My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


Tale of Two Cities


By the afternoon of Aug. 29, 2005, it was clear the Mississippi Coast had been obliterated. Thousands of structures had been washed away in the great surge that destroyed so many homes, businesses, landmarks, personal treasures and lives.

But Hurricane Katrina did not destroy the hopes, dreams, memories or the will to survive that has sustained coastal Mississippians through the centuries. . . .

Life, death and hurricanes are certainties of existence on the Mississippi Coast. So, too, is the notion of surviving against odds that may seem to some too great to comprehend. But not here - not ever.

And, two:

Even to a storm-savvy population, Katrina seemed to sneak up on the city. Around the region more than a million people awoke Saturday, Aug. 27, to begin their usual weekend routines.

Then came the alarming news: The hurricane's expected northeastern bend into the central Mississippi Gulf Coast had not materialized overnight.

The storm instead drifted west, barreling right at New Orleans.

Alerted, the city in 24 hours completed the largest mass exodus in its history. About two-thirds of the metro area's citizens drove to safety, to upstate Louisiana or to higher ground in such states as Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee and Georgia.

But hundreds of thousands remained behind, too poor, too frail or too isolated to leave.
Many others, Crutchfield among them, elected to stay. They remained because they did not believe Katrina would be a mass killer. In particular, they did not think Katrina could kill them, that it could kill them in neighborhoods that had never flooded, inside a modern American city ringed by large-scale flood defenses fashioned by the Army Corps of Engineers.

They were confident, and they stayed.

In the course of a morning, Katrina would envelope them in arguably the largest natural disaster in U.S. history -- and certainly American civil engineering's greatest failure, as levees and floodwalls failed across the metro area.

The toll: 1,464 Louisianians dead, almost all of them in the New Orleans area. One hundred and forty square miles of a major city flooded for six weeks; St. Bernard Parish demolished, wall to wall; lower Plaquemines Parish devastated; southern Slidell and much of Metairie north of Interstate 10 flooded. In all, 160,000 homes destroyed or substantially damaged across five parishes.

And a more enduring tragedy: the forced relocation of about 240,000 New Orleanians who may never return.

Katrina would prove a three-stage disaster.

Just note the tone. Neither of these are straight news articles--they are both provided as, at least in part, commentary. But the entire tone of the Mississippi article is one of defiance, of survival, of self-reliance, of perseverance, and of ultimate success. Contrast that with the tone of the New Orleans article.

On this one-year anniversary of the horrific tragedy that was Katrina, arguably the greatest untold story of the whole event is the relative progress being made in Mississippi. I would argue that that progress is largely a reflection of the attitude of Mississippians. I would further argue, based on years of coaching and teaching, that attitude is 95% a function of leadership.

So let's contrast the leaders: who would you want working for you? Hayley Barbour, or Kathleen Blanco and Ray Nagin? I know where my vote would go.

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