Volume 40, Issue 9 September 2005
Issue @ Hand
Hell and High Water
Weather wins. Water wins. Every time. Wind will win if strong enough or against too weak an opponent (and as you’ll see in our report that begins on page 52, the building codes along the Gulf Coast are no where near as stringent as those in Florida, though I expect that this will change quickly now, too.) Given this, I wonder why we even thought we had a chance against Katrina at all.
Like you, I’ve spent the past week or so watching the horror unfold. My heart goes out to our readers who are living through it. The faces of victims, dead and alive, human and animal, are haunting. This disaster makes you sad, makes you grieve, makes you outraged all at the same time. It hurts so much on so many levels that it is hard to sleep at night. I feel guilty and relieved at the same time that I am safe in my bed with a roof over my head.
Katrina may have destroyed untold buildings and taken too many lives, but she also took something else from us. She took away our basic belief that our society and institutions can stand up against anything. She cheats us of the feeling that we are never really alone, and that it never is “every man for himself” in this society. I always believed that we would rise to any challenge. I believed we would get help quickly from all governments—local and national—in any disaster, and that the police would provide protection after a disaster. I am not so sure now.
There will be plenty of time to assess blame for what went wrong. I hope we put way more energy into fixing the problems than we do into the blame game. “You Americans,” one of our Italian customers once said to me, “finger-pointing is your national sport. You can not accept that some things just happen, they are accidents or nature and nobody’s fault. You must blame someone. And then you sue them.”
It’s been 105 years since the Galveston Hurricane killed more than 8,000. I would think in 105 years we would have made enough progress to keep such great losses from a catastrophe from happening again. But we have not.
Our special report begins on page 52. It is the result of some extraordinary efforts by Ellen Chilcoat, Charles Cumpston and Brigid O’Leary, along with our production and art departments, who tore up the issue to bring this story to you. It is the beginning of a dialogue on hurricane protection that will last many years.
The last time we had to tear up an issue on press, change covers and replace stories with breaking national news was October 2001. That was two weeks after September 11 changed everything in this country.
Now, as we said “stop the presses” in the face of one of our country’s greatest natural disasters, I fear that we are all shaken at our core once again. Just as 9/11 showed us that we were no match for man-made enemies bent on destruction, Hurricane Katrina has reminded us that nature, with full fury, can beat us every time.
I pray that we don’t have to stop the presses again for many years to come.
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