9/11 and 8/29–What’s Different?

This diary is intended as something of a rant. Because this saddens me and makes my blood boil every time I think about it.

But before I vent, here’s a caveat: as I said in yesterday’s diary, 9/11 tore me apart. So this is by no means intended as a put-down of the trauma 9/11 survivors went through or a complaint about the well-deserved sympathy and support they’ve gotten.

Rather, what pisses me off is is the fact that survivors of 8/29–whether of Katrina, the federal flood, or of Rita–have not been receiving the equal aid, synpathy, or other treatment to that received by 9/11 survivors, that they deserve. What blueintheface brings up–the fact that Daily Kos hasn’t been paying enough attention to New Orleans and Katrina, is the tip of a very big iceberg involving the MSM and many politicians that has been keeping storm and flood survivors from getting the attention they have a right to receive.

In fact, I’m going to argue that Katrina, Rita, and federal flood survivors, and the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana, should be getting more federal aid than 9/11 survivors, and the city and state of New York, because 9/11 survivors, unlike 8/29 survivors, have warm, safe, comfy homes because all that was destroyed in New York during 9/11 were the Twin Towers. Far more, over a wider area, was destroyed during 8/29 than was destroyed during 9/11. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

9/11 and 8/29 are the most tragic things that have occured in this country so far in this century. After both, there were massive outpourings of support, aid, and sympathy from all around the country and most of the rest of the world.

But there the similarity ends. After 8/29 FEMA by means of all sorts of bureaucratic roadblocks did what it could to slow the arrival of relief and rescue worked and aid in drowned New Orleans and the Mississippi and Louisiana communities obliterated to the slabs by Katrina. And supplies and rescuers from overseas were turned away or squandered by the Bush Administration. This in an odd parallel to the way Burma’s government has been keeping foreign relief workers out, which Bush himself, seemingly having forgotten what his own administration did during Katrina and the flood, has been protesting.

9/11 had its well-publicized heroes–the firefighters and police who received national adulation. But the heroes of Katrina and the flood–Coast Guard members who rescued New Orleanians from rooftops and sweltering attics, and homegrown groups such as the Cajun Navy and the NOLA homeboys who were mentioned in Douglas Brinkley’s fine book “The Deluge”–are mainly unsung. Although there has been the rare exception such as Sunday’s Extreme Makeover Home Edition finale which took place in New Orleans and featured a banquet for heroes of the flood and the recovery, why don’t we hear so often about the heroes of 8/29 as as we do about the heroes of 9/11?

Then there was how the media handled the tragedies–I mean, regarding advertising. While both at first received wall-to-wall coverage on cable, these networks during 9/11 had the sensitivity and respect for the fallen, not to mention the tragedy itself, not to air commercials. Which is as it should have been–it would have been jarring and in poor taste to have the network cut away from scenes of the planes hitting and the towers falling to a cheery cereal or cat food commercial.

Why, then, didn’t these networks show the same taste, respect, and sensitivity during Katrina and flood coverage? Interspersed with scenes of people wading through filthy water to the high ground of the overpasses, and of devastated Mississippi, were all sorts of commercials–which were not only annoying but also inappropriate in light of the tragedy, to say the least.

But the following two things really make my blood boil–the first is that apparently there’s no such thing as 9/11 fatigue, and close to seven years later it still doesn’t look like 9/11 will soon be forgotten. But many including the MSM, politicians, and most of the DKos community either have forgotten the tragedies of 8/29 or suffer from “Katrina fatigue.” As will be noted at length later, even the DCCC seems to have forgotten the reality people in New Orleans and the surrounding parishes must deal with, as it refused to fund Gilda Reed.

The worst is the disparity between how 9/11 victims and survivors and the state and city of New York have been treated by BushCo and the way 8/29 victims and survivors, New Orleans, and Louisiana have been treated. In what I like to call an “Emperor has no clothes” moment because it exposes an uncomfortable truth, Sen. Mary Landrieu last year made the controversial observation that

“I often think we would have been better off if the terrorists had blown up our levees…Maybe we’d have gotten more attention.”

As previously noted, massive outpourings of aid and other support took place after 9/11 and 8/29. In the case of 9/11 victims, survivors, and heroes, not only has the sympathy continued to this day, they have gotten a great deal of respect from their fellow Americans. And on top of this families of people who died on 9/11 received $1.4 million apiece in compensation for their loss.

