We’ve all watched the video clips, the newsfeeds, the nightly broadcasts. Photographers have sent back horrifying and moving images of profound devastation. Relief efforts are underway. Family members still wait.
January 12th. A 7.0 magnitude.
But it wasn’t all that long ago that video clips, broadcasts and images from our own country horrified and moved. I had an opportunity just days after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast to tour the destruction. I was unprepared for what I saw. Here are a few of the images I took.
I toured the communities and spoke to their residents. And I’ve had an opportunity to stay in touch with some of them afterwards. More than once, I’ve heard stories about chaos during the first weeks, hordes of relief workers coming in to help but without the skills and capacity to actually do so, scams and con schemes by those looking to capitalize, and a sense that once the eyes of the nation turned away, the residents were left alone with the real work of rebuilding.
I’ve been thinking a lot about that experience since January 12th. Hurricane Katrina seemed so extreme, so vast… but now in the wake of what happened in Haiti, I have a new frame of reference, a new definition of disaster. The magnitude of impact, the number of lives lost, the lingering uncertainties are all still difficult to fully comprehend.
But I remember what they said in Pass Christian and Gulfport. They said that they still needed the help weeks and months later. Some still do today. I hope that as the world moves on, as the broadcasts slow and newsfeeds diminish, we’ll still care about Haiti. We’ll still help.