January 14, 2010


(Katrina aftermath - grief rides a puffy white cloud)

As the news filters in, and each new report brings the tragedy of Haiti into sharper perspective, I'm reminded of disasters we've faced in the past, and some in the not too distant past. As someone who lives in Southern California and who has been through the 1971 and 1994 earthquakes (and countless "aftershocks" in between) I know how horrifying an earthquake can be. There is nothing like it - oh, maybe a terrorist bombing comes close. Most all other disasters you can see coming and there is some window, however short, to escape or prepare. An earthquake is sudden and violent and disorienting and its destruction is instant and complete. The initial terror and shock become compounded as aftershocks rumble on for hours, days and weeks afterward - you continue to never know when the next one will hit. But somehow you can never convey the true sense of terror of an earthquake until you've been in one and experienced it. You will never forget it.

Needless to say, since Haiti was not considered part of "Earthquake Country", the shock and terror are double fold. And the amount of death and destruction surely reflects a place that hasn't experienced one in a long, long time. I heard a report last night that the last time an earthquake hit that region was in the 1700s. At this point its a miracle anything is left standing.

But I bring up Hurricane Katrina as a reminder of how devastating a disaster can be, no matter what the circumstances. The past few hours have seen a reaction from the comfortable and smug as to why President Obama reacted as quickly to the disaster as he did. Katrina is a reminder of a President who acted in the opposite - and the reaction is still being felt, almost five years later.

President Bush: "Brownie, you're doin' a heckuva job!"

So, as a refresher course in disasters past and how we, of all people, aren't immune to them, here is a radio documentary produced by CBS Radio in September of 2005 "Katrina: A National Disaster".

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