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Friday, September 02, 2005

New Orleans 17th Street Canal Levee Failure

New Orleans, Louisiana looks more like an Isaac Asimov novel everyday. Although I'm not a big science fiction fan of the Asimov variety, I did read one story by this surreal writer when it caught my attention as required reading during a writer's workshop. I can't recall the exact title right now, it was a short story. In the particular plot, Asimov describes an ocean tide that flows out beyond the barrier reefs and never comes back in. People walk around like shadows, literally exploring the ocean floor.

Well, the situation in New Orleans, Louisiana post the devastating hurricane Katrina of August 2005, is like a nightmarish Asimov story in reverse. In the "reality" television saga we are witnessing and people are so mesmerized by, the name of this plot is "The 17th Street Canal Levee Failure". As a result of a major failed levee, New Orleans as we knew it, a.k.a, "The Big Easy", will never-ever be the same. Indeed, it may cease to exist except as a monumental memorial for all who died in floods caused by several levee failures after the hurricane and whose bodies may never be recovered. New Orleans, the city built below sea level, will become a museum, a mortuary and a memorial.

How is this possible?Failure of the 17th Street Canal levee is the result of politicians being asleep at the wheel. So the defense is saying, "Oh, no sireee! Not us. We didn't defer maintenance on the 17th Street Canal Levee." Well, all those who did nothing to advocate for strengthening the 17th Street Canal Levee and the other levees in New Orleans are responsible for the massive failure we are witnessing the consequences of today. Hurricane Katrina didn't cause the catastrophe we are witnessing non-stop in New Orleans tonight and every other night as the tragedy unfolds before our eyes on television.

Rather, pure and simple neglect caused this enormous tragedy - loss of life and property.Neglect at all levels of our society is being witnessed as we cannot escape the result of warehousing people of color who don't know anything but abject powerlessness, as they are herded here and there - families separated. Thanks to CNN, the television station watched by Iraq's evil Saddam Hussein when he was in power, we in America cannot hide our poor anymore. Our problem today is, "Where in the United States will we take those tens of thousands of indigent displaced New Orleans people now?" We can only ship so many thousands of people off to Houston, Texas. Remember, these Katrina refugees can probably never return home again because there is no home in New Orleans anymore, no job and no life to return to.Katrina's aftermath will not end. People are going to die prematurely from the enormous stress brought on by the massive human relocation.

Post traumatic stress disorders will haunt rescuers, children, and everybody who recalls a distinct smell or the sight of decaying bodies left abandoned in the water clogged streets.My prayer is to see the old French Quarter restored, at least Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral where so much of our American and French history is captured in a picturesque city scene. But, mostly, I hope the people affected by this brutal episode will somehow recover.In an administration where tax cuts are touted as being good for our economy, the people most affected by the lack of indigent services are now complete wards of our government.America is finally accepting foreign aid from third world countries because other people of color, who also watch CNN, can clearly see the black and tan faces of the refugees caught in New Orleans - the victims of the 17th street Canal Levee Failure.

Those television faces are finally seeing light of day after being buried behind euphemisms in labels like "The Big Easy".The world is seeing a reflection of the real America, and what they see is black and poor.Eventually, America's Army Corps of Engineers will figure out how to drain the water from the City of New Orleans. Nevertheless, there may never be a permanent fix for the 17th Street Canal Levee. Someday, when New Orleans streets are drained, we will see people returning to the places they once called their "home", walking like shadows on what once became the ocean floor after the 17th Street Canal Levee Failure of 2005.We'd likely call Asimov a creative pessimist if he ever wrote a story about the City of New Orleans disappearing. Instead, I'm calling this sad saga in our American weather history a shameful failure of government.

Like a beautiful black fourth grader said to one NBC newsman, "This is pitiful. What happens if another hurricane comes before we get out of here?" Well, the poor young man must know, there's no 17th Street Canal Levee to protect anybody right now. Please God, keep any future hurricanes in the ocean and away from our U.S. Gulf Coast.If I could write like Asimov, I'd create a horrifying ghost story around the failure of the 17th Street Canal Levee in New Orleans. I’d call my story The Ghost of Greed and Neglect.Americans are all paying for the failure of the New Orleans 17th Street Canal Levee.

We are suffering with those who are left completely helpless by this tragedy. Moreover, our economy must somehow absorb all the devastation and necessary restoration.Our American sprit must soar to this dyer occasion. We must somehow and someday repair the New Orleans 17th Street Canal Levee, even if it turns out to be a place to dedicate a mortuary marker.

Rebuilding New Orleans must include provisions for never letting greed and neglect affect so many innocent people again.