Feeling Helpless in Katrina's Wake

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Day to Day commentator Marcos McPeek Villatoro reflects on his sadness and feelings of helplessness in the wake of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast.

NOAH ADAMS, host:

And back now to the hurricanes. President Bush today pledged that federal authorities would be ready for the worst as Hurricane Rita heads for the Gulf Coast. But many Americans are still reeling from the blow of Hurricane Katrina, even some who live many miles away, like Los Angeles-based novelist and regular DAY TO DAY contributor Marcos McPeek Villatoro. He sent us these thoughts.

MARCOS McPEEK VILLATORO:

It's been a tough few weeks. All those wrenching scenes of people on the Gulf Coast, lives built up then washed away by the vicious waters of the Mississippi. When I say it's been a tough few weeks, I say that with a sense of shame, because I know that my sorrow doesn't come close to the gut-cleaving grief the evacuees experienced; not on their television screens, but in their lives.

Like any caveman faced with the awful might of nature, the senseless deaths, the tragedy, I wonder `Why?' Now brighter people than I could explain why in terms of landscape and levees, urban planning and emergency management. Politicians could probably tell you why it's not their fault, and why this is not the time for what they call finger-pointing and blame-gaming.

The displaced folks of New Orleans and Mississippi probably have their own whys, but more in the form of questioning than explanation. When the last foul water is pumped away, when the last heaps of debris are removed, maybe some of their questions can be answered. Maybe we can find a way never to have these heartbreaking images of America flashed across the globe again.

But first--and I actually agree with the president on this one--there are urgent individual needs that must be addressed. I'm still ashamed that this nation was so poorly prepared for Katrina, but I have to find strength in pride; pride in the volunteers who rushed in to help, in the doctors and rescuers who worked heroically, and in those people who opened their hearts and homes to their fellow Americans, reminding us what true patriotism is all about.

It's been a tough few weeks. It may take months or years for the Gulf Coast to recover. I don't know if it's time yet to let the good times roll, but at least we can pray and hope for better ones.

ADAMS: Marcos McPeek Villatoro is a novelist and a regular contributor to DAY TO DAY. His latest book is "A Venom Beneath the Skin."

(Credits)

ADAMS: DAY TO DAY is a production of NPR News with contributions from slate.com. I'm Noah Adams.

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