PART ONE My Life
Nagin does nothing. The President didn't even mention the Gulf Coast in his State of the Union address. The permits process to rebuild is byzantine, and not geared towards helping people of meager means re-establish themselves in their homes. The poor will lose their homes. Many of the elderly in Gertown and Pigeontown will most likely live out their days in their formaldehyde-tainted FEMA trailers.
I worry that right now, politicians and their cronies are divvying up the 9th Ward and planning to use the 2005 Supreme Court decision on imminent domain to seize properties along the Industrial Canal in the name of industry and commerce.
It just amazes me how politics, personal vainglory, and incompetence have allowed the Army Corps of Engineers to do the wrong thing time after time when it comes to flood control in the Mississippi Valley. John Barry's book should be required reading for politicians.
Rumor has it that Chertoff might replace Gonzalez as Attorney General. I hold him just as responsible as "Brownie" for allowing the Superdome and Convention Center tragedies to transpire. I voted for Bush and for Nagin. After seeing the fruits of having put my trust in these men, I have no faith in the political system anymore.
PART THREE My Spiritual Growth
In conclusion, I’d like to conclude with the most powerful example of meaningful worship that I have ever seen. Of the 700+ members of the church living in the New Orleans First Ward, Chalmette Ward, and Uptown Branch boundaries, my little family was one of only two that did not flood. We lived only six blocks from our branch president. His house was raised 4 feet off the ground, and he had water up to my navel in his home. After overseeing the refugees assembled and living in the stake center 3 hours away in Alexandria, Louisiana for 3 weeks after the storm, he, at the New Orleans stake president’s request, moved into the only church building in New Orleans that did not flood. He had lost his home, had to be there to tend to his business, and the stake president had to order him to stay at the church, finally persuading him that he needed to live there so that the church wouldn’t be looted. During the day, with his family still living in Alexandria, he worked on his business, and by night, he helped coordinate the relief effort that the Church was establishing. He is a small and physically weak man. He has epilepsy and daily seizures, but his desire to worship meaningfully makes him a spiritual powerhouse. Let me explain why.
In late October, some two months after the storm hit, the Church finally put the branch president’s house on the schedule for home-gutting. Two crews showed up on a Saturday morning, and began tossing all of his worldly possessions onto his tiny front yard. A pile of putrid filth of what had been his life was, in front of his eyes, bulldozed into a dumptruck. Ruined photographs, ruined food storage for his family of 7, a true years’ supply for seven people, was thrown into his yard and then hauled away. He endured this. He worked as hard as he could despite his frailties. The smell was so bad that some people (myself included) vomited repeatedly when the wind blew a certain way. About noon, the leader of the group of workers came to me and said that they had other work orders and that they had to leave and go work on them. These were orders to remove fallen trees off of people’s yards; people that electricity in their homes already; people that hadn’t flooded. I saw his face go ashen. He pulled me aside and said, “please go and talk to these bretheren, I cannot do this work myself, and I’ve been waiting for two months for their help. Find out if there’s anything that can be done.” I went and talked to the crew leader, and he made a phone call, and they were told to stay and finish the job. Elated, I went looking for the branch president. I couldn’t locate him. I went outside, around back of the ruin that was now his home, and when I rounded the back corner, I saw him, on his knees in his shed. I heard him utter the following:
“Heavenly Father, if it be thy will that these bretheren go and help someone else, I understand and accept that, but if it be they will, please, let them stay. Nevertheless, thy will be done. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”
That is the kind of meaningful worship that we should seek. When we are able, in a time of abject need, to surrender our own needs and desires to the will of the Lord, and allow aid that we want to go to others who might need it, THEN do we catch a glimpse of a miniscule portion of what the Savior did in his sacrifice and agony that night in Gethsemane. His lesson is what I had to learn from Katrina. My branch president was trying to be like Jesus; we should allow follow his example.