Looking back, the biggest difference in the aftermath related to 9/11 and Katrina came down to people. In the former case, George Pataki and Rudy Giuliani were at the helm, while the latter debacle was facilitated by Kathleen Blanco and Ray Nagin.
Very recently, Mr. Nagin was convicted on 20 of 21 criminal charges involving things like wire fraud and bribery, with the levy of a 10 year sentence in Federal prison. Yet, during the infamous hurricane, CNN protected Nagin and presented him as the beleaguered mayor who was being let down at the Federal level. Everyone on site at the time seemed to know this was a ridiculous portrayal, but for some networks, disasters are to be framed, not dispassionately reported. This goes a long way to explaining why the largest rescue effort in our history, successfully effected by the US Coast Guard, went broadly unnoticed.
Truth put aside, the notion that the primary victims of Katrina were poor was promoted by Larry King. In reality, the Los Angeles Times would come to publish the fact that the majority of those who lost their lives were middle class. Indeed, the last individual my team recovered was in the backyard of a fairly palatial home not very far from the French Quarter. Adding insult to injury, while Anderson Cooper allowed the mayor to boldly declare that the Convention Center was all cleaned up, recovery operations stationed there, just a few miles away, did so amidst left-over accumulations of human waste.
Hampering reasonable rebuilding strategies by introducing a crude concept of race, Nagin referred to New Orleans as a “Chocolate City”, politicking for the restoration of neighborhoods lying 20 feet below sea level that never should have been built to begin with. The fact is, Mother Nature is color blind, and flying in the face of certain disaster isn’t a matter of ethnicity, it’s a matter of irresponsible, pandering stupidity.
Contrary to common sensibility, our national well-being is actually a matter of local management. We are a Republic where State’s rights matter, the National Guard is under the Governor’s control, and FEMA is not a first responder. Fundamentally, we are in the hands of our nearby police, firefighters, EMT’s and municipal staff. If these folks are competent, we’ll be OK, but if, like Ray Nagin, they are manifestly corrupt, it’ll take a while before the Feds can offer a remedy, whether or not the media covers the facts. In the meantime, untold damage can be done.
The Early Church held the view that as Christians we need to respect those in authority. Therefore, incumbent upon the men and women who hold office is the responsibility to be respectable in the exercise of their governance and power. Personally, I think we have some fine people presently serving my small town. The professionals and the volunteers who make our community go are the infrastructure of real health that we have a right to expect, and dare not take for granted.
So, we all need to offer our support in this critical endeavor, not only with our prayers and thanksgivings, but also with ourselves. I believe the local Church is the most critical component in any village or city, and so the community in which we live isn’t just where we’re located.
It’s where we’re placed to serve.