What’s unfair about this is 9/11 survivors may have lost loved ones, but they still have comfortable homes to return to–unlike Katrina and flood survivors who besides losing loved ones lost their homes, and often their physical and mental health, and not only have never received $1.4 million apiece in compensation–money that would go a long way towards rebuilding their homes and lives–but, the way things look, will never be so lucky.

This is because a BushCo busily engaged in spinning New Orleans’ levee failures as being the fault of New Orleans and Louisiana has thus abdicated its responsibility in this matter so it obviously won’t do what it has a moral obligation to do. And loathesome Sen. Joseph Lieberman has supported BushCo by refusing to empanel an 8/29 Commission which would carry out an 8/29 investigation. As a result, not only will those who lost loved ones on 8/29 never receive the compensation to which they’re entitled, attention to 8/29 and its lingering aftereffects will continue to be next to non-existent. Lieberman should be called to accounting because on his shoulders rests the blame for the fact that those who lost family members on 8/29 will not be justly compensated.

Regarding the survivors of 8/29, while they’re still receiving sympathy from some quarters and groups of volunteers are still going to the Gulf Region to help build houses, it seems that on the part of many other Americans, if they haven’t completely forgotten 8/29, this sympathy has evaporated. And it evaporated quickly after “Katrina fatigue” set in among them.

I saw this on such MSNBC blogs as “First Read,” Daily Nightly, and Rising from Ruin, a Mississippi blog, where New Orleanians were often stereotyped by commenters venting their Katrina fatigue as lazy ingrates who sat around waiting for hand-outs and whining for help instead of picking themselves up by their bootstraps and racist comments about “Welfare babies” and worse were made. (But how do you pick yourself up by your bootstraps when your boots were washed away in the flood?) And it made me very sad to see Louisiana derided as a state full of lazy people and not treated as though she were a part of the United States.

But to be fair, in response to people’s cruel comments there were also made thoughtful, sympathetic comments such as the following:

Something has been bugging me–not only here but under other entries…I adore Mississippi. I admire the way Mississippians, after having endured America’s worst natural disaster and against immense odds have been valiantly struggling together to rebuild their communities and pick up the pieces of their lives. It’s also good how Mississippi’s leaders from Gov. Barbour on down to Mayor Longo and other local officials have their act together.

God forbid that central Illinois should see a disaster–like a huge quake on the New Madrid Fault–that would be of Katrina’s magnitude–but were something like that to happen here, I would hope that the people of this area would come together and Illinois’ leaders act with the same sort of bravery and can-do pioneer spirit exhibited by Mississippi’s.

However, my heart goes out to everyone in Waveland, Bay St. Louis, Long Beach, and the rest of Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. Even the best teamwork and the ablest leaders don’t take away the fact that you have loads of hard work remaining and many hardships that continue. Mississippi is still in a lot of pain, and I’m sure many are under psychic strain, having had your traumas and losses. There is only so much you can do by yourselves, and it will be years before everything is O.K. in Mississippi.

That being said, I also love Louisiana very much. And it saddens me to see people picking on her and beating up on her while she’s down. Why do people often call her people (especially New Orleanians) “lazy,” “whiners,” “negative,” or say they’re “sitting around waiting for hand-outs?” I find such comments and other insults insensitive, callous, and meanspirited.

Wholistically speaking, Mississippi suffered the worst NATURAL disaster and PHYSICAL wounding from Katrina. Louisiana endured the “shock and awe” of a massive MANMADE disaster that not only seriously hurt her physically, but caused grave PSYCHOLOGICAL wounds as well. The wiping out of 80% of her largest and most historic and identity-defining city, with the dispersal of more than half of her residents to other parts of Louisiana and all around the nation snapped Louisiana’s life in half. She will never be the same state again. And less than a month later, Rita obliterated villages on her southwest coast the same way Katrina did in Mississippi.

Thinking about this can bring tears to my eyes–but something truly heartbreaking is currently darkening Louisiana’s life and sapping her of the strength–the healthy human resources–she needs to recover from last year’s storms and to cope with any new challenges during this hurricane season. As if the still-unhealed physical wounds from the storms and New Orleans’ flooding weren’t enough, Louisiana is in a world of hurt from intensely painful emotional wounds as well. If it were possible for a state to cry from pain, Louisiana would.

Her people are just wearing down, afflicted with what officials are calling “Katrina brain”–general fatigue brought on by disruption of their lives–involving difficulty concentrating, mood swings, and mild depression. Also, approximately 500,000 of her people have since the storms been suffering from severe psychological damage–beset by sleeplessness, nightmares, chronic stress, and substance abuse.

