Katrina has become a metaphor for many things beyond natural disaster, including governmental and individual incompetence (depending on your point of view). In Iowa there is a 500 year flood, but the people are not paralyzed, whining, or looting. There will be no massive relief effort from around the world, and nobody will step up to help Iowans except for other Iowans. Yet years from now, there will be no Iowans still in FEMA camps.
The difference is not in the severity of the flood, but in the people who confront the flood.
This seems to be the current in thing: Bash the people affected by Hurricane Katrina. There seems to be a great deal of smugness in calling us paralyzed, whiny, looters. Sorry Tigerhawk. The severity of the flood can be the difference in whether are not people are still living in FEMA parks 2 1/2 years later.
The flooding occurring in Cedar Rapids is affecting a population of 124,000. Currently 3,000 people are having to evacuate from that city.
Let's put some prospective on the severity of the floods. A total of 65,000 homes in Mississippi were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. A further 35,000 had to be demolished because the damage was so great. A total of 100,000 homes gone for a pre-Katrina population along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Cedar Rapids population is 124,000.
The city of New Orleans lost over 100,000 homes of a pre-Katrina population of 475,000.
Hurricane Katrina destroyed more homes than the number of people who live in Cedar Rapids.
How long does it take to rebuild over 200,000 homes? A hint: The year after Hurricane Katrina saw 7,500 new homes built along the Mississippi Coast.
How long does it take to rebuild the apartment buildings destroyed?
While people are waiting for the chance to rebuild, where should they live? Would you prefer they live in FEMA trailers or in tents?
One of the greatest things to come out of Hurricane Katrina was the number of people who were willing to help another. Food, water, and shelter were shared with neighbor. The Mexican Army was on the beaches of Biloxi helping. People from Canada and Denmark were helping. Even Kuwait has helped. Should we have not accepted their help? Should we have turned down the help of hundreds of thousands volunteers from across the United States?
It is great that Iowans are helping their neighbors out. This is what is continuing to happen in New Orleans and along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Our definition of neighbor now includes the entirety of the United States because of all those from Kansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, Florida, New York, California, South Carolina, North Carolina and the rest of the States who saw their neighbors in need and helped. And it is continuing. Hundreds of thousands have been able to look past the infamous images of looters and realized their neighbors needed help. The past 2 1/2 years has been the biggest damned barn-raiser this country has ever seen.
Update: UPDATE: I'll certainly be happy not to be reading stories like this from Iowa.
What are people who receive FEMA assistance doing to help themselves? That's the question NBC 15's Andrea Ramey asked those who have been staying for free in hotel rooms after they moved out of FEMA supplied travel trailers. What she found out is there are some who are doing very little.
I'm not going to make excuses for these two women featured in the article. What they are doing is wrong. It should be pointed out they do not represent the majority of those living in FEMA assisted housing. As of May, 6,384 FEMA trailers and mobile homes still being used. After Hurricane Katrina, there around 40,000 of them. Clearly, we are sitting around doing nothing around here and all of us are shiftless sorts who would receive government assistance than help ourselves!!!
As always, bad news tends to receive the spotlight. For every Andrea Ramey and others like her, there are thousands more stories like Lance and his family. He and his family of four lived in a FEMA trailer for 2 years. These trailers are 5"x10". Lance and his wife and children lived in those close quarters and managed to not only rebuild their home but also helped Lance's Mom and Dad rebuild theirs. They both worked full-time jobs while doing so.
Here's another way of looking at it. I personally know 128 people whose homes were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Out of that number, 2 are still in FEMA trailers. Yeah, right. Katrina survivors are clearly a bunch of "paralyzed, whiny, looters" who want nothing more than to live off of government handouts!!!
Also, there are stories like Tracy and her husband. They lost their home in Hurricane Katrina. Their first thoughts and actions were to help their neighbors. They volunteered to help.
South Mississippians helped out their Tennessee neighbors when tornadoes struck. Mississippians also raised money to help those in Greensburg Kansas. And that wasn't all. Here's a story youwon't see in the news.
In any major disaster there will always be those who will take advantage. It is ironic that those stories are the ones which receive the most attention when the greater stories are those of people helping one another. It has become fashionable to bash those affected by Hurricane Katrina.
Perceptions are formed and hard to dislodge when news reports focus on human failings instead of human triumphs. Out of close to a million people who were affected by Hurricane Katrina, the focus is on the handful who did abuse the generosity of Americans. Some might hold the opinion that all of us in Hurricane Katrina's swath of destruction are taking advantage by accepting the Federal aid which has poured in. It would have been nice if Mississippi and Louisiana didn't need the financial assistance. The area of Katrina's destruction is almost the size of the entire country of England. Not only were homes swept away but the underpinnings of civilization swept away. Power lines, sewer lines, water lines, gas lines, roads, phone lines, city halls, police and fire stations were also swept away. Businesses were swept away.
I don't know if Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit or if Tigerhawk have visited the Mississippi Gulf Coast or New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina hit. The scope of the disaster cannot be comprehended from news reports or documentaries. It can barely be comprehended by those who are living here. We have done much to improve are lives since Katrina hit. We still have so much to do. Those 200,000 homes will not be rebuilt overnight nor even in a few years. Infrastructure is still ongoing. We have pulled together.
Update: Instapundit has reposted links he had for Hurricane Katrina for those who want to help our fellow countrymen in Iowa.
The Iowa Salvation Army
The Iowa Red Cross