As I watched the sun come up this morning, I couldn't shake the feeling that Katrina will be a defining moment for our country. I don't think we're going to find easy answers, but I do hope we find the courage to act.
I certainly didn't think any of us who have watched the drama unfold on television could be untouched by the disaster, the poor planning, and the inadequate response. I thought this was an event above politics where even the most callous could see that government at many levels could have done better.
I was absolutely floored when I read the results of the Washington Post-ABC News poll which showed that we're even farther apart than I could have possibly imagined.
Just 17 percent of Democrats said they approved of the way Bush was handling the Katrina crisis while 74 percent of Republicans said they approved. About two in three Republicans rated the federal government's response as good or excellent, while two in three Democrats rated it not so good or poor.
I don't care if you're a Republican or Democrat, but how can anyone approve of the bungling response to this natural disaster. You can analyze this to death, but officials at all levels were unprepared, unaware, clueless in the face of a storm which was no surprise, and President Bush was no exception.
I found this information in the Toronto Star very disturbing.
Elite rescuers from Vancouver who saved 119 lives in St. Bernard near New Orleans were that community's first real sign of relief, days before U.S. rescuers moved in.
So how can Canadians be there before US rescuers? Have we let our disaster response capability deteriorate so badly that we cannot take care of our own countrymen? Even the Wall Street Journal seems to think this has happened. Many had warned FEMA would become lost in Homeland Security, and it did.
The mistakes are so bad that I can't understand people thinking the government has done well. This is from an enlightening September 6, WSJ article entitled " Behind Katrina Response, Weak Links.
FEMA itself seemed to frequently have bad information. At a Tuesday press conference Bill Lokey, federal coordinating officer for FEMA and the agency representative on site, downplayed the severity of the flooding caused by the breaches in New Orleans, saying the water wasn't rising in most areas. "I don't want to alarm everybody that, you know, New Orleans is filling up like a bowl," he said. "That's just not happening."
Within hours, much of the city was under water, and Mr. Lokey was calling Katrina "the most significant natural disaster to hit the United States."
It is pretty obvious that people watching television knew more than FEMA. On top of that, because of the bureaucracy that was created with Homeland Security, foreign countries were able to get people in place faster than our own government. At least that happened when we didn't turn their aid away. According to the Washington Post this morning much aid is just not getting through.
Since Hurricane Katrina, more than 90 countries and international organizations offered to assist in recovery efforts for the flood-stricken region, but nearly all endeavors remained mired yesterday in bureaucratic entanglements, in most cases, at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Somehow the government's theory of everyone getting in a car and fleeing a disaster scene makes me hope we never have one in the Roanoke, especially in these days of gas shortages. Can you image Interstate 81 or Route 220 as evacuation routes? Interstate 81 can barely handle Thanksgiving. Perhaps we can get part of the traffic over to Route 58 which seems to be perpetually empty while Interstate 81 continues to be in danger of sinking from the weight of truck traffic.
Just maybe if we ignore our problems, they'll go away. Then again there will be some haunting images of a dying New Orleans to remind us that poor planning and even worse execution can geometrically increase the pain of a disaster.