As I have been glued to my television watching the catastrophic hurricane along the gulf coast I am struck by a number of thoughts. Although I was hesitant to share them, I realized that I share my thoughts on a number of things I know little about and this should be no different.
As a native Floridian, I have evacuated because of hurricanes, seen the devastation, incurred some damage myself, heard horror stories of loss from friends and relatives, thought deeply about the price paid to live in paradise and cleaned up debri and Red Cross serving containers. I have served in disaster relief a few times and fed the victims.
I have experienced or seen the effects of David, Gladys, Andrew, Charlie, Frances, Ivan and others I cannot name. I have heard stories of Betsy, Camille and the 1935 monster from my parents and grandparents.
In fact, last year my family loaded a hard-drive, some clothes and bedding, important documents and pictures, family heirlooms, precious stuffed animals, dog, family and provisions into a Nissan Maxima. We sandbagged our home, took video and pictures to document how it once looked, tied down everything in our yard, stared at the canal and boatyard across the street (imagined a yacht sitting in out living room) and kissed our home goodbye, expecting to never see it again (TWICE), only to return a few days later to pick up debri and open up a musty house, only because Charlie or Ivan decided to pick on another area of our state.
Each hurricane that misses Tampa Bay reminds me that, like New Orleans, we are living on borrowed time, surrounded by immense amounts of water with nowhere to go if storm surge happens.
However, understand from me, that anytime we are threatened with a Cat. 2 storm or above, without hesitation I will pack up my belongings and family, grab my parents on the way out of town and leave. Nothing in Tampa is precious enough to stay for!
After much rambling, let me get to a couple of things.
1. I am so glad that our President with approval ratings reaching levels reminding me of the winning percentage of the Royals has decided to cut his longest vacation of a sitting president in memory short to see the damage in the gulf coast and actually govern.
2. It would be nice to have more National Guard and Reservists able to serve this area instead of making up for a lack of planning in Iraq.
3. The residents of this area will see the need for a limit to America's Free Market economy. Last year, while riding out Ivan in Atlanta (we don't go a few miles inland- we leave the state), I heard some libertarian radio host (whom Alex and my friend Michael J love) share how disappointed he (and conservative economists) was in the state of Florida's decision to enact legislation to stop price-gouging. According to him, there is no such thing. In a free market economy we should charge anything the market bares.
As a Christian, I found this an affront to my faith (yes, my faith in Christ supersedes my faith in free market capitalism, which is not the same as belief in Jesus- but, idolatry) and despicable. I pray that the gulf states continue to enact this supposedly socialist idea and protect their citizenry.
4. I find myself feeling intense sorrow for the people of the region that lost lives, families, homes, belongings and livelihoods. I feel the most for children, the poor, and the elderly that could not get out of harms way. However, at the same time, I feel intense anger at those that chose to ride this storm out due to a number of reasons. Seeing children being pulled from buildings where the parents CHOSE to stay behind frustrates me immensely. As one who has left an area only to return when the storm misses us, I can say- It is always worth it. If kids are involved, there is no decision that needs to be thought out.
5. This is not the time for "perspective." Yes, I know this is no where near as bad as the tsunami. Yes, I cry for the loss of life in Africa that supersedes this daily. And yesterday 600 Iraqis (mostly women and children) were crushed to death in a stampede. All of these hurt. All of these a crushing blows to my psyche. But, for today, I will mourn for the residents of a place I know well, that I am personally connected to on a number of planes. Tomorrow, I will cry again for victims of aids, famine, oppression, war and terrorism. But, not today. Today is for the Gulf Coast.
6. Watching Haley Barbour, the governor of Mississippi, my hearts goes out to him. I am watching a man overwhelmed by circumstances. His tears and outbursts show his heart and his unpreparedness for such a role. I am watching a man that should be acting as a lobbyist and political operative, not leading a devastated state in rescue and recovery. I pray that he rises to the occasion, but I am reminded why I do not like governors and other such leaders to come from a world of talking points, marketing, backstabbing, lobbying and electioneering.
I realized that (although much of his political ideology frustrates me immensely) I am glad I live in Florida during hurricane season led by Governor Jeb Bush. He has been through Andrew himself and knows the cost. He and our state do not wait until they mandate an evacuation. I could go on, but will not.
7. Like my friend Mike, I have spent time in New Orleans serving in the Desire projects. Upon arrival in 1997, I thought I had stepped into the Bosnian warzone. The homes looked bombed out and violence was daily part of people's lives. I am yet to experience such poverty in the United States (and I work with homeless families). Knowing that these were many of the people left behind (along with homeless persons from the Rescue Mission) wrecks me. Seeing the devastation of the city and seeing mostly black faces in the middle of it reminds me of the incredible inequity that still marks this great society we live in.
8. Lastly, I pray for New Orleans Seminary. I went to their website today and it did not come up. It is practically in Lake Pontchartrain and I know it incurred great damage. While, as a product of such an education, I am not a fan of the Southern Baptist seminaries, I am praying for the students and others accociated with NOBTS.
Well, there you have it. I work with homeless and poor families, along with volunteers and cannot imagine the magnitude of the homelessness and need in the region. I cannot fathom my job in case of such an event in Tampa. My family has had a rough week, due to unexpected bills and other issues. We are considering selling my car to put us in a better spot today (and hoping tomorrow is taken care of). However, knowing the situation arising in the Gulf Coast, my frustration with the situation my family is in subsides. My car and our bills are small problems right now.
I will stop babbling