In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, shock and sadness turned to disbelief and shame as Americans realized that Michael Brown and other FEMA officials waited over four days before beginning to deliver any kind of relief to the citizens of New Orleans. The spectacle of relief agencies blaming lack of transportation, communications, and material left most people wondering what sort of dream world these agencies live in.
We assumed that disasters cause breakdowns of transportation and communications --- and that is what the relief agencies are supposed to provide.
Americans watched President George Bush fly over New Orleans just as the first few cases of bottled water were delivered to thousands of people who were already beginning to die - and wondered if even that water would have been delivered to the people if the President's helicopter was not on the way.
Agencies and individuals with powerful-sounding job descriptions all waited for someone else to step up and take charge. No one has.
The mighty Army Corps of Engineers, which certainly knew for sure that the levees would not hold against a big hurricane surge, did not have anything ready to repair the damage. "We are in the process of finding contractors to do the work." (…in the Yellow Pages?)
Unable to reach the damaged levee because of a closed bridge, one has to wonder where is the cigar-chomping general barking out the order to "Blow the sonofabitch bridge up so we can get in there!"
General George Washington did whatever he had to do to procure small boats to cross the Delaware and turn the tide of the American Revolution. He did not say, "Let's wait until next Thursday when the next scheduled ferry is due."
Even President George Bush admitted that the response to Hurricane Katrina was inadequate. Duh. His Department of Homeland Security is leaving most Americans wondering how secure we would be in the event of another terrorist attack. Our enemies must be thinking that causing mayhem in the United States is far easier than they ever imagined.
Even five days after the hurricane, several fires burn out of control in New Orleans -- with no plan of action to put them out. No one seems even a bit concerned with the possible spectacle of thousand of survivors being burned alive.
We are embarrassed, ashamed, and getting very angry.