Yesterday marked the two year anniversary of Katrina. I personally I am not or have never been a resident of New Orleans, but in so many ways I am upset about a lot of things that are still going on today. Just as a disclosure, these are my personal views and opinions. Some are based on feeling and some on fact. And given the liberties of this country, I am free to voice these opinions. I do not intend to hurt or harm anyone with my opinions.
I watched part of a Spike Lee documentary today on HBO appropriately titled “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts”. It is a 4 1/2 hour documentary, so it really tells the story from all angles. There are no words to describe the pain these people are feeling or the anguish. I was literally sitting in front of the TV just crying my eyes out for over two hours. To see that this is happening in our country, in one of the most advanced economies in the world, a super power, is unthinkable.
Katrina has been one of the worst natural disasters in recorded history. The storm was atrocious. I remember because when it passed through Florida, it was a very strong Category 1. It really harmed us even thought the media did not report on it. Miamians didn’t get to see much of the Katrina coverage when the storm hit New Orleans because we did not have power at the time due to the storm. I knew in my heart thought that wherever it was going to hit, it was going to be bad. After the storm hit and all the preceding events took place, the world was stunned. But whose fault is it really??? Who should we blame for all of the things that happened??? God, global warming , the disappearing wetlands, the Army Core of Engineers, FEMA, Bush, the stubbornness of the people who did not evacuate. Really who is to blame???
New Orleans is an interesting town. The first time I went I was 5 years old. My dad loved Jazz and he wanted to take me to the birth place of his favorite music. I have listened to Jazz since I was conceived, so it runs in my veins. He took us around the city, and at night my parents would leave me in the hotel with my sister and go listen to Jazz. The second time I went to New Orleans was when I drove cross country for the first time. I went to Bourbon Street and even thought I could really feel the warmth of the city, I quickly noticed it was dirty and poor. The third time I went to New Orleans was 8 months after Katrina when I was driving cross country for the second time. No words can describe what I saw. I have been through many hurricanes and I’m used to the clean up cycle beginning right after the storm passes. Well, 8 months after Katrina and entire areas where untouched. No gas stations, no stores, no traffic lights. House after house and building after building were completely destroyed. It looked like a war zone. Cops were going around assisting other cars that had ran out of gas (remember hardly no gas stations). Only the area around Loyola University looked remotely livable. My cousin who was attending Loyola told me the city was in total disarray still. But there were workers fixing the roof of the Super Dome. You could note people’s faces were sad though. You could see it in their eyes.
I’m going to go off topic here for a bit. In 2005, my dad passed away and three weeks later my mom had a horrible car accident. She was in a comma for two weeks. She almost lost her life, and quoting her ER doctor “she was very lucky”. I was 25 years old, and not really in control of things. I had college debt and some credit card debt of my own. My mom had some debt and after my dad passing, I had to deal with some of his bills. I was making 30k at the time and really honest to God, I didn’t have enough money to cover all the bills. What was worse is that we had some issues with the car insurance and well, they didn’t cover the claim. So it was all on me. My dad was 6 feet under, mom was in the hospital with 14 fractures, organs in danger of failing and a punctured spleen. What was I to do? Well, I turned to the insurance companies and my government. Car insurance said no because of an issue. Thankfully my mom had health insurance through her work, but no disability insurance. Called all the creditors and their responses were “we don’t care, just pay us”. Called the government and they told me they couldn’t help me because we were “home owners”, but the reality was that if someone didn’t help me soon we were quickly going to be living under a bridge. In summary, some very dear family members helped me out and I was able to consolidate the debt. I also got a new job where I was making way more money. I was able to salvage the house. My mom you ask? Well, I was able to negotiate with her work to keep her health insurance active until 3 months after the accident at which time they told me I had to switch over to Cobra. I couldn’t afford it, but at that time my mom was well enough to get on a plane. I shipped her to Colombia immediately. A country where she had not lived in over 16 years but still took her in and was able to give her health insurance so she could get the remainder of her treatments. The moral of the story was that I was alone. Thanks to some instrumental people I was able to make it. I worked my a$# off at that time. But I learned that in this country, if you don’t fend for yourself, you will perish. It is truly a capitalist country. Survival of the fittest. And if you are not fit, you die. And no one will care. No one!
