And we thought it only happened to us in the Philippines

Hurricane Katrina will never be forgotten — even by us who were spared but were touched all the same by the widespread destruction and misery it wrought on so many people.

I have been meaning to write a post on this disaster for some time now, but besides the fact that I’ve been terribly preoccupied, it is not easy to write of suffering, even if they aren’t directly mine.  When we first heard of the ravages of this storm, the first thought that came to mind was why New Orleans?  I had gotten used to hurricane after hurricane hitting Florida.  With the devastating strength of this one, it was a relief that disaster-weary Florida was spared.

The real dimensions of the disaster did not quite strike until a day or two after when reports of how people were trying to wait for relief to come while holed up in the Superdome, or how much of the city was immersed in several feet of water started trickling in.  What truly brought it home was when after 4 or 5 days, people were starting to die not from the hurricane itself, but from the paralysis that the states affected suffered due to the breakdown of infrastructure and communication channels. 

And we thought only we in the Philippines have known of such disasters where whole mountains collapsed on towns due to unstoppable rain.  Where people resorted to stealing to make it from day to day until the civilized world remembered them.  Hindi pala..

This has been quite a wake up call to the Americans.  (Here I go again, distinguishing.. you can see that I view it as them, because deep inside, Pinay pa rin ako.)  I can only guess that much of the outrage comes from the fact that nobody thought something like this can happen on American soil — where, after a natural calamity, the federal government and the state failed to respond in a timely and adequate manner.

Sa Pilipinas, hindi na kataka-taka yung bagal ng pamahalaan, ng pagdating ng tulong, ngunit kahit pa sabihing mabagal at kulang, merong dumarating.  You would think that in a super power like the United States, aid would come in the snap of a finger.  Come it did not.  The private sector was quick to jump in with many huge corporations donating tons of goods, but getting them to the people who needed them was another matter altogether.  I don’t want to join the finger pointing, but something tells me it was just the enormity of the tragedy that crippled the system that everyone was depending on.

Not only did communities get flooded, but the strength of the winds of Hurricane Katrina wiped out homes and businesses.  Many people who were spared from the floodwaters were nevertheless devastated by the destruction of their homes.  Memories, livelihood and families were torn to shreds.

I have been trying to catch the news on television to get up to speed, and I can’t help but sit spellbound as I watched people being plucked from the rooftop of what once was their homes onto rescue helicopters.  I used to see the same thing being undertaken whenever the central plains of Luzon were deluged by floodwaters. 

And we thought it could only happen in the Philippines…





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