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Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016

Disaster brings out best, worst in us

Thursday, September 1, 2005

An event such as Hurricane Katrina brings out both the best and the worst in humanity. In just three short days, we have seen both examples.

So many words have been written on the events unfolding in New Orleans, my thoughts are far from original. But if you sit back and watch the day-to-day changes in the Gulf Coast region, you're struck with pride and awe and anger. Historians will argue over our preparedness for this natural catastrophe. State and federal officials say they have been in the planning stages for just such an occurrence for many years. And some of that planning is evident. Yet there seems to be a huge level of disorganization that quite frankly is understandable given the size of this disaster.

I doubt any plans would address the total evacuation of a city the size of New Orleans. The best laid plans will never be able to anticipate the thousands of minor details that impact people's lives. And in many ways, New Orleans' population itself makes the task all the more difficult. The city has a large low-income population without independent resources to take care of their basic needs. If you want a worst case scenario, you have it along the Gulf Coast.

At present there are 20,000 National Guardsmen on their way to the area. There needs to be triple that amount. But then you have the issue of housing and feeding that explosion in the population which is a challenge in itself.

In the middle of this desperation and suffering comes the looters. I hesitate to share my true feelings on these people because I have far too much anger to think rationally. But first, there is a difference and a distinction between those who take food for their families and those who steal guns for their greed. A man who takes food and diapers and water is simply surviving. A man who steals televisions and jewelry in these times is an animal who should be treated accordingly.

Rescue personnel are trying desperately to save lives. But their task is made virtually impossible by roving bands of armed gangs intent on taking control. There is a special place in hell for these looters. That one thought is somehow comforting to me.

The legacy of Hurricane Katrina will be the bravery and sacrifice shown by thousands of great Americans. But the footnote to this disaster will be the actions of those who take advantage of this sad situation. They may well get away with their deeds in this lifetime. But they won't escape notice in the end.

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Michael Jensen
Michael Jensen