Monday, March 05, 2007

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 "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.


Unknown said...

How ignorant can a person be? The area destroyed in the federal flood was the size of seven Manhattan Islands! And you are comparing that to a tornado that hit a school in a small town in Alabama? I lived through Katrina. I had family affected from the west side of Lake Ponchatrain to Pass Christian,MS. So sit behind your keyboard and pontificate while you eat your Cheetos. You will NEVER know what we have endured, fought and struggled while people like you "bravely" sit at your computers and critizized EVERY step we made. As a southern lady all I have to say to you is "Stick it in your ear!" I STILL won't wish what we went through to happen to your family and home, because I am an American and I don't take pleasure in the suffering of my fellow Americans. What country are you from?

Unknown said...

Doc--You couldn't be more wrong. At the time Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, my oldest daughter and her family lived in Hancock County, Mississippi, 5 miles from the Gulf. They evacuated 48 hours before the storm, with (literally) one of their vehicles, three suitcases, a few hierlooms, and the clothes on their back. When they returned to their neighborhood after the storm, their house--and everything they left behind--was gone.

But, instead of waiting for the government to bail them out, they made a tough decision, moved to another state and began rebuilding their lives. Others along the MS Gulf Coast did the same. You'll note that Mississippi never received the publicity that New Orleans got--but suffered as much damage. Yet, 18 months later, much of MS is much further along in the recovery process than portions of LA. Why?

To the contrary, I know exactly what the victims of Katrina experienced. One of my children experienced its first hand. I don't take pleasure in anyone's suffering, but I am repulsed by individuals who do little to help themselves.

jamminedward said...

Many in NOLA, myself included, got back in here as soon as we could, rolled up our sleeves and got to work on our own putting our shattered, slime soaked lives together. We just didn't and don't get the MSM airplay the whiners and race-baiters do. We'll also get short-shrift from the feds again, because they'll only reward their dependent, welfare bought and paid-for constituency here. Actually racial make-up and home ownership are probably the biggest fundamental differences between Enterprise and NOLA--assuming you're correct about Enterprise being 25% AA, NOLA was about 70% AA before and is probably close to 60% as idiotic, costly government efforts continue to bring people back to the city who never made their own way, have no place to go and no sense of responsibility. That's why the crime rate is what it is and why it is so dramatically isolated to certain known "slum" areas, including the FEMA trailer parks that haven't effectively screened their occupants. Young AA's are returning to NOLA daily without parents, without registering for school, without jobs or any fixed places to live. Betty Crocker couldn't write up a clearer recipe for drug and gangsta rap fueled mayhem. My heart goes out to those who've lost loved ones in Enterprise. I count myself blessed to have only lost things, no matter how valuable, not a family member or friend. There is one silver lining I'd like to close with--that is these times can and do bring good people out and together. I've been in closer contact with family, friends, and neighbors since Katrina and that has been a very good thing. I hope, indeed I have no doubt that the good people of Enterprise will do the same.

Brian L. said...

I grew up in Enterprise and my parents still live there. They were extremely fortunate to get through the tornado with only moderate damage to their house. Most of their neighbors - including their next door neighbor - were not able to stay in their homes. Here is a link to the pictures I took of their neighborhood.

I went down to help them clean up the weekend after the storm and witness the spirit you refer to, much as I expected from my hometown. There were charities, churches, businesses, and private citizens riding around handing out supplies and offering to help clean up. It was VERY impressive. It was the textbook situation for how the government should function after a natural disaster. They quickly transported the injured to hospitals and then immediately jumped on rebuilding the infrastructure and providing enhanced security to prevent looting – without denying homeowners the right to return to their property. You’ll notice I didn’t say anything about handing out free cash cards and so forth.

Making the contrast with NOLA is tempting and I started to make it myself, but the two situations are night and day. There are a couple of reasons. First, houses just a couple of blocks away from the path of the tornado suffered little to no damage and many didn’t lose power. It’s no big hardship on you to help your neighbor clean up if you don’t have to work on your own house. Such was not the case in NOLA where everyone had to take care of themselves first.

The directed energy of a tornado also simplifies cleanup logistics. With all of the infrastructure outside of the tornado’s path in good condition it is easy to bring in heavy equipment from all directions.

I don’t know how much you know about Enterprise, but here is a testament to the attitude of the community. Enterprise is famous (infamous?) for having the only statue of an agricultural pest in the entire world: the Boll Weevil Monument. You can’t make this stuff up. The reason for the statue is that at one point in time cotton was the major crop in the area. Then the boll weevil came through and decimated the crop and the economy of the community. Instead of giving up and moving away the people persevered and discovered the peanut, which turned out to be an even better crop economically than cotton. As a tribute to the impetus for change the town constructed a statue of a lady hefting a boll weevil above her head.

Enterprise is a strong community with an ingrained capacity to take lemons and make lemonade. They’ll recover from this and be better off. As for NOLA…