Wednesday, August 31, 2005

On the scariest thing that's happened in my lifetime

Okay, so parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama are gone. Gone. Just gone. People were evacuated from their homes, and came back to a lack of home. Not even, in some cases, a ruined home, or the rubble of a home. Nothing. During the leadup to Katrina's landfall, I was thinking about how horrible it must have been to prepare for something like that, to decide which parts of your life could be packed up and loaded into the car and which parts to leave behind, and I thought it was possibly worse than losing everything to a fire, because with the hurricane, you had time to think. When you wake up to the smoke detector, you grab your kids and your pets and your purse and the photo album and Grandma's Bible by your bed and you're out the door. With a hurricane, you have time to sit there and ponder the fact that whatever you choose to bring means one thing you have to leave, and that the things that you leave are things you're likely to never see again.

Those feelings of despair, however, have to pale in comparison to the reality of it all, the coming home to find nothing. Or the staying, hoping to ride it out, and watching it all literally dissolve in front of you. One elderly man interviewed by NBC talked about clinging to a tree, holding onto his wife for hours, until she said, "Honey, you can't hold on like this forever. Take care of the kids and the grandkids," and then she was gone.

Every report is worse. I've been listening to them on the radio, which somehow seems to make them scarier than watching them on TV. I hear reporters talking about buildings with black Xs on the doors to signal that there are dead bodies inside, because the boats can't stop for the dead when there are so many living people clinging to trees and holed up in attics. When I do see reports on TV, they're always showing New Orleans, particularly the French Quarter, and it's always under water, and I realize that New Orleans is gone. It's not just a historical landmark that got knocked down or a favorite vacation site that closed up, it's a city, and it's gone.

Various hateful wacko Christian loonies have suggested that disasters like the recent spate of hurricanes occur because the US has displeased God, that our tolerance for gays and abortion and feminism and take-your-pick has caused Him to lift His protection from us. Of course, all sane people scoffed at that. But now, I can't help but start to wonder. I don't think for a minute that God has lifted his protection from us to punish us for loving our fellow man as His son taught us, but as the Gulf coast got spanked and spanked by hurricanes until ultimately, it was completely destroyed, if does make me wonder if maybe the Almighty isn't trying to send us a message that we just plain aren't getting. If so, I hope He picks a less destructive way of sending it next time. I hate to think of all of those innocent people losing their homes, their families, everything, because we just can't figure it out.

This has been unlike anything I've seen before. I hate to pull the 9/11 card, but I do remember watching the footage shortly after the towers fell and thinking, There were two great big towers there, and now they're gone, and they'll never be back. And now I look at New Orleans under water, and I think the same thing, except it's a city. Buildings can be rebuilt, possessions can be replaced, but you can't just put together a city from blueprints and shopping lists. Regardless of what sits on the land designated New Orleans, or Gulfport, or Biloxi, it'll be an imitation, a reproduction, an eerily accurate Disneyland Small Small World version of the real thing, and that's the scariest thing that's happened in my lifetime.

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