Hurricane Katrina and Facing my Own Ignorance

I was in New Orleans last week for a quick, 48 hour, trip…
I didn’t see any obvious trace of Katrina-related devastation while I
was there.  That wasn’t necessarily surprising; my travels were
limited.  I stayed in the French Quarter both nights and only left the
Quarter to make two stops along the St. Charles streetcar route.  The
city looked pretty much like I’d remembered it from a trip I took 20
years ago with my father and grandfather.

The difference with
this visit was my knowledge that Katrina had happened.  I was aware that
the residents I talked to had been impacted in some way by it.  I
assumed that sobering signs of the hurricane’s damage were likely just
out of sight of the streets I walked.  I felt good about pumping money
into the local economy, but guilty for being there at the same time,
like I shouldn’t have been there for any reason other than to build a
home or feed a family. 

Another feeling that struck me was that I
was largely ignorant of what, exactly, the full scope of Katrina’s
impact was. Yes, I donated money when initial news stories aired in
August, 2005,  but I tuned the subsequent details out.   Less than a
month after the tragedy, I was absorbed with losing a radio gig, and
couldn’t be bothered to think past my own personal emergency.  I treated
the crisis and devastation that came close to wiping one of America’s
most unique and spirited cities off the map as background noise.  I
write this with absolute transparency, and not a small amount of
embarrassment.

I’m trying to fill in the blanks now.  I went to the library this morning and borrowed “Breach of Faith,” a well-reviewed book on the subject.  I’ve also made a pledge to myself to be a more aware, more plugged-in, global citizen.

And
with that, I suspect I’m not the only one who needs to improve his
general awareness of current events and social issues.  Let’s all work
on this, okay?

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