I’ve never experienced a hurricane. TeeVee doesn’t count.
I was in Texas, though, when the sirens on the military base where I was stationed started shrieking, warning of an impending tornado touch-down. I’d just arrived the night before, and a group of us newbees had spent the day in briefings that covered all the things we needed to watch out for during our stay.
These included aggressive water moccasins in the local, lazy brown river, rattlesnakes, brown recluse spiders, scorpions, hailstones the size of golf-balls and yes, twisters.
As I ran with my roomies to the Designated Tornado Shelter, as we'd been instructed just hours earlier, I did some serious wondering what in the hell I’d been smoking when I decided to join the U.S. Air Force.
We sat on the floor around the walls of a classroom with windows (go figure) while the sirens howled. The tornado touched down about a mile away, yanked its long black tail back up into the clouds and vanished. Presumably to Oz.
Later, during a six-week training stay in Biloxi, Mississippi, I enjoyed such natural wonders as 90 percent humidity in 90-degree heat, sudden deluges – sunshiny one moment, rain that Noah would have exclaimed over the next – insecticide-proof roaches the size of rats, and fire ants.
I left for the comparatively quiet Pacific Northwest about 24 hours before a hurricane was anticipated to make landfall, right there in Biloxi. I urged the taxi-driver speed to the airport in Gulfport. "Hurry, hurry, hurry!"
I truly hated Mississippi. To a California girl, used to gentle, usually distant thunderstorms in the winters and springs and long, hot, dry summers, the southern part of the U.S. seemed like the Environment from Hell. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would voluntarily live there.
And I’m a little embarrassed to admit that the last thing I wanted to do was 1) be in Biloxi during a hurricane, and 2) be forced to stay there by the Air Force afterward to help with the Post-Hurricane Clean-Up. I had plans, see. I was on my way to marry Mr. Wren. I don’t recall what this particular hurricane’s name was, but fortunately it wasn’t one of the terrible ones.
I’ve never been back to that part of the country. I've consciously avoided it. The roughly six months I spent in Texas and Mississippi were enough to last me a lifetime.
I was living in Tacoma, Washington, when Mt. St. Helens blew her picturesque top. Because of the prevailing winds, we only got a light coating of fine gray ash there. The volcano was too far away to be able to see the awesome plume that rose from the volcano, so I watched it on the 6 o’clock news like the rest of the world.
Over the years, I’ve been fairly close to natural disasters, but I’ve been lucky enough not to have to live through one. Yet.
Today, I hear Codpiece is doing his PR thing in Biloxi, glad-handing carefully screened locals for the cameras and making pronouncements about what a heck of a job his administration has done getting things back in order there in the year since Katrina blew in and drowned the Gulf Coast and its residents.
There he was, sleeves rolled up, saying such inanities as “There will be a momentum, momentum will be gathered. Houses will begat jobs, jobs will begat houses.”
He also said (apparently in an effort to “demonstrate empathy,” as opposed to genuinely feeling it), “It’s hard to describe the devastation down here. It was massive in its destruction, and it spared nobody. United States Senator Trent Lott had a fantastic house overlooking the bay. I know because I sat in it with he and his wife. And now it’s completely obliterated. There’s nothing.”
Wow. Now that's empathy. Does this man even live on the same planet as the rest of us?
Doubtless Senator Lott and his pragmatic wife decided to take their insurance money and build a new fantastic house in some equally beautiful place much, much further inland. Somehow, I don’t think they’re sipping mint juleps from a FEMA trailer today.
It’s hard work to spin something as truly tragic and awful as the aftermath of Katrina, the storm that killed 1,500 people, injured thousands more and left tens of thousands bereft and homeless. The vast majority of survivors haven’t returned. There’s not much left to return to, even a year later.
But Codpiece gave it his good-ol’-boy, brush-cuttin’ best: “For a fellow who was here and now a year later comes back, things are changing.”
“I feel the quiet sense of determination that’s going to shape the future of Mississippi,” he said.
Uh-huh. Says the New York Times story I’m quoting from: “In an event with echoes of his prime-time speech in Jackson Square here last September, Mr. Bush spoke in a working-class neighborhood in Biloxi against a backdrop of neatly reconstructed homes. But just a few feet away, outside the scene captured by the camera, stood gutted houses with wires dangling from ceilings. A tattered piece of crime-scene tape hung from a tree in the field where Mr. Bush spoke. A toilet sat on its side in the grass.”
As I write this, forecasters are saying Tropical Storm Ernesto may regain hurricane strength in the warm waters off Cuba and come ashore in south Florida as early as tomorrow night.
Or maybe it won’t. My own thoughts and prayers are going out tonight for the people who live there, that perhaps they'll be spared from devastation this hurrican season.
But if further damage is done there, and more people are injured or lose their lives, what seems quite sure is that they won’t be able to look to this particular administration for help either during the storm or in its aftermath.
Because all the Bush Administration can begat is stupidity, which begats incompetence, which begats stupidity.
28 August 2006
I’ve never experienced a hurricane. TeeVee doesn’t count.