Stress has been causing normally stable, law-abiding people to become unhinged, and according to a report in yesterday’s Times-Picayune, “post-Katrina issues of displacement, anxiety, stress…” could partly be to blame for 8 weekend shootings in New Orleans and Jefferson Parish in which 4 were killed. And yet another symptom of the emotional turmoil wracking Louisiana–wife abuse has also increased in New Orleans, where shelter space and affordable housing are hard to find.

Most poignant of all, a fragile, exhausted Louisiana has been tortured by an excruciating epidemic of anxiety, depression, and suicides. This is not confined to the New Orleans area–it is statewide. When evacuees fled New Orleans for Baton Rouge, Shreveport, etc., they took their “baggage”–traumas and losses–with them. In fact, Baton Rouge, now Louisiana’s most populous city overwhelmed by an influx of evacuees, is a “hot spot” for this epidemic. Saddest of all–Louisiana has insufficient resources to ease the anguish of the afflicted.

There may be a small ray of hope in the federal grant of $35 million to Louisiana Spirit, a crisis counseling program. While such counseling can keep smaller problems from becoming major ones, it’s a bit of a “Band-Aid” measure because the funds cannot be used for medications or other intensive treatment, so anyone already seriously ill won’t get the help they desperately need. So for Louisiana it’s like being a cancer patient who’s given only aspirin–which relieves her pain without treating its underlying source which is killing her.

The anguish of Louisiana’s afflicted is getting worse now that hurricane season is at its peak. While the prospect of a new storm’s hitting Mississippi this year or anytime soon has me very worried because it’s the last thing you need with all the devastation you still have and all you need to do, Mississippi is a strong, otherwise-healthy state, and I’m confident that were worst to come to worst, you would deal with a new storm with the same fortitude with which you handled Katrina. However, I cringe at the thought of that happening to Louisiana. She fell apart when New Orleans’ levees failed–a new disaster could push her over the edge.

So, please go easy on Louisiana and her people. After Katrina and Rita, she needs to be gently and compassionately nursed back to health. She does not need her people put down as “whiny,” “lazy,” etc. She–like Mississippi–needs the support and sympathy of other caring Americans to help her recover and become whole again.

That post first appeared on “Rising from Ruin” in 2006 but I reprinted it in near-entirety because the situation it describes still prevails for the most part–if it has not gotten worse due to BushCo’s neglect of New Orleans and Louisiana and the fact that politicians and the MSM for the most part have not been paying attention to storm and flood recovery.

Even the DCCC has sleazily betrayed Louisiana and her people–look at how they refused to fund the candidacy of Gilda Reed in LA-01 and thus managed to sell out that long-suffering district to a well-financed Republican slimeball with a well-oiled campaign machine and deprived the people of a representative who would actually work in their and Louisiana’s best interests instead of doing BushCo’s and the GOP’s dirty work.

I’d been wondering if Gilda would run again, but was very sad to read,

After the way my own party treated me, what legitimate Democrat is going to be willing to run in November as a sacrificial lamb?  I have been asked by dedicated local Democrats to carry on the fight.  It is going to take years, though, to come out from under the debt incurred by running once.  Twice is out of the question no matter how progressive and determined I am to invoke change.  Hurry up, campaign finance reform!

She adds,

Hurricane recovery and coastal restoration are still top issues.  People in all 6 parishes are gasping for air, including the areas which had no flood waters.  The victor Scalise claims hurricane recovery is tops but has done little in the state legislature in the almost 3 years since Katrina to address this.  And just what will he be able to do as a freshman, minority-party rep known for his extreme partisan attacks on the very people he must now work with?  We in LA-01 are again without appreciable representation.

I strongly doubt that the DCCC would have treated a Democratic candidate in a New York City district after 9/11 or even as late as this year as shabbily as they did Gilda. But I guess that to those corrupt scumbags, Louisiana is a small, poor state with few potential contributors to the DCCC, and consequently doesn’t matter.

As Kossacks we need to make our voices heard and loudly demand for New Orleans, Louisiana, and the rest of the Gulf Region and their storm and flood survivors the same sort of attention, respect, and above all compensation that New Yorkers and others who survived 9/11 have gotten. And that 8/29 never be forgotten.


  1. since this whole situation just turns me into a babbling, incoherent, outraged idiot. And Gilda — I’m in shock!!! Pardon me while I go chew on some nails!  

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