Friday, September 02, 2005

Katrina Is a Tacky Name

Katrina is a tacky name. It's easy to say it with disgust. Today was a strange day--waking up to fires in the city, bedding down to news that help has fucking finally arrived. I do not feel optimistic, but I do feel slightly encouraged. When I hear 50,000 remain in the city, that seems too high to be true. I hope.

The local government is under fire and they are firing back. Nagin went off on the radio, and in a press conference with Bush he looked like he was ready to slug him. I think it's dumb to call local officials unprepared--how could you possibly prepare for somehing of this magnitude. Also, to those who criticize Nagin's timing, you should understand that he was following the plan everyone agreed to last year after major traffic problems during the evacuation for Ivan: a contra-flow plan was to be set into motion simultaneously with the mandatory evacuations, which would start in the lower parishes fifty hours before storm landfall. Plaquemines, being lowest, would leave fifty hours out, followed by Jefferson at forty hours out, followed by Orleans, thirty hours out. They are late announcing "shelters of last resort" because they know, on paper at least, what a storm like this could be like, and they do not want to give people an option to stay. There are also those, like my great-aunt and uncle--who have the means to leave and a place to go--but they holdout anyway, proud of the fact they have never left before. Now, we are fairy Aunt Bee and Uncle Leonard are dead.

Of course, this doesn't address the money/race issue. Those who got out have money, a running car, and place to go. Those who remain largely don't. That situation is unacceptable, and I do think local officials need to admit it.

In Greenville, MS, which seems like largely poor area, I was greeted with kindness and sympathy from every angle. My kids have seen free movies at the movie theater, we have been invited to church suppers nearly every day, we have been offered food, clothing, and shelter.

I must stick out around here, because everyone knows I am a 'refugee.' Today at the laundrymat a woman asked after my family and offered to help me in anyway possible. I could have been anyone.

I feel funny being called a refugee, though it's true that I am displaced, my home is partly destroyed, I am worrying over the whereabouts of my husband and brother, and my kids are asking me questions I don't know how to answer. I don't know when we're going home. I don't know who will fix our house. I don't know why daddy didn't call tonight.

Still, all this is a dust speck--a true refugee doesn't have clean sheets and a high-speed internet connection.