As I sit here reflecting upon the past week; I find myself a combination of depressed, angry and confused. Three years ago, a week post Katrina, the country was glued to their television sets watching images of destruction never before seen in this country. They were also beginning to organize drives to raise funds, supplies and volunteers to go help. There was energy in the air that reflected the country’s “can do” attitude about helping their neighbor in need.
This year, there was NO energy manifested after hurricane Gustov and what energy was reflected after Ike quickly faded in light of the economic shenanigans going on in Washington and New York all week. Hurricane Ike is a distant memory to most people. The tolerance level for most Americans toward seeing images of destruction and suffering people standing in line for water is almost zero. The country got burned out seeing and hearing about New Orleans after two years of constant stories about the situation there. They are still burned out toward disasters as a whole.
There is simply no energy to speak of manifested toward wanting to help those devastated by Gustov and Ike. There are pockets of interest, but very little organized help to speak of. There is this eerie sense that the leaders of this country, the presidential candidates and the citizens in general simply want the situation to be handled by someone else and to go away. It is quite remarkable that no politician has tried to gain exposure by showing up to distribute water or other custom made photo ops.
Could it be that those who take the pulse of the American people have told the candidates that there is little interest in the country concerning Ike? Could it be that since the leaders of this land are up to their ears in economic woes and re-election hoopla that they do not want to be distracted by Ike? Could it be that this country no longer has either the means or the heart to give any more?
I do not know what the answers are, but I know we have a problem. Katrina hit more than three years ago and there are still massive rebuilding and recovery efforts going on in New Orleans and Mississippi. It takes incredible amounts of time, money, resources and volunteers to recover from a big hurricane. The unfortunate reality is that the amount of all these things has dropped off dramatically since 2005.
Does America still have the will to roll up her sleeves and help Galveston, Houston, the Texas coast and Louisiana recover from Gustov and Ike? We will find out in the next few weeks. Does America still have the means to provide equipment, materials and supplies to help areas clean up, fix up and rebuild? We will see in the next few months. Does America still have the “heart” to stick with these areas in the long run, to work with people for as long as it takes to get them on their feet again? We will find out in the next few years.
Disaster relief and recovery is a painstakingly slow process. It will be Thanksgiving before there is any real progress made in the hardest hit areas. Debris removal must be done slowly and correctly lest there be any bodies buried in the rubble. There is so much debris after a major hurricane it is unbelievable. There is trash, torn up buildings, trees and chunks of asphalt and stones. There is no quick fix possible, it just takes time.
Any house damaged by the hurricanes must be inspected and determinations made by insurance and FEMA as to financial retribution for to get repairs done. People must wait for insurance checks and the whole process gets bogged down in the meantime. Any building damaged by water (either from above or storm surge) must rip out the damaged drywall to prevent mold growth. Many times the carpets and even the floors must be replaced.
Even those with the means financially to pay for work to be done many times cannot find anyone to do it. There are only so many certified contractors. There are also only so many supplies that can be purchased. The point is simply that it takes time, patience and persistence to recover from a major event such as a hurricane. There are no quick fixes.
I pray the many church groups and others who faithfully went to Louisiana and Mississippi (and still go) will do the same for Texas and Louisiana as the recover from Gustov/Ike. I pray the huge corporations which go graciously donated mountains of food, drinks, building supplies and other materials after Katrina will do the same in the coming weeks for Gustov/Ike victims. I pray that better solutions arise than “FEMA trailers” and other ill fated ways to provide temporary housing to those who lost their homes. I pray those who have no job any longer find a means to make a living.
In the coming weeks and months, a whole host of issues arise that fall into the category of long term recovery. When you get past “disaster relief”, and into how to help individuals and a community start over; that is when the really tough questions start being asked and the amount of money needed to pull it off multiplies quickly. Ultimately I pray the money to rebuild and recover is there, as it has been after Katrina.