Both sides of the bridge

There’s a link going round to a story by a couple of emergency medical workers who survived Katrina, but only after suffering deception and unimaginable hardship. (Another related story.) It’s a horrid story of thousands of people trapped in New Orleans because outlying townships would not let them cross over the bridges into their communities. I’ve heard people use the term racist, condemn the townthe police, and all the people in it.

Here’s another story about Gretna, from a predominantly black neighborhood. Here’s another, again from survivors who did cross the bridge through Gretna, without being turned back, but not being allowed to stay. Here’s the web site for Jefferson Parish, of which Gretna is the community center. Here’s an interview with the Parish President.

One of the primary reasons we have a National Guard is for incidents of extreme emergency, when communities will feel threatened, cut off, and on their own. When this happens, most will pull in and put up barriers — not because they’re ‘bad’ people or don’t care; but because at some point the people think no one will help them, and they are all that stands between salvation and destruction.

The National Guard replaces the small town sheriff, the neighborhood cop, and others too overwhelmed to exercise good judgment, or even common decency. And, if the Guard also brings with them food, water, medical care, and a reminder that the people aren’t alone, they give hope for those who are feeling trapped. When people no longer feel trapped, they are capable of great good. When they are trapped, well, how hard would you fight to protect your home and your family?

We weren’t there in that time, behind the fences erected–on either side of the bridge. We can’t possibly comprehend the devastation, the fear, and how after day one, day two, day three, day four, day five, we might react in similar circumstances. I won’t condemn any of those forced to live, and act, under these conditions, because I’ve not been in such a devastating position; I hope to God never to be. I don’t know what I would do. I don’t know if I would end up sinner or saint, or just some tired, hungry, thirsty, scared woman desperate for something normal.

I do agree, though, with Ralph: this is not my America. But it is. It really is. This is you and me, children. This is you and me, on both sides of the bridge.

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