Hurricane Katrina may be the first national disaster of its magnitude to do as much dividing of our country as uniting.
While some good comes of every natural disaster -- communities demonstrate their pent-up desire to help their fellow man, families re-evaluate their priorities, Nathalee Holloway and Cindy Sheehan are bumped from the television screens -- the aftermath of Katrina has been like a long-running horror story.
The deaths and damage have only been compounded by what seems like a terribly slow response from the federal government (though one Columbia Countian rightly asks those critical of FEMA to also ask the governor of Louisiana and the mayor of New Orleans to explain exactly what they had done to prepare for such a disaster). Thanks to the 24-hour, filled-with-controversy news cycle, a nasty magnifying glass has searched for someone to "blame" with more intensity than the search for help for victims.
And yet. Just look around our community to see how our own neighbors are responding. Within hours, local emergency officials began mobilizing help for the victims. Warren Baptist Church opened a shelter for displaced Gulf Coast residents; Wesley United Methodist began collecting trailer loads of supplies. Columbia County's emergency volunteers stepped up for a trip into the disaster zone, and local charities quickly set up collection sites and distribution networks.
The children, too, showed the way. Pennies, nickels and dollars have flowed from students into school collections, some such as Lakeside Middle's and North Harlem Elementary's with the promise of a fun prize at the end. But clearly these kids are in a giving mood, and the principals' gags are just a little spice for the occasion.
These children aren't interested in casting blame for weather patterns or failed emergency networks. They just want to help the hurting. That's where all of us should be focused.
A suggestion: The News-Times office is a collection site for Hope Soap's "We Send Hope" program, which has geared up to collect personal care items and toiletries for hurricane survivors. If you have questions about donating, call us at 863-6165.
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