As far as I know, AP doesn’t usually run editorial comment. It made an exception for the handling of the disaster, though, and did a masterful job of summing up the anguish so many Americans feel at what has been allowed to happen. Without rhetoric or direct accusation, it asks the question that cuts right to the bone:

Is this happening in America?


But if a reporter can interview a man standing outside a looted drugstore, and record his reluctance at having to go inside and steal pads for incontinence, why couldn’t someone get medical supplies to the people huddled at the Superdome or the convention center in time, or the buses promised to evacuate them?

There are more questions than answers, and will be for years to come. That’s the nature of disaster, and its aftermath. They expose our fragility, overwhelm our best intentions, mock our attempts to impose the sense of calm and order that prevails when life proceeds according to some rough plan.

Yet, ultimately, that’s what is most unsettling about the constant stream of images: The suffering goes on not just for hours, but for days after we should have and could have ended it. And for all the commissions, reports and bravado that passes for preparedness, we didn’t. It was a hand we never expected to be dealt.


There will be time enough, too, to assess blame, for politicians to point fingers, find and fire those deemed accountable. And maybe even to figure out how a handful of Southeast Asian governments, whose economies, armies and emergency resources could all be folded comfortably several times inside those of the United States, responded to a tsunami much larger and fiercer than Hurricane Katrina with swiftness and efficiency, and we could not. And so the frustration builds, not so much over what happened, but what did not.


The piece deserves reading in its entirety

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