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Hurricane Katrina seen by a Romanian

de (26-9-2005)
Domnica NegruDomnica Negru

An article written for a class.
September,22, Oxford, Mississippi
I have got a lot of messages from my parents, grandparents and friends alarmed by the news that hurricane Katrina hit Mississippi. They were wondering if I was alright, if I survived and how it was to be in the way of a hurricane. Formulating the answers, it came to my mind that it could interest more people from my country. By their luck, people from Moldova only have the chance to confront with this phenomena in the short images presented in the news bulletins. That’s why I decided to send my kinsfolk a common letter and tell them about what they couldn’t see on the TV screens.

I’d heard that the hurricane was going to hit the Gulf Coast two days before, but, initially, I didn’t pay much attention to the news. Monday at noon it began to rain and in the evening a terrible wind was blowing. The American roommates of my friend Elmira from Kazakhstan said they have passed through such a disaster before and warned us that it was going to be horrible. They said the hurricanes usually take up the houses and wrest the trees. Elmira’s roommates stored food and water in the bathroom which they said, was the safest place of the apartment and bought flash lights and candles, in case the power was going off. The third and the top floor of Elmira’s house didn’t seem enough safe to me, so I convinced her to join me in my first floor apartment. On the way to my house we heard the wind breaking some windows.

All TV stations were talking only about the hurricane. They showed shattering images of New Orleans under water, cars flowing, people praying on the roofs. A crying woman said that her house was gone and she was spending her night in the hotel. That was enough for me. Being uninformed about hurricanes, just for one week in the United States, I thought the end of the world was coming in Oxford too. In that moment I hated TV for the way they informed about the hurricane victims. It made us, those who were awaiting the hurricane hit, uneasy and anxious. My friend started blaming her decision of coming here, but continued to watch with maximum attention the disaster covered on TV.

Murmuring prayers, I decided to prepare my, “evacuation bag”, as I called it, the bag with my passport, a bottle of water, 3 yogurts, some warm clothes, photos brought from Moldova and money and I put it in the bathroom. Elmira kept her black humor and asked me, if I knew how to swim. We felt more relieved to find out we are both good swimmers.

My roommates acted as they had nothing to worry about and went to visit their friends who had cable. They couldn’t wait to watch their favorite Monday TV show “Laguna Beach” and took some beer with them. The girls ensured me the hurricane wasn’t going to cause big damage to Oxford, but we were more likely to believe what we saw with our own eyes on TV. In the last instance, they didn’t see any Laguna Beach, as the power went off.

About 8 PM, without electricity, me and Elmira felt asleep, still dressed, on a improvised bed in the living room with the keys and the lighter in the hands. Outside the wind was blowing very hard, stirring up the car alarm sirens.

I thanked God the next day and e-mailed my parents and friends to assure them I was safe. Classes were cancelled the next day until 1 PM. There were no severe damages on campus, just a blown window at the Student Union and a cover of leaves on the ground. I met Mira Radu, my friend from Cluj Romania. She was OK and said that a tree fell on her house, but on the neighbor’s side. Another other tree fell on the neighbor’s car, it was insured, so now he has a new car.

Gareth, one of my classmates from Pascagoula, a town on the Mississippi coast, said that the news a hurricane was going to hit the coast did not make him pay attention at the beginning. “They talked about hurricanes hit all the time and it never happened. I thought this time, too , the hurricane was going to side step.” However, his family evacuated two days before. After the Hurricane, they found their house damaged, the roof was blown off and 6 inches of water in the house. The Baptist church where he used to go when he was a kid doesn’t exist anymore. As the school and University in Pascagoula are closed, his parents, who are professors stay home without work. Gareth says it going to take no less than two years to rebuild the town.

After inundating the historic city of New Orleans , the hurricane left thousands of people without homes. The number of dead is not known yet, however preliminary figures show 650 dead in Louisiana and Mississippi. The press qualified the hurricane as “one of the most punishing hurricanes ever to hit the United States”, a disaster second only to the terrorist act on September, 11 2001. Since 31 august, till now, the story is placed on the top in The New York Times.

After the public authorities issued orders to evacuate, people found shelter in overcrowded hotels, motels, makeshift shelters, but still, a large part was stuck in the center of New Orleans. Opinion notes the victims were largely poor and black, who didn’t have transportation to run from the disaster. “ There was not an evacuation plan for people who didn’t have a car. I’ve heard people saying there were all these buses that could have been used.”,says Kasimu, 27, an African American who saw his ravaged house in New Orleans on TV. Mayor Milton of Winstonville, MS said, cited by NY Times: “No one would have checked on a lot of the black people in these parishes while the sun shined. So I am not surprised that no one comes to help us now?”

As New Orleans struggles to get back on its feet, it could be months before business returns to normal. Kasimu thinks it is going to take 200 years to rebuild New Orleans. Personally, I don’t think it’s going to take that much, but his opinion illustrates the scars the hurricane has drawn in people’ souls.

The America people and Ole Miss students showed impressive solidarity with the victims of the hurricane. They contributed with food and water to the Red Cross Initiative and organized an art sale To benefit Katrina victims. The press writes that the Government, deeply criticized for the slowness of reaction, finally began to work. I am convinced that life will soon follow it’s normal way and the hurricane will remain a powerful story for Americans.

Ecouri

  • Dumitru: (26-9-2005 la 00:00)

    Fara nici o indoiala, Katrina cu ale sale victime, poate fi considerat nici mai mult si nici mai putin, rezultatul ignorantei umane de mai pretutindeni. Nu cred ca numai Statele Unite ale Americii ar fi „the first an the last victim of….” acestor (umane) ignorante; nimeni, cred eu, n’ar fi banuit vreodata sa fi fost posibil sa-si numere victimele astfel; eu personal urasc aceste „metehne politicae”; insa la drept vorbind, cine poate prevedea un dezastru de astfel de proportii? …ma pretind un ins de-ajuns de educat intru human spirit, incat sa-mi para rau, …dar rau de tot pentru orice viata pierduta … si tocmai datorita prostiei umane, daramite intr-un caz in care se mai putea salva ceva, deh….; n-am obosit sa intregesc ideea ca: trebuie facut ceva, nu numai in America, vezi Romania, vezi mai toate fostele si viitoarele Tsunami ce pasc din vietile noastre cum vor „energiile” si de ce ?….aici va mai las si pe voi dragi …. co cititori sa-mi enumerati off-urile;

    In incheiere, as dori doar un planetar sfat catre indiferent de rasa, politica, etc. apucaturi, si anume sa reflectam la ceea ce trebuie sa invatam din toate care ni s-au intamplat, adicatelea, sa vedem ce anume va trebui sa facem pentru urmatoarele… avertismente similare…. si nu vreau sa ma refer doar la Louisiana, ci si la frumoasa noastra mama Romania.
    Cu foarte mult drag, Dumitru, USA



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