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Volume 71, Issue 11, Tuesday, September 6, 2005


Stay strong in face of uncertainty

Giugi Carminati
Opinion columnist

My heart goes out to the people whose lives Hurricane Katrina wrecked. I have volunteered at a local hospital and plan on volunteering much more in the coming months. I hope all of you plan on doing the same. This column could have been about President Bush's poor response or our country's sheer lack of preparation in the face of a completely predictable tragedy. 

But I won't do that; others will for me. What I want to talk about this week is perspective and ramifications. There are so many effects of this tragedy that many of us barely comprehend and certainly have trouble articulating. When I hear it articulated by others, my heart sinks, and somehow I feel closer to the victims. 

The meaning of losing everything needs to be fully reflected upon. Many of these people have literally lost everything. That pillow you hug when you go home at night, the TV you sit in front of to relax, your books you look at and never read, your favorite pair of shoes, the picture of a dear friend - all these things you own, most victims have lost. But this is not about property. Our surroundings make up our emotional framework. The victims lost that when Katrina hit.

Businesses have been destroyed and jobs have disappeared along with them. These cannot just be rebuilt. It means people no longer have a livelihood. They have seen 20, 30, 40 years of effort, hard labor and dedication swept away.

Lawyers have lost confidential files. The justice system's paper records are gone. The web of law enforcement at the judicial level has been effaced in a brutal manner. Hospitals, where people go to live and at times survive, are offline. Every person who needs medications on a regular basis no longer has access to them.

Katrina disrupted the lives of its victims in such a way that, to put it bluntly, the worst is still to come. A population has had its framework, its livelihood, its network of support taken away from it. There is nothing more brutal than that.

Parents don't have formula for their children, schools are shut down and college students have had to interrupt their lives with little certainty as to where they will be going next. 

And where are they now? In the Astrodome and Reliant Stadium, being shipped from left to right with no hope of regaining any form of stability for at least a few months. New Orleans will be under the water for another 36 to 80 days: What will be left of it once the water is removed? How many bodies will they find? How are we going to survive this? Will we be strong enough to stay united through it all?

And from Houston's perspective, can we absorb such an influx of poverty? How are we going to tackle this? Are we going to have compassion long enough to aid them? How can we ensure we provide enough help to those who are joining our city in such a way so they will become fully integrated if they decide to stay? 

We need to stay strong, to stay together, to be proud that we are able to reach out to other Americans regardless of race, social class, income or skill. We need to remember that, first and foremost, their pain could be ours.

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