Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Fears of Katrina's Children

We are in an age of unease and insecurity and it is not just because we are getting older.
As kids, we looked to our grownup parents to help us get through horrible nightmares about North Korea and mushroom clouds, and to our teachers who would prepare us for the inevitable attack by shouting "Take cover", making us on a moment's notice get into some miserably crumpled position under our school desks to hide from the flying glass. We knew we were growing bigger when the little desk started to push down on us in such a way that it was almost backbreaking to crawl back out. There were a few things for us kids to worry about back in the 50's. Not only did we have that mushroom cloud of death taunting us, we also had the scourge of polio that we knew could leave us crippled for life.

What are these children in New Orleans and Mississippi thinking about and feeling now? What does rain mean these days, except, maybe, horrible floods that can render your mother and father helpless to take care of you. Even if you weren't directly a flood victim, you still have television which devoted hours and hours to pictures of shrieking parents, shaking babies in the air, begging our leaders for something so incredibly simple, like water.

We lived the hurricane as it traveled down Miami way as it was not supposed to do, and remembered Andrew as we listened to the transformers pop, one after the other, giving us the first hint that we would be without electric for some time to come. We weren't supposed to be cleaning up the five gallons of water that dumped in our bedrooms and living rooms and we didn't prepare for spending the fall months putting up new roofs. We were unaware and dumbstruck and some of us were affected in a worse way than we were with Andrew.

There was a real model of the devastating path this hurricane could take and the Hurricane Center gave it brief mention in their discussion site much earlier in the day. It was a model that diverged so greatly from all the others that had the storm traveling north and then quickly dying, because it pointed out a hurricane cat one that would travel in the southwestern motion, going toward the Everglades and the Keys, and then quickly strengthening at sea to become an exceptionally dangerous storm. The reason this path was mentioned at all was that this particular model is the model that correctly predicted Hurricane Andrew in 1992. By late morning, the model was gone from the discussion.
As we here in Florida watched the dangerous category five ball rolling out there in the Gulf, we knew what was going to happen to the Gulf coast, because we knew what happened when it was only a category one. Max Mayfield of the National Hurricane Center right here in Coral Gables warned the White House long before Katrina arrived.Warned them that the levee would be breached.

We will remember these times as a time that our White house made a promise to us that it did not keep. The promise to keep us secure from a sudden terrorist attack sits flat when they cannot even protect us from a fairly predictable disaster that could be witnessed on radar. How can they protect us from a biological disaster, when they are the ones who contributed to the toxic ocean of the once incredibly beautiful city of New Orleans?

Our children today are scared, I know. I lived during bogeyman times myself. The difference is that during those times our fears may not have been rational. We were scared of ideologies, but mostly of a bomb that likely would not have been unleashed by responsible countries, no matter what their ideologies may have been. The children of today are frightened and with good reason. The White House tries to assuage its guilt by handing out debit cards but it doesn't work. No money in this world can calm the fears of the children who faced catasrophe in their short lifetimes-A catastrophe caused by their own "protectors". They are scared, their parents are scared, and here in Miami, I am scared too.