For the past 24 hours or so I’ve been posting about the government response to Hurricane Katrina, mainly because it has disappointed me so. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t also been thinking a lot about the basic humanitarian side of things.
The first time I really teared up was when I started reading the postings about Katrina on the New Orleans and Jackson, Mississippi Craigslist sites on Tuesday. Seeing regular people offer their spare rooms, recreational vehicles, and other accommodations to refugees really touched me. Churches in the areas surrounding New Orleans are full to the brim with refugees, and people are feeding and clothing them as best they can with the resources that they have. See the comment from my mother on this post for a short first hand account of the refugees staying at my family’s church. Universities all over the country are making special accommodations for students from New Orleans. The Washington Post reports that a private construction company stepped in where the Army Corps of Engineers failed to mend the largest breech in the levees around the city.
With all the talk of looting, disorder, and government incompetence, the other story in disasters like this is the basic triumph of the human spirit. People everywhere are going above and beyond the call of duty to care for strangers, just like they do whenever disaster strikes, and it’s hard not to swell up a bit with pride when you think about it. My ideal is that the government would be more of an expression of the fundamental goodness that we are seeing, and I get disappointed when that ideal is not even approached.