Katrina Watch

Nation must find a way to sustain its feelings of concern

September 17, 2005

Katrina, as a watchword for the Gulf Coast destruction and clean-up, remains on our minds, as well it should.

Hood River News takes two close looks in this issue at the business and human sides of relief and rebuilding in the flood-wracked South.

Writer and photographer Allan Campbell finds deep human emotion among Oregon National Guard men and women as they strive to help residents in and around New Orleans. (see Shades of green)

In a report by RaeLynn Ricarte, U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore, has said he supports a full investigation into the local, state and federal response to the Gulf Coast plight. (see (Un)natural disaster)

Walden is right that those questions need to be put on hold until the immediate needs of the storm refugees have been addressed.

Welcome news indeed was President Bush’s announcement Thursday of his plans to support a massive funding effort to rebuild the Gulf Coast.

With a massive rebuilding effort ongoing in Iraq, the big question is how the federal government will pay to revive the Gulf Coast.

And somehow, the federal, local and state governments must still be called to task for why relief and rescue efforts broke down in New Orleans and other areas.

But a key point can get lost along with persistence in attaching blame or swiftness in political spinning on the president’s far-reaching rebuilding plan: Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath is not just a regional storm but a national crisis that ties us all together.

As Walden points out, the hurricane devastated an area roughly the size of Oregon and a population comparable to Portland’s was displaced. “The scope of this crisis is clearly beyond anything that we’ve ever dealt with and we’re still trying to get our hands around it.”

As has been stated on this page before, mid-Columbia Gorge residents have rallied in many ways to help Katrina victims. And those efforts locally and around the country must continue for months to come. People around here are cognizant of this, and equipped to help.

Nonetheless, even in the most drastic of crises, people reach a point where it is tough to keep giving, even tough to keep acting on our feelings of compassion. Empathy is harder to muster as one’s own daily life goes on, with its own set of challenges.

Yet the extent of the devastation on the United States’ “third coast” will mean a long and painful duration to what is a national problem.

Donor fatigue has nothing on the daily fatigue felt by the homeless or jobless residents of the Gulf Coast area.

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