A Tale of Two Cities
Enterprise, Alabama has begun burying the victims of last week's killer tornado. Funerals were held today for some of the students who died when the storm struck their high school, and more services will follow in the coming days.
Yet, despite the community's anguish, Enterprise is already on the road to recovery. And, more remarkably, the town is coming back without waiting for the federal government to ride to the rescue. Yes, FEMA is in Enterprise, coordinating relief efforts and taking applications for government assistance. But much of the real work is being done by local residents and people from nearby communities, lending a hand to their neighbors in need.
This column, by Chrissy Littledale of the Pensacola (FL) News-Journal, nicely captures the spirit of Enterprise, and those offering support to the storm victims.
Meanwhile, back in New Orleans, a security guard was murdered early today, at a FEMA-operated trailer park for victims of Hurricane Katrina. The killing was the city's 32nd homicide so far this year. Posters at the NOLA.com "Crime and Safety" message board expressed little surprise over the murder, claiming that the New Orleans Police Department has not conducted sweeps of the park to pick up known criminals. And, if that weren't enough, residents of another FEMA park in nearby Hammond, were ordered to vacate that location over the weekend, due to health and safety concerns.
Make no mistake; the amount of destruction in Enterprise pales in comparison to southeast Louisiana. By one account, the Enterprise tornado left a track about eight miles long and about a half-mile wide. Hurricane Katrina devasated thousands of square miles in Louisiana, Mississippi and even Alabama.
But, on the other hand, no one can dispute that Enterprise didn't suffer in last week's storm. In the end, it doesn't really matter if a hurricane or tornado destroyed you home, or snuffed out the life of a family member. The final result is the same; you try to recover, rebuild and move on.
What's the difference between Enterprise and New Orleans? I'd say it could be summed up in one word: attitude. After the tornado, most of the folks in Enterprise rolled up their sleeves and went to work, first focusing their attention on neighbors who had experienced the greatest losses. Almost 18 months after Katrina, some residents of New Orleans are still waiting for the federal government to make it right. They will likely be disappoiinted.
One more thing: the difference between Enterprise and New Orleans isn't race. African-Americans make up about 25% of population in the Alabama town, and the twister's path of destruction cut across both racial and economic lines.
Enterprise will be back. The jury on New Orleans is still out.