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I was going to fish out the pages of notes I made last year at this time, but they were full of complaints about the heat and my lack of personal comfort.  That was petty and small potatoes compared to the scope of destruction I found as I ventured around the neighborhood in those first days after Hurricane Katrina.

We were lucky.  Shingles, leaves and other light debris littered the ground outside our condo.  As the storm churned ashore and past us, the wind slammed lots of those shingles into the side of our building.  None broke any windows and we were up on a ridge that took no water.  Late afternoon when the wind abated, I went outside and began piling up shingles and debris so that the patch of yard around the building didn't look so bad.  Then I chatted with neighbors who had similarly stayed and rode out the storm in their homes.

As we sat outside that first night trying to stay cooler, the first boats went by.  We heard from the radio that there was flooding.  Little did we comprehend the extent of it.  After a fitful night of sleep, I ventured further into the neighborhood the next day.  I went over to my High Priestess' house to check on it.  They live only about four blocks away, but got a lot more damage to their house than we did.  Trees were down in the streets.  Powerlines drooped from their poles.  The roof was off the high school gym a few blocks away and the furniture store down the street lost an entire exterior wall.  One of the neighbors jokes, "Do you need any furniture?"  Nope.  I suppose I would have been tempted if it was ice and water.

That Tuesday, more boats went by and the fire trucks two blocks away were out presumably doing rescues.  The helicopters began buzzing in the skies.  All day long they flew.  The more they flew and the more boats we saw coming from the Westbank, the more we comprehended the misery that lay elsewhere in town.  We waited for the National Guard or some Federal response and there was none.  It was Day Two.

On Day Three, we awoke to the same hot and awful conditions as the day before.  The consensus among the neighbors was that there was a lot of flooding and there were sharks in the water near Causeway.  A few more boats went by and the helicopters again provided a noisy soundtrack over the silence of no power and little street traffic.  The devastation was larger than we had expected.  My husband chased down a cop and asked what the hell was going on.  The cop told us that if we could leave, we should leave.  We emptied the fridge, gave food and water to the neighbors, called our friend upstate, piled the cats in the car and left.

Until we got to Alexandria, we had no visual idea how bad the flooding was.  We could see the wind damage as we drove carefully down the most open arteries, but the TV coverage gave us perspective.  You rarely understand what's going on with a bizarre situation while you're in the middle of it.

The more we saw after we got installed in our friend's spare room, the more grateful I was that we had a car with a full tank of gas and that we had a place to go.  I felt a little guilty for not staying and toughing it out for a day or so, then I got angry.

One of the TV channels up there had let WWL take over its broadcasting so as to keep the evacuees notified of the situation.  I yelled at the TV constantly asking where the government was and what FEMA was doing.  Sadly, my answer was taking its sweet time and not a whole hell of a lot.

Then we sat for weeks awaiting the parish governments to say it was OK to return.  A month later when we got back to a house with electricity and running water, we were lucky again because vast swaths of neighborhoods still had nothing and were not yet dry.  Riding around through those places was depressing.  The pervasive smell of rot was awful.  Piles of debris were everywhere.

A year later, a lot has been done in the places not drowned.  Stores have reopened.  Repairs have been made.  Life goes on.  The homes and businesses that sat in the water aren't as advanced along the reconstruction route.  Not only did those folks have to deal with their properties' being flooded, but the insurance companies haven't been as forthcoming with claims money as the people were with their premium money.  The state's Attorney General had to sue a couple of the insurance companies and that's not settled yet.

We've had a Mardi Gras, the Hornets played a few games here, the Zephyrs are back and we're looking forward to the Superdome reopening with our Saints driving us crazy on the field again.  I can't help but feel if we had been considered more valuable by all our governments, we'd be further along the road to reconstruction right now.

Stories of wasted FEMA money by individuals have been splashed all over the news.  Our fellow countrymen are indignant about some poor slob going to a strip club with his FEMA check.  Nobody is having a cow about the no-bid contracts for the Bush Administration pals that are wasting a buttload of money.  The idiocy of paying a contractor $25 to haul debris which then subcontracts for $20 and so on until the actual price of a load becomes $3 is barely noted anywhere but political blogs.

There was tons of money donated to the relief effort.  Where did that money go?  It was private funds so it should have been disbursed already.  The pResident of the White House promised money and it's not here yet either.  The government turned away money from sources such as Cuba.  Why?  If they did so on my behalf, they are full of shit.  We should take from any that are generous enough to donate it.  Did Indonesia turn away any help two years ago for the tsunami?  No.

Today I sit wondering where we'll be this time next year, as individuals, as a city, as a region, as a country and as a planet.  We haven't reached critical mass yet on Global Warming if we ever do.  If we don't accept it and do something about it soon, we will fly headlong into the tipping point of no return.  This hurricane season has been quiet so far.  Those who don't see that as anomalous are deluded.  I fear that many decisions of great importance will be decided on delusions in the same way the Iraq War was decided.

I have no answers.  I have numerous questions.  I also have hope, even though that might make me delusional too.

Crossposted to my LiveJournal.

Originally posted to NOLAWitch on Tue Aug 29, 2006 at 09:49 AM PDT.

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