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ZZZ-RETIRED Storms External & Storms Internal

Reflections 65 Miles from Ground Zero, One Year After Katrina and Rita

From the Reverend Dr. Steve J. Crump, Sr. Minister, Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge

Either Katrina or Rita could have hit Baton Rouge but our city was spared from those devastating storms of last year. Our friends and relatives were not spared. Our entire coastline was hit big time. And Baton Rouge will never be the same due to the influx of so many evacuees. An estimated 50,000 are still here. Over in Texas, they say the hurricane that smashed into Galveston 106 years ago created what Houston is today, a great city more inland but still vulnerable to hurricanes. In western Louisiana, where people are still attempting to rebuild their lives, Hurricane Rita is called "the forgotten hurricane" because it did not directly hit Houston. Rita hit east of Houston and parishes south of Lake Charles, Louisiana—the rural communities.

Next time a disaster could be my city or yours. Most of us here believe there will be a next time. There is a foreboding about it. There is depression, not only of the tropical kind, but the kind that affects the psyche. There have been suicides. And while the death count from Katrina is under 2000 lives—still counting—we know of many among the elderly who survived the evacuation but who did not survive the dislocating consequences of the storms.

What observations do I make as I look over a war-zone where neighborhoods used to reside on the Gulf Coast? Here are my observations, one year later:

  1. The devastation was too big to fix in a year. The casinos are making a comeback, but many homes have not changed one iota since the storms, save for the weeds that now grow within the rubble.
  2. Government had to assist. Thanks to the federal government, billions are sitting in the banks of Louisiana from which the first home rebuilding payments were only recently allocated to fund "The Road Home" program. How would you like to be on the team that decides which homeowner receives $50K and which receives $150K? It is an enormous undertaking. Get ready for the criticism to begin.
  3. People are resilient, but the human spirit can break.
  4. People are resilient and amazingly resourceful. They are inspirations of a high order.
  5. The work we do to make a difference is extremely meaningful work. We bless all volunteers who come to the Gulf Coast to help. On Saturday, a team of 17 adults from our church drove down to New Orleans and gutted a home. They were exhausted. But after a night's rest, they were in church the next morning smiling from ear to ear, telling the congregation about their experience with their Power Point Prayer.
  6. We are contingent beings. If there were ever to be an agreed upon confession for UUs, let it be the acknowledgement that we are interdependent, yes, and contingent, double yes.
  7. And if there is anything that seems to get us through bad stuff, it's this little sentence we tell each other: "I don't know exactly how we are going to get through this, but we will get through this together."

Blessings to all who have demonstrated their care.

Steve J. Crump