Someone I know went down to Mississippi a couple of weeks ago, to do a week’s worth of volunteer clean-up work with the youth group from her Unitarian Universalist church, the Winchester Unitarian Society. The photos her group brought back show a devastated landscape: ruined buildings, smashed cars, huge piles of junk surrounding what used to be a middle-class houses. Volunteers in hazmat suits, with faces hidden behind respirators. Desiccated carcasses of dogs. These pictures shook me up. They show a devastated landscape, one that should not be this devastated by now.
A few of these photos can be seen on the Winchester Unitarian Society Web site [link], along with some comments from youth who went on the trip. Two of the comments:
“I think people need to understand the extent of the damage that we saw. It wasn’t just one road or neighborhood, but actually miles and miles and towns and towns of obliterated houses and lives. The damage is ineffable, and you need to know that even though Katrina may not be on the front page anymore, it doesn’t mean that it’s anywhere near taken care of.”
“New Orleans is hurting just as badly, or worse, than everybody says it is. Also, itâ€™s virtually empty of assistance to the naked eye. There’s no one there. Just residents trying to rebuild their lives. Whoâ€™s going to help them?”
Six months ago, my sister Jean asked the rhetorical question: How would the federal government have responded if Katrina had hit Connecticut? Let’s ask another version of that rhetorical question today: If Katrina had hit Connecticut, what would Connecticut look like today, six months afterwards?