|The Voice Of Leadership|
One thing that has been lost, I think, in the aftermath of Katrina and the scandals of New Orleans, is the fact that the storm actually made landfall in Mississippi and did massive damage there, too. But an effective governor--Haley Barbour--and state and local officials have limited the residual destruction, and now the governor has addressed a special session of the state legislature. I have chose a few choice excerpts here, though I would try to find the whole thing if I were you. (The speech was actually sent to me via e-mail, so I don't have a link; it shouldn't be hard to find)
Thank you. Governor Tuck, Speaker McCoy, ladies andgentlemen of the Legislature....Fellow Mississippians.
Just over four weeks ago, Hurricane Katrina, the worst natural disaster in American history, struck our GulfCoast and South Mississippi a grievous blow.
Ourstate... our citizens, bore the brunt of a hurricanemore devastating than Camille, and the miles uponmiles of utter destruction is unimaginable, except tothose who have witnessed it with their own eyes, onthe ground.
In her wake, Katrina left literally tens of thousandsof uninhabitable, often obliterated homes; thousandsof small businesses in shambles; dozens of schools andpublic buildings ruined and unusable; highways andports and railroads; water and sewer systems, all destroyed. . . .
But in the last month I've learned that an awful disaster, with its myriad of tragedies for individuals and families, also brings out the best in most people. And that has surely been the case in our state.
What a debt we owe those first responders who riskedall to save lives that Monday evening. The localfiremen and policemen, EMTs - many of whom lost theirown homes that day in the storm - were that night rescuing their neighbors. The column of state law enforcement officer - highway patrolmen, narcotics agents, investigators - who, with several hundredNational Guardsmen, left Hattiesburg Monday afternoonled by MDOT crews who cut a lane open on Highway49...7 1/2 hours to go 60 miles, but that night they joined local police and firemen in search and rescue,and to crack down on looting.
The stories of ordinary people displaying extraordinary courage and uncommon selflessness are,well, extremely common. The conservation officers intheir boats searching the trees and roofs and rescuing people from the flood waters Monday; the Waveland police, whose plan was to ride out the storm in theirheadquarters, who got up on the roof when the building flooded and swam off into the raging sea when thebuilding collapsed...clung to trees or debris to save their own lives...and that very night, their own homes destroyed, were on duty, saving their neighbors; or the Coast Guard helicopter crews from Mobile, who flew in Monday to conduct search and rescue operations on the Coast... fearless young men, who hung from helicopters, on ropes, dangling through air, in the dark that first night, pulling people from roofs and trees. By the first Friday these Coast Guard daredevils had lifted 1700 Mississippians to safety by hoisting them into helicopters.
Some of the men and women who performed these heroic deeds are with us today. To them, and the literally hundreds and thousands of genuine heroes whom they represent, your state and a grateful people thank you. Because of heroes like these the death toll from Katrina, while too high and still not final, is remarkably low compared to the immense destruction.
The local officials, who ordered mandatory evacuations, saved lives. And the thousands of inland families who took in friends and families, before Katrina struck, made it possible for their friends and loved ones to be safe.
Before I discuss the agenda for this extraordinary session, I am obliged, honored and pleased to thank our sister states, the federal government and the American people. Katrina is the biggest disaster ever, and the outpouring of support and generosity from ourfellow citizens is also the largest in history. Here,today I want our fellow Americans to know all your efforts and your contributions have helped tremendously, and we are tremendously grateful.
The State of Florida's elite search and rescue team was on the ground the first night, joining our local and state people, saving lives. For weeks there were 600 Florida law enforcement officers, helping protect lives and property on the Coast. Sheriff Steve Garberof Hancock County says they were indispensable.
Indeed, Governor Bush and Florida have set the curve, but so many other states have done so much. North Carolina's Med-One portable hospital; Georgia'sinvestigators and Ohio's search and rescue teams;National Guard units from nearly 20 states had boots on the ground... Alabama sent two MP units whileMobile was still flooded.
As Governor, I'm personally moved by it all.When President Bush was here the third time we toured a faith-based feeding station; where hundreds of displaced people were eating a hot meal. I met a fellow from Vermont, a truck driver. He and 16 othertruck drivers had driven down from Vermont, a small state, very far away, to deliver 17 trailers of food to Gulfport. I couldn't believe it... 17 tractor-trailers all the way from Vermont. Then, he told me it was his third trip.
Yes, the American people are being very generous, andI want them to know we need the help to get through this disaster, and we genuinely appreciate it.
We appreciate, too, the efforts by the federalgovernment. From those young Coast Guardsmen that first night to the U.S. Department of Transportation,which provided all the fuel for all our emergency operations and responders from the end of week one to the Seabees, who've just been spectacular in helping get us on the road to recovery.
During the relief and recovery stages the federal government has pumped resources in to help us. Their efforts have been enormous. Those efforts haven't been perfect, but our efforts haven't been perfect either. I expect every mayor or supervisor will tell you local governments haven't been perfect either. But I'll tell you this: .Those local officials are trying; they're serving their people; they're leading in the midst of a carnage they never expected to confront. They make me proud
And the people they represent make me even prouder. From Pascagoula to Pass Christian, from Waveland to Waynesboro, from Meridian to Moss Point, from Pearlington to Petal, Mississippians consistently display resilience and self-reliance. Our people aren't whining or moping around, they're not into victimhood. From the very beginning Mississippians have been helping themselves, and God bless them,helping their neighbors. The unselfish, even selfless attitude of people who've lost everything is awe-inspiring to me.
Katrina did not discriminate. It leveled rich neighborhoods and poor neighborhoods. It knocked down the mighty as hard as it clobbered the lowly. Black or white, Vietnamese orHispanics...Katrina leveled them all.
And it seems they all came through the devastation with a commitment to their neighbors as well as to their home communities. One consistent theme I hear from those who volunteer a lot in the disaster area is how unselfish the affected people are, and how they are concerned for others.
I have several thoughts about this speech. One, this sort of speech, on the heels of his handling of the crisis, should propel Haley Barbour to the national stage. Mississippi has been poor stepchild of Louisiana in this whole affair, and it, and he, seem to have pulled it together awfully quickly and awfully effectively.
Two, you wonder if the MSM hadn't been so focused on inventing a scandal in NOLA, if we wouldn't have heard a great many more stories of individual heroism and nobility, rather than the now debunked reporting about the lowest common demoninators. I would be suprised if such grace under pressure were limited to Mississippi, and yet the picture we got of Louisiana is of a lawless and cheap society. In the way that 9/11 galvanized this country around its heros, Katrina could have done the same, but that didn't fit the MSM meme, now, did it?
At any rate, keep your eye on Haley Barbour. He speaks with the voice of a true leader.