Maybe it’s just me, but when a public official responding to a civic emergency is asked what people can do to cope, and she suggests that they pray? I get pissed. I want to stand up and say, “NOT HELPING.”
Sure, there’s a place for the spiritual, the clergy, in a disaster that encompasses fire, flooding, hunger, thirst, raw sewage, looting, death, dismemberment and old people drowned in houses filled to their rooftops with fetid water. But those clergy better be wearing hip waders, and if you want to pray, make sure your hands are busy doing something useful.
Oh, and what fresh hell is this? A prison riot in Baton Rouge. Lovely.
This is pretty much all I did today, so I’m cutting this short. Best single news source: The Times-Picayune website. This is the end — or at least a profound, no-going-back change — for one of America’s greatest cities.
Share your thoughts/memories/impressions in the comments, if you wish.
brian stouder said on August 30, 2005 at 10:10 pm
“profound, no going back change”
that was the compelling thing about this awful story a few days ago. A huge planetary storm inexorably moves across the gulf, with a whole region’s destiny at stake, and all we could do was watch.
And now the consequences of that storm have been dealt out; in fact the unstoppable consequences continue to unfold.
Now the compelling thing about this story is that we cannot simply turn away – we ceratinly cannot wish away or pray away the aftermath. We have to act.
Our military will certainly come in, in a big way. Heavy lift aircraft and even amphibious machines are remarkably well-suited to the challenges faced by New Orleans down there. Lots of organized manpower, plus the means to put material where it is needed is something they do well.
Once they get the levees patched, then the big pumping operation can begin with a purpose.
I think downtown New Orleans will come roaring back – and I hope that the folks who had the least in the first place don’t get left behind in the coming reconstruction.
vince said on August 31, 2005 at 12:09 am
If it’s permissible, pasted below is an item from another blog. I think it’s reliable and accurate:
Sandra Mims Rowe distributed this note to the Oregonian staff at about 4:30 pm on Tuesday, FYI
(remember that the NO Times-Picayune is, like the Oregonian, a Newhouse paper):
I talked to Jim Amoss, editor of the NO Times Picayune, several hours ago when he reached Houma, La., newsroom. From there the editing crew was going to Baton Rouge, where they will continue to publish online, mostly via sending stories to Newhouse News Service by e-mail.
He said that the national media wasn’t even coming close to grasping the scope of the story. The city is utterly, utterly devastated and uninhabitable.
They evacuated the newspaper building late this morning loading about 300 employees into delivery trucks and heading southwest. Most of those employees do not know if their homes survived, and Jim said many certainly did not. He assumes his is among those. As you have heard, to add to the pain, the looting in the city in increasing.
When the newspaper employees left the city, they were told it might be several weeks before they could return. Meanwhile, the journalists staying in NO are trying to do their jobs without the ability to move around much and with intermittent and difficult communications.
It’s horrifying and humbling thinking of what so many communities and individuals, including our colleagues, are going through now and will have to endure in the weeks ahead. We have offered our help and resources to assist at any time and in any way, but right now there is nothing we can do from here. That will change as they get a better handle on the scope of this and have greater ability to move. It could be days or weeks before they can publish on newsprint or deliver — and at least that long before people are back in the city.
Keep them in your thoughts.
mary said on August 31, 2005 at 12:39 am
I’m sure the news we get on TV doesn’t even come close to showing the horror of the situation. I still wonder if my friend D’Vonne is ok. Likely she got out. She’s got a grown son who would have looked after her and the animals.
It’s going to be a long time before that city is livable again, and then workable.
I recommend a book by Rob Walker, who used to write for Slate, called Letters From New Orleans. It’s a compilation of his writings from the time he lived there. You can get it through his website, which I think is Rob Walker.com or something like that. Google it.
Walker Percy’s book The Moviegoer started my interest in NO, then Confederacy of Dunces. There aren’t books like that about Phoenix or San Diego. NO is a real city.
ashley said on August 31, 2005 at 12:58 am
Connie said on August 31, 2005 at 7:33 am
All I could think last night watching the news was how are they going to get people out of there, and where are they going to go?
I love New Orleans, and I expect my much anticipated convention trip there in June 06 is unlikely. I’ve been there several times. Perhaps it is special because it was the first place my husband and I ever went to vacation without our kid – she was two then, 18 now. And a couple of our funny family stories have to do with her reaction to NO when she was 12. Who knew she would write her what I did on my summer vacation essay about the scariness of Bourbon Street?
I feel horrified and helpless. Money helps. Prayer? To accomplish what?
james said on August 31, 2005 at 7:42 am
Regarding officials suggesting prayer:
When my mom was dying of cancer, I went to the Social Security office to try to get them to recognize that she was “disabled,” and the bureaucrat there took our paperwork, said they couldn’t do anything, and sighed, “Well, it’s God’s will…”
I was so pissed! It might just be an expression, but to have a government official tell me that my mom had a horrible disease because that’s what god wanted… that was too much.
By the way, they ended up recognizing she was disabled, after the intervention of (then) Senator John Glenn. We got the letter the day after she died…
Jeff said on August 31, 2005 at 7:56 am
OK, the “God’s will” stuff in this kind of situation is crap, and i can certainly see/feel/hear the BS behind many politicians’ use of the prayer meme for their own protection-deflection. But may i offer another angle on this?
I just wrote a quick piece for our local paper, where the editor wanted to know who was going down there from our Ohio area. The common message from every church based relief official i spoke to was: “PLEASE don’t say a word that might encourage some van load of well-intentioned folk to come down here right now, or a church to load up a truck with rummage sale leftovers and postdate canned goods. They will get in the way and soak up resources themselves.”
So they, and politicians, have a tough spot here. They actively want to discourge people from coming to try and help unless they have a job and a specific invitation, and if they just say “send money,” they know they may sound opportunistic (everyone remembers the black eye Red Cross took after 9-11). Which makes telling people “please pray — where you are! — oh, and send money to support the relief assets that are already being deployed” a constructive way to say “PLEASE don’t come down here, and send cash fast.”
I do think many of the folks on camera saying “pray for us” mean it that way; would it be better if they said, “Hey, we sure don’t need more bodies roamin’ around, but we could use all the good mojo you can beam at us to get through the night?”
OTOH, the “God’s will” codswallop will be shovelled around with abandon, i’m sure, and this pastor apologizes in advance for all such lazy, inadequate theology that may hit the airwaves and see print.
Nance said on August 31, 2005 at 8:03 am
Jeff, you’re one of the good clergy. We know you’re one of the ones who’d show up in hip boots.
Thanks for the perspective.
Connie said on August 31, 2005 at 8:38 am
Thanks Jeff. I’m not one to pray, but I like the way you put it, and I will beam all the good mojo I can muster down that way.
And James: 19 years ago last week my baby died. I heard all the god’s will crap I could stand back then. (Yes, god looked down on this world, picked me out, and decreed: “that lady’s baby needs to die.” Ha.) Pardon my cynicism.
Howie said on August 31, 2005 at 9:37 am
Thanks, Jeff. Your comments remind me that the most insightful criticism of church-speak comes from inside the church.
Claire said on August 31, 2005 at 11:30 am
Thank God for the Salvation Army.