Katrina Damages Reputations of Aid Agencies, Among Other Things

By Shima, Age 18

You finally arrive at your home after what seemed like a year to discover it in not the condition you left it. Shingles are missing, a 6-inch thick carpet of muck is where your floor should be, and there is a foul and unidentifiable odor lingering in your living room. How did this happen?

Since both man-made and natural disasters have always occurred, organizations have been created to provide for and assist the unfortunate victims. Many of them exist, but in the wake of hurricane Katrina, mixed feelings about the reliability of them have arisen.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency states that its mission is “to lead America to prepare for, prevent, respond to and recover from disasters with a vision of ‘A Nation Prepared.’” After the category four hurricane made landfall and devastated the Gulf Coast, most of the victims turned to FEMA for some kind of aid. When my sister and I were in Houston, waiting anxiously for our transportation to Lafayette where my mom was located, hotels were advertising free room to Louisiana evacuees. At a well-known hotel near the Bush Intercontinental Airport, producing my Louisiana driver’s license and filling out a brief form gave my sister and I a very spacious and comfortable room.

But not all experiences have been pleasant. Many families that have applied have been turned away; some approved ones have received their $2000, while others haven’t even seen a penny. “There was a lack of accommodation for the people waiting four or five hours for FEMA,” said Dr. Myron Moorehead, vice chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Greater New Orleans Foundation, “and money was thrown out without consideration to who really needed it.”

The American Red Cross and the United States military have been distributing food and water at designated locations. But some say their timing was not punctual. “The delay of the assistance of the military was entirely too lengthy, considering the quick response to September 11th,” said Mrs. Seoane, a history teacher at Chapelle.

Insurance companies have left numerous clients in frustrated tears (my mom included) because not enough money is going to be given to compensate for lost or damaged belongings.

My mom and I painstakingly compiled a list of everything damaged in our garage and backyard and looked up their corresponding prices. Ironically, those damaged and/or lost things (my mom’s wedding dress, for instance) were moved there for safe keeping when we moved into this house last year during hurricane Ivan. With the amount of money we give insurance companies annually, one would think that we would be compensated for our damaged things; however, for us, the thought of receiving any money at all looks bleak.

Satisfaction with the level of dependability of post-Katrina aid depends on whom you ask. But now at Chapelle, with our newly acquired family, the best support is the kind we can give each other.