The Deafening Silence ~ Aug. 29, 2005
First came the name Katrina. It sounded harmless enough,
and undoubtedly spawned countless remarks about how
harmless the storm was at the time. Then came the predictions
of demise. They said that the storm barely had enough strength
to survive. It did survive, and Katrina grew from a tiny
tropical storm to a modest hurricane. Then came the forecasts.
The experts changed their mind, believing she might go as high
as Category 3 or even 4, and Katrina was busy proving them
wrong again, growing to a Category 5 monster the likes of
which are seen at most, a few times per century. Then came
the harbingers, the sensationalists, prophesying doom on a
Biblical scale for the city of New Orleans. But Hurricane
Katrina blew ashore some 50-100 miles to the East of where
she was predicted to hit. She arrived with significantly reduced
power, and some felt this meant she was less of a concern, as if
150mph winds were somehow not a big deal because they were
175mph just 12 hours prior to landfall.
Katrina ravaged the coast, pushing her way onshore, yet
somehow retaining her composure until much later, like a
stubborn prize fighter refusing to go down. She blasted
Mississippi and Alabama, states who seemed completely
surprised by the fact that a hurricane was bearing down
Then came pictures from the towns to the east of New Orleans.
They caused concern for any with family or friends down
south with sobering images of rubble stretching for miles on end.
Yet, after 72+ hours of heading for the coast, she still took
Alabama and Mississippi by surprise. It needs to be said again.
A catastrophic hurricane that had been watched, forecasted, and
bandied about on the news for more than a week stunned tens to
hundreds of thousands of people when it made landfall. The
media and the National Weather Service decided that only New
Orleans was worthy of its haughty attention, and they lavished it
upon the city, leaving towns to the east where the most powerful
part of the hurricane smashed ashore out of its spotlight. Those who
are unfamiliar with hurricanes would have thought that it was only
going to hit New Orleans. Tens of thousands in Mississippi and
Alabama who were given voluntary evacuation options remained in
their homes. Eventually the levee that held New Orleans safe ruptured,
some 24 hours after Katrina's departure, and long after the damage had
been done to dozens of other towns and millions of homes.
Then came the results. Cities like Gulf Port and Biloxi have been
literally scoured from the face of the Earth, and the impoverished
residents who were aware of Katrina either incapable of leaving
the area, or couldn't afford to evacuate. The media and weather
services, who could have warned residents of Mississippi and
Alabama about the impending danger of Katrina, chose to be a
ratings suck hole. Our government, which had ample time to
commute the residents powerless to get out of Katrina's way must
now find and remove their bodies instead.
And the bodies continue floating in the flooded streets even as
the government reassures the nation that everything is A-OK
and under control.
Then came the chaos and gunshots from angry citizens in the city.
The music of hell.
The result is that hurricane Katrina will probably be the costliest
and deadliest disaster ever to strike the United States. Did it
really have to be this way? Did so many people have to be caught
by surprise? Did so many have to die?
Now comes the silence.
© 2005 Douglas V. Berry
Psychology Major at WIU (senior year)
Douglas is my son and is also an accomplished writer who
has been recognized both locally and regionally for writing
abilities. He wrote the above article shortly after Hurricane
Katrina ravaged the coast of Louisiana, Alabama and
Mississippi and it was featured in the university newspaper
this week. Doug is a regular writer for the WIU newspaper
where he serves as a weekly columnist.
Above Photo ©2005
Associated Press by Eric Gray
"Silence is Golden"