The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU students gather around a bucket of markers to write an encouraging note to put in “Welcome to the Shelter” kits at event in mid-April on SMU’s campus.
Dallas homeless recovery center, The Bridge, is a home
Morgan Shiver, Contributor • June 20, 2024

Federal mismanagement

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, I find myself appalled not only by the images of destruction and suffering but also by the response of the federal government.

There seemed to be no discernable chain of command. People were drowning in their own homes, and FEMA couldn’t get their pants on.

Even more disturbing was the surprise evinced by President Bush and Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff when the levees broke, especially since the problems with New Orleans’ levees were realized in 2001.

The scenario we are witnessing was spelled out almost identically in articles in “The Times-Picayune” and “Scientific American.”

Okay, so we didn’t know that the levees would be breached, despite expert criticism and predictions of a situation exactly like this, but we definitely knew that there was going to be a major hurricane hitting the Louisiana coast, right?!

So why wasn’t FEMA prepared for the aftermath? The federal government couldn’t have possibly expected Louisiana to take care of this alone. What was the point of reorganizing the intelligence community, creating a new cabinet position and placing FEMA under the jurisdiction of Homeland Security? After hearings and investigations into 9/11 and the money spent to ensure that the government could handle a disaster, little to no progress has been made.

I would not be surprised if there is a 9/11-esque investigation into the failure of the government to efficiently respond to this crisis. The finger pointing which has already ensued is quite frankly ridiculous.

Bush and Chertoff have done their part to dodge any bullets by blaming local officials like Democratic Governor Kathleen Blanco for the delayed action to assist those remaining in New Orleans.

Apparently it was their responsibility to coordinate the evacuation. We’ve invested $200 billion in Iraq, but you’re on your own in New Orleans.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is infuriated and blames the feds for “feeding the public a line of bull.” A power struggle between federal and state governments has been playing out at the expense of hurricane victims.

Now is not the time for assessing culpability, guys — you have more important things to do. I promise you that the people sleeping in the Astrodome tonight are not concerned with whose fault it is, because they’re too busy searching for family members.

Head of FEMA Michael Brown held New Orleans residents responsible. He said that they knew that they were supposed to evacuate. Well, yes, they did, I’ll give him that much. You do the math, Michael. These people are living at or below the poverty line; they don’t have cars or money to get a hotel.

That’s the sad reality of this situation; the people trapped in this city, waiting for the aid that has been promised, are predominately African Americans. It’s unrealistic and elitist for our government to assume that everyone in New Orleans had the means to evacuate. Former First Lady Barbara Bush knew this, but she seems quite satisfied with the conditions in which they are now living. She said, “so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivaleged anyway, so this — this is working very well for them.” Most of the people in New Orleans who had the means to get out did, but some were stubborn and stayed behind, because it’s always “the big one.”

While the blame game and press conferences and debates over who’s in charge went on, residents of New Orleans were simply waiting for food and water. Despite administration promises that the President would “not allow any form of bureaucracy to get in the way,” clearly he has.

If no one is going to step up to the plate, then we’re bound to see a little lawlessness. Granted, there are some who are taking advantage of the situation by stealing jewelry and televisions, but the rest are trying to survive.

If I’ve been waiting for days and my kids are starving, I’m going to bust that window. We’ve seen the best in some people and the worst in others. Survivors tearfully speak of the rapes happening at the convention center, but in the same city, a young man rowed a group of children from his housing project to safety after being begged by their mothers to help them.

So what can be learned from this catastrophe in federal management? I think New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said it best: “Get off your asses and lets do something.” These aren’t refugees; they are Americans.

Cynthia Halatyn is a sophomore political science major. She may be contacted at [email protected].

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