Thursday, August 26, 2010

Left High and Wet

Today marks the five year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.  In some ways, it seems like yesterday and sometimes is seems forever ago.  I recently made it halfway through Spike Lee's "When The Levees Broke".  Not that it was a bad documentary, but I just couldn't continue to watch the "replays" that brought back too many bad memories.  I also recently watched CNN's segment "New Orleans Rising" which profiled the story on the police shooting of the men on Danziger Bridge.

The most popular Katrina news item continues to be the failed levees and the belated response by the local and federal authorities.  No doubt, these were key points to be made in post-analysis.  I reflect back on the event and continue to be amazed at another aspect that doesn't get that much discussion.  I'm amazed how quickly "order" transpired into "chaos".  The assumption that the authorities (police, fire, medical) were there to assist you was a bad assumption.  Most interesting was the fact that so many police fled the city and left the people and their police teammates "high and wet".  The replay of the police station that hung the banner "Fort Apache" on their station in response to the "direct fire" that they were taking was interesting.  How does a police station all of a sudden become the target of snipers?  New Orleans became Iraq over a 24 hour period.

So my question is, how can a civil community become so uncivil so quickly?  How does order so quickly turn into chaos?  I once again become fascinated with the mass psychology of it.  The herd can change directions quickly.  What makes a police officer become a looter over a 24 hour period?  What turns a routine "beat" police officer into a "thug sniper" over a 24 hour period?  On another front, I've always been amazed at how riots break out.  Not the "justified" riots, but the Superbowl celebration type riots.  How does a group of young boys/men all of a sudden feel that looting and destroying public property becomes acceptable?  Better yet, why do it as a way to celebrate your team winning the Superbowl?  How did a group of young men decide to terrorize the city of New Orleans while it was defenseless?

I don't have any of the answers, but I do have concern for how the masses will handle the changing world ahead.

On a positive note, New Orleans appears to be on the mend.  A new honest motivated mayor, consistent tourism, 1111 restaurants, and a Super Bowl trophy makes for a good place.  Stay tuned.

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