Thursday, September 22, 2005

History Does Repeat Itself, So What's the Lesson?

The top picture shows a tiny slice of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana. The bottom picture was taken 40 years earlier in the same parish, after 1965's Hurricane Betsy roared through the area. Two hurricanes, 40 years apart, but the same result. Why?

To make the parish and neighboring New Orleans flood-proof might or might not be possible. That's up to the engineers to determine. What the pictures should be reminding us of is that sooner or later, no matter the precautions taken by man, another great flood will spill across the swamps and pour into the neighborhoods of Arabi, Chalmette, Meraux, and Violet, laying waste to people's lives and dreams.

Hurricane Betsy should have been a wake up call, but as human nature would have it, the people of St. Bernard drifted back into complaceny after the putrid waters receded and their homes had been restored. Life was too good to worry about what might not happen. Why tax yourself to protect yourself from the "big one," that mythical killer hurricane that would drown cars, houses, and people like proverbial rats in a rain barrel?

And so everybody went back to the old habits. A Friday night beer and oyster sandwich at Rocky and Carlos. High school football. A weekly trip to "make groceries" at Schwegmann's. Whatever the amusement, it made it easy to forget the risk. Even Mother Nature seemed forgiving. St. Bernard dodged a bullet when 1969's Hurricane Camille veered eastward to smash the Mississippi Gulf Coast. As the years passed, good luck held as gulf hurricanes took one path or another away from the parish. Until Katrina.

As one old timer put it, life in St. Bernard was more a habit than anything else. Or maybe it was an addiction. Habits can be broken, but addictions ...? The people of St. Bernard are now as scattered as the children of ancient Israel. Will a Moses appear to lead them back to their promised land?

Economically, there are reasons to return. The sugar refinery, the oil refinereries, the easy-going charm of next-door New Orleans. But as former residents of St. Bernard are allowed to return in the next few months, it will not be hard-nosed economic calculations that drive them to return. They will be lead by their hearts.

The Lesson? It may be silly to some, but "home is where the heart is" is more than a saying. It's a living emotion that makes people come together to rebuild, even when to the outside world it makes no sense because of the risk.



At 1:04 PM, Blogger Anthrogrl said...

I can understand why people want to go back to Lousiana despite the potential for future disasters.

I have many friends from abroad, and they ask me if sometimes I wished I lived somewhere else (this was after Sept. 11th). I said no; the U.S. is my home, and although we have very serious problems, I still wouldn't want to live anywhere else.

Note-I liked the Tribes of Israel simile.

At 6:09 PM, Blogger HalheG said...

After living in a certain place for so many years, people have a tendency to become attatched to that area. It does not surprise me that even after having to suffer through such natural disasters, people still want to rebuild and return home.

At 2:00 PM, Blogger Elizabeth G said...

Go back to Lousiana? When? Even with government aid, it's going to take a long time before the state gets back up to where it was.More importantly though, who is going to be going back? I know that some people, especially nurses, have already taken jobs elsewhere and probably won't want to go back. Lousiana might become a state of small towns.

At 4:46 PM, Blogger Nochman said...

It's a real mystery, huh!

At 7:24 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

I just read an article about the FEMA budget that said they are really only given a lot of money when in a crisis situation. The government does not put money aside to take precautions and preventive measures in areas that have been proven over time to be susceptible to natural disasters. This should be rectified.

At 9:21 AM, Blogger Krystal P said...

As cliche as it is, home really is where the heart is. I can speak from my own experience, only being a texas resident for the last three and a half years. Not many days go by that I don't miss the scenery and atmosphere of my hometown. However, you can't cheat mother nature and at some point you have to weigh out your options; take a risk and move back to a high risk flood area, or do your best to make a home somewhere else...

At 7:17 PM, Blogger jiri said...

Cool Blog, I never really thought about it that way.

I have a Hurricane Katrina blog. It pretty much covers hurricane related stuff.

Thank you - and keep up the thoughts!

At 10:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

St. Bernard is my home. My family lost everything during Katrina and life as we new it was gone. But you put one foot in front of the other and you try to put the peices of the life you knew and loved back together. This article is completely true..even with everything in shambles there is no place my family would rather be. My sister is living in the Woodlands, TX for the year so her kids can go to a good school but as of June 5th she is returning to St. Bernard..even if it is to her trailer for a few more months while her house is rebuilt. Thanks for the understanding post.


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