So going back to New Orleans, after the waters receded, what were the “refugees” to do??? Can you believe that? We called our own born American citizens refugees??? Refugees from what or whom??? Well in essence they were refugees. They were like Darfurians who had been left with nothing. If you want to pick at a certain group, let’s pick on the residents of the Ninth Ward. They are portrayed in the media as predominantly African Americans of lower income. Whatever you want to call them, they are working American citizens. These people were home owners that with their heart and sweat had purchased their homes, paid their taxes and insurance premiums. When you lose your house, you call the insurance company and put in a claim. Well, what happens when the insurance company denies your claim? What happens when the government that you have been very diligently been paying your taxes to claims that they have been to your house and checked for “bodies” but when you get there you find your “dead” mother or sister or daughter??? What happens when you do everything by the book, but a levee breaks and your house gets flooded, moved from its foundation and ultimately destroyed? All of your memories, your hard work, your sweat. A few weeks ago, my uncle broke one of my mom’s tea sets (she collects tea sets), she almost had a coronary!!! Why? Because she has worked so hard and for so long to buy each of those tea sets. And in one second, someone came and took that away. Someone who didn’t care. Picture that you have been living on this planet for about 50 or 60 years, you are reaching the end of your life and you have to start from scratch because you have NOTHING!!! That is beyond heart breaking. I still have a pile of bills, I had given up friendships, family, and relationships to maintain my house and my mom. It is a struggle and a sacrifice but at the end is all I have. And that gives me the courage and strength to keep working harder and harder. But if Katrina went by Miami today and blew everything away and then my insurance company told me that they were not going to give me a penny, I think I probably would have 5 coronaries!!!
New Orleans is located in a low level area below sea level. In the outskirts of the city there are some areas that are referred to as the “wetlands”. These wetlands are located naturally there and they function as a barrier to protect the city from the storm surge. But these wetlands have been “disappearing” because strategic personnel have been starving them of their natural habitat. Why you ask? Because that way the waterways that lead into the city and the Mississippi River are not clogged. It also allows for easy transportation of such products such as crude oil. And that takes me to my next point. Are you aware that 25% of US oil comes from the Gulf Coast? Predominately from the coast around Louisiana, yet the state doesn’t get compensated for that. All the capital gains go to the federal government and the big oil companies. It seems our current administration only cares about “oil”. In a way 9/11 was the best thing that happened to Bush. It gave him the perfect excuse to go the Middle East and justify a war. A war that its sole purpose is to secure oil fields for our “oil corporations”. Before graduation, I remember interviewing for an “oil company” and the interviewer asked me what is a sweet girl like me want in an oil field??? He was right. I wouldn’t have stood for that. For any of it. Barbara Bush went to visit the “refugees” at Houston’s Astrodome and she said that they were lucky because since many of the affected victims were poor, they really had it better living in these shelters. If the President’s mama is saying that, no surprise he reacted the way he did. Truthfully, it was not in his best interest to help these people. It was only in his best interest to protect the rigs in the area and secure the oil companies. Once that was done, he let bureaucrats take care of the rest.
In these elections, I continuously see reports on the investment portfolios of the current candidates. I wonder how much profit has Cheney, Bush and cronies made from all of these wars and hurricanes. I’m sure the “kick backs” have been nice…
So, I conclude my rant for now. I am a law abiding citizen and I will continue to pay my taxes. Taxes that instead of going to help fellow American Citizens is only going to fund more wars to secure more “oil” fields and more government kick backs. To the people of New Orleans, you are strong in spirit and you will prevail. The Levees will break again, but you will rebuild. To all my other readers, think about your choices and think about what will happen if you were in a desperate situation. Who will help you? And then in November 2008, choose wisely.