I talked to my sister in Houston, Texas late Saturday afternoon. She had to call out because any attempt to call in was met with a busy signal or an all lines were busy message. She was okay and the rest of our family in the area was okay as well. Hurricane Ike had came through and moved on. By the time we talked, Ike was pretty close to Arkansas. But in the hurricane’s wake, what are normally blue skies and sunny, was a maelstrom of the most ferocious thunderstorms my sister said she ever experienced.
The year before I moved away from Houston I would regularly go to the coast and spend the night on one of the barrier islands. I would head south on Texas 288 to Clute, Texas and then take Texas 332 to Surfside, Texas hang a left onto Texas 257 and the Bluewater highway and head east towards Mud Island. The night mosquitoes on the beach would be relentless. But the sounds of the ocean and Yemonja, the constant breeze of Oya, and watching the sunrise over the Orisa of the horizon are well worth the effort. The dreams such closeness to nature inspires are truly a phenomenon on their own.
Early Sunday morning the affects of Ike were all over the news. I saw pictures of the destruction of so many familiar stomping grounds of mine. I saw picture of Bilovar Peninsula with so many empty piers that once held beautiful vacation homes. Entire neighborhoods swept away as if they never existed. The only things left behind are the streets and the sidewalks. I saw pictures of the debris along the Galveston Island’s seawall. I’m surprised to see the San Luis, the giant hotel built on a pier that juts out from the seawall and over the water, still standing. I saw the pictures of the water flooding the interior of Galveston. I saw the flooding along The Strand. And Sunday morning I saw the National Guard distributing supplies and water from the back of trucks.
Only hours after the storms cleared the area the National Guard was on the scene setting up shop to help. President Bush was on television telling the world that this is what our country does after a disaster or some other superfluous nonsense. I’ve gotten to a point that I don’t expect him to say anything but the obvious whenever he gives one of his infamous say nothing speeches. I was upset with the noticeable difference between what happened after Katrina and what happened here. But nevertheless, people are upset that the government was still dragging its feet.
The aftermath of Katrina looks like it will forever be the standard for incompetent government. Four days after the storm cleared the area the people in New Orleans and the surrounding municipalities were waiting for some kind of help from the federal government. People sat in the shadow of the Superdome and waited for help, and waited, and waited, and waited. The storm not only inundated the city with water, it besieged local and state governments while the federal government pussyfooted around in an uncanny impersonation of the perpetually loosing Washington Generals to the finesse of the disaster’s Harlem Globetrotters. While people were suffering the President, the Vice President, the National Security Advisor, and the director of the Federal Emergency Management Association acted as if it was business as usual.
This go round has people at least trying to respond. Although clearly overwhelmed the President at least acknowledged that there was a disaster. That in itself is a good thing. The rest of the executive branch is actually trying to mobilize and get people to safety or to provide some relief for the people who stayed behind. There was an extreme amount of damage to our structured, civilized world and all the preparation in the world can’t counter some of nature’s more intense moves.
If I was one of the people in Galveston who waited in the long lines for water and other supplies for my family only to be told that supplies ran out I have no doubt that I would be angry and frustrated and ready to slander the people there to help as everything incompetent and first class examples of ineffectiveness and stupidity. I would conveniently forget that I made their jobs that much harder and the amount of supplies needed just one more family greater. I would forget that I have contributed to their daunting task at hand. I know that chances are good that I would forget that the people in New Orleans waited four days for any help while people are there to help me within hours after the storms clear.
But by any measure one cares to take the response to Ike has been a gargantuan improvement over the gross incompetence and indifference we’ve seen our government capable of. I hope I can remember that whenever I’m caught in a disaster of historic proportions, especially when the need for someone else to respond to my need for help or rescue is partially due to my decision to stay or my inability to leave.