Two years after Katrina, everywhere you turn, there are people carping, whining, and kvetching. Just why hasn’t the pity party for the citizens of New Orleans run out of booze and chips yet?
It’s not as if hurricanes are a once a millennium event in the United States. In fact, residents of Florida have so many of them that they don’t even cancel a barbecue for anything under a Category 3.
Can I just say how true that is? We get hurricane warnings constantly. Most of the time, I yawn. And honestly, if it’s a Category 1 or 2, it’s a non-event… unless, of course, you are a surfer, in which case you can be counted upon to be at the beach trying to take advantage of the good waves, all the way up to a Category 4, when police have to be there to forcibly keep them away.
To us, hurricanes are kind of like big thunderstorms. Unless a really big, bad one comes along (like a 4 or a 5), it’s pretty boring.
A few years ago, Florida got hit by four hurricanes in one season. Two of them, Frances and Jeanne, came through Jacksonville. My friends and I were all pretty excited. At the time, I was living at the beaches, and at my parents’ request, came to stay with them further inland. Their house lost power for a few days due to downed power lines, my apartment at the beaches didn’t. Wind and rain was minimal. Some friends and I even threw a hurricane party, completely ready with non-perishable food items, “beverages”, and lots of candles. We were all set and ready for the exciting stuff to happen. But as we waited, and the hours passed, nothing happened. We didn’t lose power. There were no gale force winds, no trees whipping about. The surfers ate it up out at the beach, and while some people lost power for a while, it was pretty much a non-event. It wasn’t that anyone wanted large-scale destruction, but we were waiting for something to happen! You know, give us some strong winds, some power outages. It was more eventful a few months after 9-11, when the entire city lost power for no apparent reason (and there was definitely no hurricane in sight). Jacksonville hasn’t had a major storm hit since the 1960s, and I’m not betting on it happening any time soon.
In the areas where the hurricanes were much stronger, like in Pensacola and the southwestern tip of Florida (Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, etc.), there was large scale damage and destruction that took years to rebuild. But did you see those people clamoring for the government to swoop in and solve everything for them? Did they whine and cry to the media about how the government wasn’t paying enough attention to their plight? No! It was actually a pretty inspirational story, in my opinion, to watch these people see everything they owned destroyed, and pick themselves back up and keep going. Not only did they show resilience, but (to use a corny phrase), the spirit of brotherhood was alive and well. People from all over the state traveled to help with the rebuilding efforts. Neighbors pitched in to help neighbors. They worked together, usually selflessly, and over time, things got better. Then again, we also didn’t have Louisiana politicians to screw it up for us, either.
There was no looting. No influx of crime. No Army Corps of Engineers needing to be called in to rebuild, only to be attacked by angry residents. Shit happened, and people took care of themselves. They picked themselves up, and went on with their lives, without requiring the rest of the United States to do it for us.
Contrast that with Katrina. And when it comes to Katrina, specifically, how many people remember that New Orleans was not the only city affected? States from Mississippi to Texas were affected, hit badly, yet how much media coverage and aid went to them? Was there an outpouring of compassion to help rebuild those cities? I’m sure there was some, but it was nowhere near the spectacle of New Orleans. We’ve spent more on rebuilding New Orleans than we did on the Marshall Plan, for crying out loud. At what point does enough become enough? I mean, sheesh. Obviously, there are Katrina victims who have picked up and moved on to lead productive lives. There are too many, however, who are enjoying the situation, milking it for all its worth, and happily living off the taxpayers’ dime.
I’ll say it again: shit happens. In Denver, it was massive blizzards. In Minnesota, it was a bridge collapsing. In the midwest, they have tornado alley. Here on the east coast, we have hurricanes. Bad things sometimes happen to good people, and there’s only one thing you can really do if you want to survive: Pick up. Move on. Get a life.