Tuesday, August 22, 2006

When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts

The last two acts, which I watched tonight, were no less impactful or disturbing than the first two.

In these portions of the film, we're shown the aftermath of Katrina and those returning to New Orleans to pick up the pieces of their lives. It's heart-wrenching to see elderly folks reduced to sobs when they realize their homes are piles of rubble. These are good people who have worked all of their lives, raised their families and been model, taxpaying citizens. They now have nothing.

• Insurance company payouts? Probably not (we're told many policies didn't cover flood damage and most of the damage was due to water, so they're splitting hairs over what was 'rain' and what was 'flood')

• FEMA housing? Most likely not - but if they do, their new digs consist of a paper-thin trailer barely suitable for camping, parked alongside 20 others just like it. Did I mention these emergency homes have with no electricity and what appears to be shower curtains for room dividers?

• Government assistance? Of course not - we only live in the richest country in the world and offer aid to millions of places/other citizens around the world on a daily basis, but our own backyard? Nope.

What it boils down to is really poverty entrapment. These citizens bought land in an area where the property value was believed to be rising, then the storm hit and the levees broke (or were blown up, depending on who you believe) and those who survived were either scattered to another part of the country to start their lives over from scratch, or have nothing to rebuild with at home because they aren't being reimbursed for their losses.

It's nauseating.

What's also nauseating is that the degree of devastation was unnecessary. Dutch engineers in The Netherlands have built superpower levees that would've prevented this. They showed footage of those systems to demonstrate how far behind we are.

Human life was lost mainly because of poor workmanship, not because of Mother Nature.

The only bright spot in the entire documentary was the spirit of the people. The resilience and pride they have in their home state of Louisiana is inspiring. At the end of the film, each speaker was set into a picture frame as they stated their name, title and where they're from. Most are natives of New Orleans and have remained there in spite of our country's embarrassing failures.

They won't back down.

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