I have spent hours today in front of the television, watching the footage of the damage left in Hurricane Katrina’s wake. The magnitude of the disaster is almost too much to comprehend…an entire American city devastated and soon to be completely abandoned. It’s astonishing. I have a few friends in New Orleans…and luckily, they got out before the storm hit, but their homes and possessions are probably gone, submerged under twenty feet of water. Being a writer, you can’t help but think of all the amazing stories coming from this disaster — heart-breaking and horrifying, heartwarming and life-affirming — many of them playing out right in front of us on the TV screen.
In a sad way, it’s also one of those great, unifying moments for our nation. When something like this happens, we aren’t New Yorkers or Californians, Democrats or Republicans… we are all Americans. The tragedy draws us closer together as a nation. Yes, it happened to the Gulf Coast but we all feel the horror and the sadness. We all know someone who is personally affected by this. My heart goes out to all the victims and their loved ones. I can’t imagine what it must feel like.
And that’s the other thing this tragedy brings home. It could happen here. No, it will happen here.
I live in Los Angeles, where a cataclysmic earthquake isn’t a possibility, it’s a certainty…one we all choose to ignore (or to pretend won’t happen in our lifetime). Likewise, everybody knew that New Orleans was built in a bowl below sea level, that massive flooding was inevitable, that everyone living there was on borrowed time. What happened in the Gulf Coast this week is a horrifying reminder of what we here will face some day.