Saturday, September 03, 2005

Stories of Kindness

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina - a phrase I expect we will be using for quite some time - there is plenty of blaming going on. It is not that I don't think there is blame that is deserved - I am sure there is. It is not that I don't expect myself to be making decisions about politicians based on the response to this tragedy because I do. But I would like to focus here on some stories of kindness. There is no way I could possibly - especially geographically removed as I am from the hurricane affected areas - account for all of them. So consider these to be representative. For the most part, I will not attempt to name names - not because these people are nameless, but because to do so incompletely would be a disservice to those whose stories I do not know about.
Although the exception to the above, will be Mayor Ray Nagin. I'm sure as the immediacy of this disaster fades he will come to be included in the list of people who are blamed in part for failure to properly anticipate this disaster. But for now, this man, who had never held political office but who wanted to help New Orleans. I'm sure he had no idea what was to come, but while sending his family and most of his staff to safety, he has remained. He has worked hard to try and get his city the aid and assistance it needed, while balancing the need to get the word out through the media with the need to stop talking and start doing.
People - referred to by many as looters - took food, water, orange juice and carried it to victims still waiting for a way out of New Orleans. (It is ironic that a city that sees so many people come and go each year, has now become so difficult for people to leave.)
A reporter taking footage of hospital patients still stranded in New Orleans, stopped and shared some water with an old man lying on a cot on the floor.
Two parents trying to locate their newborn baby who they assumed had been evacuated from New Orleans told everyone they could find about their story. Eventually they were reunited with their son after a six or seventh degree of connection made a call to the right hospital and got the number back to them.
A woman whose name is Katrina, so had a website in her name, discovered she was getting increasing numbers of hits as the hurricane approached and then struck. She has converted her website to a hurricane relief information site for the duration.
A vetrinarian stayed with animals that had been kenneled as their owners left, because he promised the owners. With some help, he has now evacuated all the animals.
Medical staff who stayed at hospitals in New Orleans went without food so that their patients could have more to eat. Then, hungry and tired, they carried their patients to buildings where the helicopters could reach them.
Even as others struggle to leave and help others leave the city, crews have been working tirelessly to help repair the broken levee on Lake Pontchartrain so that they can try and get the city - well not fixed - but in a better place.
Cities and states across the country have opened shelters and stadiums for displaced people. They have offered medical personnel and construction personnel. Schools and colleges have said we will make room, we will take on extra students, we will find a place to educate displaced students. A university in Austria also volunteered to take additional students from the US.
US and Canadian airlines have offered planes to assist with transporting evacuees to other locations. Some airports have waived landing and other fees for planes assisting with hurricane relief efforts.
Over 60 countries - without us even asking - have volunteered search and rescue personnel and equipment, disaster relief coordination teams, medical staff, medicine, cruise ships to house displaced people, construction workers and other aid. Some of these are countries we do not normally consider allies.
The Red Cross has been overwhelmed with people offering to volunteer. They have held additional training sessions across the country, and many of them have had waiting lists.
One sports team, loaded up their plane with relief supplies before heading to the south for the game. People across the country have offered their homes to displaced people.