Photo: Biloxi, Miss., September 3, 2005 -- Damage and destruction to houses in Biloxi, Mississippi. Hurricane Katrina caused extensive damage all along the Mississippi gulf coast. FEMA/Mark Wolfe
The White House recently announced that President Obama would be making a post-Katrina visit to New Orleans on October 15th, but apparently the president does not have time to visit the Mississippi Gulf Coast, because he has some high dollar fund raising event to attend in San Franciso the same day.
This makes a pretty powerful statement to us Mississippians about how our president feels towards us in the south, and particularly the State of Mississippi and those of us along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Perhaps he would have been better served to come down here when he had a little more time on his hands - you know, between those vacations and international visits.
Let me first say, I love New Orleans and the people of New Orleans. Always have. Always will. I even lived there for a time.
And let me get one thing straight. The atrocities that occurred in New Orleans post-Katrina were deplorable and broke my heart. No human being should have to suffer the way that those folks at the Dome did. But that was not a Katrina problem. That was a governmental problem beginning with the City of New Orleans all the way up to the Governor's office. It should have never happened.
Let me set the record straight on another thing too. The flooding that occurred as a result of the breaks in the levees were also not a Hurricane Katrina problem. It was a man-made problem. That happened after the passing of the storm. Due to, once again, governmental failures from the Mayor's office up to the Governor's office, who for years ignored the fact that the levees would not be able to support storm surge from a powerful hurricane - known well in advance of Katrina.
And last, let me say that while Hurricane Katrina did brush New Orleans with hurricane force winds, had there not been a failure of the levees, New Orleans would have been left fairly unscathed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina because Hurricane Katrina did NOT make a direct hit on New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina did make a direct hit on those areas of Louisiana on the eastern border of the state - you know, those cities and towns that you did not hear about? But, even those areas on the Eastern border of Louisiana that were hit hard, were actually on the "good" side of the storm. While eastern Louisiana was hit hard and incurred substantial damage, their neighbor to the west got all of the attention.
For the record, Hurricane Katrina, the hurricane itself, made a direct hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
We were on the worse side of the storm - what is called the dirty side, where the most powerful hurricane force winds and highest storm surge are. The ENTIRE Mississippi Gulf Coast was obliterated. See that picture up there from Biloxi? That was only a small segment located in the middle of what our entire coastline looked like.
From Bay St. Louis to Pascagoula, and even beyond, to our neighbors in Alabama and all the way to Florida, Hurricane Katrina destroyed the entire coastline. The ENTIRE Mississippi coastline looked like that picture up there. Not from the catastrophic failure of a levee system, but from direct force hurricane winds, and tidal storm surge from the Gulf of Mexico. Not a man-made event, but a natural disaster. Even though I live on the eastern side of our coastline, half of my neighborhood is gone now, leaving behind only concrete slab remnants still today of a once vital neighborhood that on August 28, 2005 was full of families and children and life, now... empty and dead, a daily reminder of what happened that next day.
Yet, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans got all the media, and all of the attention, and if you were sitting in a kitchen in Boise, Idaho, listening to the news coverage, you probably had no idea what happened here in Mississippi. And, now in this administration's first presidential visit to the hurricane zone, only New Orleans is worthy, and even then only worthy of a quick fly-by visit from a President who has time to vacation multiple times already in his quick stint in office, and to travel the world apologizing for our great country to other foreign leaders.
He just doesn't have "time" to come to the place where Hurricane Katrina actually hit. Or perhaps this is Obama's way of thumbing his nose at Mississippi's red state status, even though he did get 43% of the vote. Hmm... funny, but I thought I recalled that he said even for those who did not vote for him, he would be "our president too." You remember that speech ... you know... the kind of speech that wins a Nobel Peace Prize?