Live from Pearlington - April 18, 2006
"Hi Jon, hope you had a good Easter. I also hope you've found or will find someone to pick up the material. I'm excited to be able to help in any way I can and I'll tell you why.
After Katrina my idea of my world was shook to the core. I like to think I have a pretty good idea of the world around me, what's in it, and what to expect. However, I realized just how naive I was in the days and weeks after Katrina. I tracked the storm as I do every other one, especially since it first hit south Florida going right over my wife's hometown of Hollywood, Florida. I watched in amazement as the storm crossed the Everglades overnight and barely weakened over the shallow marsh. As I looked at the sea surface temps I saw a potential disaster of enormous proportions forming. The average American was barely aware of the storm's potential and I understood that - I track hurricanes tediously along with other enthusiasts online. We were convinced the storm had the potential to explode into a monster. Unfortunately, as everyone knows, we were right. I read in horror 2 days prior to landfall the NOAA warning. Untold human suffering from water shortages it read. Areas uninhabitable for months it warned. How clearer can a picture be painted?
The day prior I had told my boss at the lumber company that this thing was going to be massive, possibly trumping Andrew in damage. I'm regarded as the local weather nut so most just thought my enthusiasm was overblown. I figured that as I watched the behemoth churn towards the gulf coast preparations were being made for possibly the biggest natural disaster in our history. I figured the governent was acting on the potential that the Hurricane Pam study showed related to the flooding of New Orleans. Surely the so called superpower USA, proponents of a culture of life and protectors of the masses, wouldn't allow American citizens to be neglected and forgotten. A lumber salesman in Alabama knew what was coming but had misplaced faith in the government and its agencies. I was naive and had no idea.
My other passion is politics. I am transfixed on the day to day happenings in Washington and around the world most others think are as dry as toast. I'm now as cynical about politics as anyone. I watched in the days after as political figures and agency members and heads twisted, distorted and flat out and undeniably lied about the hurricane response. I saw the images coming from the coast and watched George Bush goofing around with a guitar. I saw the dead floating in New Orleans as the secretary of state bought thousand dollar shoes and took in a broadway play. I saw reporters imploring someone to do something. Much like the images of 9/11, the images of Katrina were too much to take if you saw too many of them for too long. I did.
My wife will tell you I almost lost it because people were talking about the looters in New Orleans more than the farce of a recovery effort and the fact that there were people outside of New Orleans who needed help. I couldn't understand how someone in the US could be stranded in a major city for days after evacuating to an official site. I broke down as the realization that the racism my state is known for is far more pervasive than I realized. I've experienced it but not as much by so many and so vile.
"They aint nothin but niggers." "They should just drop a bomb on that place." "To hell with them they should have gotten out of there." Unbelievable this day and age, but true. I'd point out to them that far more than New Orleans was affected but the talk would soon return to the looting in New Orleans. The disgust I witnessed far exceeded the concern I thought at least a few would show. It was like I was out on an island jumping up and down and screaming at anything that would listen but no one replied. On top of that my wedding was to be November 26th in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. We both know how stressful that can be. At that point it almost seemed silly considering that 5 hours away such suffering was taking place.
I took in too many of the horrible images and saw no concern in my town as life kept on rolling by. My hope was replaced by dismay and fear. I truly believed that people would never allow their fellow citizens to be forgotten about or dismissed as animals needing to be euthanized. I couldn't handle it and I shut down refusing to accept it. I needed to know people out there gave a damn and accountability was still real. I trudged along through the fall, the wedding, and shut the gulf coast out of my mind because I couldn't do anything. Well the jury is out on the accountability but the stories I read on the Pearlington blog have helped renew my faith in my fellow man. You have no idea how renewing it has been to know that you and many others like you actually do give a damn about other people. That's why I need to help. I need to support my kind in the effort to help others. We're cut from a different cloth and sewn together by a thread that transcends ignorance, intolerance, and apathy. Does that make us special? Absolutely not. If I were in the shoes of the people of Pearlington I'd hope someone would help me. I'd hope there was a way out of the darkness. I'd hope the world held the promise things will get better.
I now know there are others out there to provide this. With that knowledge my hope has returned.
Feel free to share this with your fellow volunteers , if you see fit, as a personal thank you from someone outside of Pearlington who they've helped as well.I hope I can return the favor.