Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Not an Act Of God

A beloved stuffed animal, abandoned, not by choice by it's owner, lies in the middle of the yellow line on I.90 near Biloxi, MS. A mother and daughter sit on a roof, which once sheltered their family, and is now nothing but part of a mountain of the debris surrounding them. A child weeps for a grandmother who has been lost. A bridge which spanned Biloxi Bay, and went through the heart of the city, resembles an undone erector set, with pylons sticking up out of the water which, along with super high winds, was it's undoing. Entire once quiet, sedate neighborhoods now look like the results of carpet bombing.

Man has managed to harness many things. We have learned to make the wind work for us via windmills to generate power. We have built massive dams and diverted rivers to make water work for us as well. But with all of this, we are still at the mercy of Mother Nature. We are shocked, saddened, unbelieving and horrified over this most recent visitation in the form of Hurricane Katrina. But has this not happened before? Yes it has. Did we rebuild and start over? Yes we did. But what is it about man that makes us so resilient and yet so naive as to think it will not happen a second or perhaps even a third time? I suppose it is perhaps part of our nature to be risk takers, to defy nature's laws, to believe that we are in control. It still has the power to amaze us when we see so clearly, from the destruction around us, that we most certainly are not, and never really have been.

There are those who will take this opportunity to point out what poor stewards of the earth we are. This may be true, but is it global warming, as some would have us believe, or just a weather pattern that has been going on for thousands of years? To come to any definitive agreement about which it is or isn't would require much cause and affect study. Is the weather pattern a beast of it's own stripe or a result of the fossil fuel usage which has spewed into our atmosphere for decades, uncontrolled? Had we reached the point of no return, the slip over the edge of "reasonable" pollution, to an area that we cannot return from? I think it is a bit of both. Certainly both warmer air and water temperatures act as a banquet which feeds these mighty storms.

Unfortunately, with this, as in all disasters we face, there will be that fringe element which will say it is divine retribution. They will be ready to quote, chapter and verse from the Bible, in an attempt to justify their claims. Or perhaps they will just spew their vitriolic rhetoric, with no attempt at justification, except to say that they claim an inner divine knowledge. This is, of course, a ridiculous premise, that somehow, for some real or imagined sins, the great Intelligent Designer has decided that we need to be punished. If there were any punishment due it would be, simply, for our own stupidity. We build cities on diseased riddled swamps, next to rivers which crest and overflow, on barrier beaches meant to protect inland areas, and expect that we will be safe. And then we face this sort of disaster, once again. Those who are able, move to higher ground and come back to survey the damage. Those who are not able, and it is mostly those who are unable or unwilling, who bear the brunt, lose their lives and homes, and pray that there will be some help for them.

But the help of one group, that has always been present, is glaringly absent this time around. The first contingent of first line responders has, historically, been the National Guard. They have sand bagged, rescued, policed, mopped up and been in the forefront of operations. Not this time, and it is all the more apparent that the home front, whose protection they exist for, is not being served. The Red Cross will be in Mississippi and Louisiana. The government will send in money, and the local authorities will do whatever it is they need to do, to maintain the peace and help with the clean up. Far away states will send groups of telephone and electric linemen to aid in the restoration of these vital services. But there will be no National Guard.

We all need to do whatever it takes to help the people of these two hardest hit states to recover from this devastation. Whether it is to donate through a local church, a food bank or clothing bank. We would expect the same for ourselves were we in the same position. What follows is a list of organizations one can contact in order to aid in the relief efforts.

Support one of the following, or search for other related charities.
American Red CrossProviding disaster services and relief.
America’s Second HarvestProviding food to victims.
Catholic Charities USAProviding relief and recovery assistance.
Charity Hospital in New OrleansProviding medical care to residents of Louisiana.
Church World ServiceDeveloping long-term recovery plans to assist with recovery.
Convoy of HopeProviding disaster relief and building supply lines.
Episcopal Relief & DevelopmentMobilizing to support residents affected by this disaster.
Heart of Florida United WayAssisting with hurricane recovery efforts in Florida.
Hearts with HandsActivating response teams to assist in the Gulf Coast and locally.
Humane Society of the U.S.Rescuing animals and assisting their caregivers in the disaster areas.
Lutheran Disaster ResponseProviding emergency relief and recovery supplies.
Mennonite Disaster ServiceProviding relief to victims.
New Orleans Area Habitat for HumanityAssisting victims of hurricane Katrina.
Noah's WishHelping to keep animals alive in face of the storm devastation.
Operation BlessingTransporting food, water, cleaning kits, and other emergency supplies.
PETsMART CharitiesProviding relief for the animals impacted by hurricanes.
Salvation ArmyLocal, regional, and national disaster relief programs.
Samaritan's PurseHelping victims of natural disasters.
United Methodist Committee on ReliefProviding relief to victims.
United Way for the Greater New Orleans AreaHelping victims of hurricanes locally.
United Way of Miami-DadeHelping victims of hurricanes locally.
Learn MoreLearn how to stay safe. Visit the sites below for tips and resources. American Red Cross
For shelter information in Louisiana, please call 1-800-469-4828.
Find Shelters
Hurricane Safety
Charity NavigatorTips on giving to charity during this crisis.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)Download a family disaster planning kit
FOR KIDS: FEMA for KidsHurricanes
FOR KIDS: Disaster PreparednessDownload a preparedness coloring book from FEMA
National Weather ServiceSevere weather awareness
National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)Hurricanes
State AdvisoryLouisiana