One of the interesting consequences of marrying a Mormon is the fact that I am related to pretty much everyone. Before saying the proverbial "I do" ("I will" at my ceremony), I was related to a handful of people who all lived in the same county and generally only spoke when they ran into one another at Wal-Mart.
Mormon families are huge and they put a lot of effort into maintaining family ties. There were more than 150 people at my tiny backyard wedding six and a half years ago -- I knew 15 of them.
I mention this by way of explanation for my not knowing that I am related to a member of FEMA's Urban Search and Rescue team. FEMA has been taking a lot of heat lately in connection to its and the U.S. government's response to Hurricane Katrina.
David is the in-law's name. He didn't write me directly because he was busy Saturday saving the lives of an estimated 1,700 people. He is likely doing the same today. He has been on the job since Aug. 27 (two days before Katrina actually hit New Orleans).
His wife, Kerry (my aunt-in-law -- I think that's right), took the time to drop me a line, however, to take issue with my contention that in America "We leave one another to die and rot in the street."
The fact is, Kerry, points out, FEMA did act in a timely manner. She suggests that the sheer magnitude of the tragedy and inefficiency on the state and municipal levels are what contributed to the apparent train wreck we saw last week.
So, I feel the need to clarify what I said on Friday. First off, as addressed in the subject head, I was feeling particularly bitter about what I was seeing and reading. To that end, however, if I was reading and seeing all this stuff there is no denying that some of it at least was occurring. There really was lawlessness. There really was a lack of order.
I have no doubt that FEMA -- and, by extension, the USAR -- responded as quickly as possible. And I have no doubt that David and his team and teams like David's have been, are, and will continue to work their asses off to help the people of the region.
What upsets me is that someone higher up (Michael Chertoff? Higher up than that?) didn't realize that no matter how hard David and his ilk worked, it wasn't going to be enough. In July I mentioned watching the documentary "The Main Stream." In that documentary, they spoke about the absolute woe that would befall New Orleans if a sizeable hurricane ever hit the area. That documentary was made in 2002. That New Orleans would be devastated has been a known fact for years. Ignoring all of the would-have, could-have, should-have discussion about the lack of preparation before the hurricane, my anger comes from the fact that the response to it was inadequate. That's not David's fault, it's not even FEMA's fault, but someone (or some people) somewhere should have been aware of how dramatic the immediate response needed to be.
And the lack of adequate response, from Americans for Americans, is what raised my ire. It made me feel embarrassed and ashamed and I acted out as any person of my juvenile mindset would -- I insulted my country and my family on the Internet.
People are working hard. They have been working hard. I still feel, though, that more could have and should have been done sooner.
(Somewhat related: BBC story about frustration facing rescue workers.)