There’s a 200-mile stretch of the Gulf Coast that shares an incredible amount of culture and history. It starts, of course, with New Orleans, then ventures a little more than 100 miles east to Mobile, Ala., (pronounced mo-BEEL if you’ve never been down here), and finally another 45 miles or so to Pensacola. The Spanish and French influence starts to taper off a little bit as you get over this way, but it’s still around. The food, music — it twists itself all around as it moves east, but the roots are the same.
So it’s been pretty hard the past few days to see the replays of of Hurricane Katrina, the 2005 storm that killed 1,833 people. It hammered the hell out of those 200 miles, from New Orleans to Pensacola. The brunt of the storm, of course, was felt by the Crescent City and the coastal communities of Mississippi directly to the east. (No, I didn’t forget you folks.) It put water over the beach here in Pensacola, and along the bayfront downtown. Katrina was a big, nasty storm, even by our standards — and we tend to just blink and deal with anything below a Category 2. It’s just something we deal with living here.
Ten years ago. I was newly married — and our nuptials came just three days after a strong Hurricane Ivan landed on Pensacola. I didn’t have kids then. I didn’t have a smartphone. There was no Twitter. Facebook was still limited to a select few colleges. Live video was only really done by those with TV trucks. I remember sleeping alone the night Katrina landed — my wife was covering things from the county emergency operations center. But I’ll never forget the pictures that slowly started to roll in the next day over the wire services. This wasn’t just a lot of wind knocking things down and a lot of rain making things wet. It was the dissolution of a major American city into a soggy, suffering, well-armed shell of itself. The lack of government response is as maddening now as it was then. (Maybe even more so since former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was here last week trumpeting his response to the Florida storms of 2004-05.)
Imagine now if we had the same sort of gadgets then that we have today. High-def cameras in nearly every hand. Compact, rechargeable external batteries. (Those are going to be worth their weight in gold after disasters now.) A more robust wireless infrastructure to allow anyone to get the news and conditions out instantly. There will be more storms. But there’s no way in hell anyone will every be ignored like that again.
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