't air everything that came in, and you can believe that what we saw was awful. It's our job to just "turn off" when we're in the middle of a story, and for the most part, we did. We had to. But sometimes you just can't. I saw a producer secretly crying at her desk.

I want to remember everything we saw that day, that week, the weeks that followed, because I don't want to forget the people who died when a system broke down. We were not prepared. No one was prepared. Mistakes were made. People died. And millions of people who lived through it have that terrible story to add to their life experiences.

I believe that when faced with a hurricane, it is each person's responsibility to be prepared themselves. Have a hurricane supply kit ready. Batteries, water, non-perishables, medication, cash, an emergency point person to report to if you are separated from your families, a full tank of gas, clothing, everything you need to survive. Have a plan. Know where your pets are going. Board up. Don't ride out the storm if you aren't prepared to survive it. Leave before the mad rush of people, so you don't get stuck in the traffic jams. Know your travel routes. There are things we must do that we cannot rely on others to do for us in times of emergencies. We must do our part. But even the most prepared people are faced with losing everything. The storms do not discriminate. Our government must do their part, too. When people are dying right in front of our faces, there must be no red tape. It takes a village. For months, even a year afterward, FEMA trailers sat empty while people were still lost and still homeless. This was a true American catastrophe.

A couple weeks after the storm, I had convinced my station to do a walk for Katrina victims. It was called "Hands Across the Gulf." A couple hundred people along with their pets turned out and we donated all the money we raised to the Red Cross, the Humane Society, and United Animal Nations. It was only a few thousand dollars, but it was the best I could do because I had to do something. We had to do something. We're used to bearing the brunt of the hurricanes here in Florida, and now our neighbors across the gulf were feeling it full-force.

I know that even two years later, people's lives are still shattered. So if you have a moment, please keep them in your thoughts on this day, this anniversary, or say a prayer for the people still living this terrible nightmare. And don't forget to prepare. There are still more than two months left of the hurricane season and we know what can happen.


ChupieandJ'smama said...

I remember exactly where I was. My youngest was having another one of his many ear infections and he was going through heck. He was a little over a year old and screaming at the top of his lungs for days. I couldn't hear the news reports but seeing the carnage told me all I needed to know. The whole seen was horrifying. It's one of those moments in history that you'll never forget. It's hard to believe that 2 years later people are still suffering.

Stine said...

The force of one of those things is hard to fathom for one who's never experienced anything even remotely similar. Thinking about them today.'
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