Sunday, August 29, 2010
This morning, I made a pot of coffee and say down to watch Meet The Press, like I do practically every Sunday.   The news has been covering the 5th year anniversary of Katrina all week, but today is exactly 5 years since the storm made landfall, and Meet The Press was live from New Orleans today with Brian Williams to take a look back at the devastation and the recovery.

I'd forgotten how bad it was. 

They didn't spend as much time looking back as they did looking forward.  But the time that was spent replaying old videos and photos reminded me of how desperate the situation was and how helpless I felt from PA. 

One of the things I find most frustrating in this world is watching people get sick and die from preventable causes.  Diseases we have vaccines for, starvation in a world of plenty, dehydration while surrounded by water.  Maybe it's the (future) doctor in me... There are things that we can't cure, can't save people from.  Cancer, old age, trauma.  There are things that kill people, despite our very best efforts.  That is understandable; it's a fact of life.  But there is no excuse for people dying from preventable causes, and that happened in New Orleans and the rest of the gulf after Katrina. 

One of the big issues that surrounded and still surrounds Katrina is what role race and class played in the response and provision of aid to the region.  Many have asked, "If this happened in Martha's Vineyard, or NYC, or DC, would the outcome have been different?  Would the response have been faster?" 

I don't know.  I don't want to pretend to know.  This was one of the questions they discussed at the round table on Meet The Press this morning.  One person said that to this day, no one has been held responsible.   I though about this, about who we would hold responsible for a systemic malfunction.  And what good would it do?  What is the point?  What are we trying to achieve? 

In the best of scenarios, we would learn from Katrina, from the flaws in the system, the failures of infrastructure.  We would remember the faces of suffering we saw in the weeks following Katrina.  We would ingrain in our brains the feeling in our guts that people should never experience what those people did.  We would look, honestly and openly, at what led to the pictures of bodies covered with blankets, dead from lack of water and food.  Ideally, we would do everything humanly possible to make sure that Katrina never happens again. 

The discussion at the round table today made me think of Apartheid in South Africa, and the post-Apartheid reconciliation that took place.  I'm having flashbacks to a quote, but can't remember who said it, or what exactly said said, but it was something along these lines.  We could blame people for Apartheid.  We could round them up, put them in jail, punish them for the injustices forced upon the people of South Africa.  But that would fix nothing.  That would heal no one.  That would do nothing to prevent something similar from happening in the future.  If we start pointing fingers and blaming individuals for a policy, for a systemic flaw, we lose all hope of frank and honest communication.  And it's through that communication that we can understand, to the most basic and human level, the ideals that brought us to the darkest hours of Apartheid.  And through that understanding, we can begin to heal, and we can make sure that it never happens again.

Okay, so I took some serious creative liberties in there, but that's the gist.  And I think the same applies to Katrina.  The more we try to blame individuals for the systemic failures that took Katrina from being a hurricane to a disaster, the more we will harbor anger and prevent progress.  And in ten years, I don't want to be watching the same thing happen somewhere else, wondering how we could let it happen again, and how we missed an opportunity to learn from ourselves, to prevent suffering. 

And in case you don't remember, here are some pictures to remind you of Katrina...

And here is a video from Meet The Press five years ago, the Sunday after Katrina.  Watch just the last minute.  I hope we can prevent anyone from telling a story like that ever again.



About Me

I am a Family Medicine intern at a community hospital in Indiana, navigating the new world of being a physician. I am privileged to work in a field I love, where every day is a new and unpredictable challenge.
I am not only a doctor, but also a cyclist, runner, DIYer in the making, lover of the outdoors, traveler, and human.
Human, MD is a glimpse into the world of a young doctor who is just trying to stay true to herself through the grueling whirlwind of residency.


Visitor Count