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September 28, 2007

Johnstown vs Katrina

I cannot leave the Johnstown occurrence with just a book review. Further comment is mandatory. While vacationing in NH I read a book published in 1965 on the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco. Again there were parallels worthy of comment. Less than 20 years after Johnstown another American boom town experienced a catastrophe. It was far more encompassing because of the size of the city (e.g. 300,000 homeless) but the response was equally dramatic.

“[There was,] exhibited . . . the American capacity for organization . . . [wherein others placed] their dependence on men who have exhibited their capacity to do things.” Military ships “self deployed” on order of their commanders arriving within hours; major moguls sprang into action providing tens of thousands of dollars for relief, free transportation out of the area, food, water and supplies. All this was achieved in less than 24 hours. Millions of relief dollars were raised quickly from New York to Los Angeles.

President Roosevelt provided nine million dollars in funds and appointed a disaster coordinator who, working with the fledgling Red Cross made this event into the first major calamity serviced by that organization.

Now let us revisit Katrina. I encourage you to read the book review on the flood, but remind you that the press at the time reported rumors of 10,000 dead, with plunder, mayhem, rape and murder. All of these rumors were corrected within a day or two. With Katrina rumors persist after two years, since they serve the purpose of Nagin and Blanco, the NAACP and the press.

Most interesting however, was the fact that in that era, without FEMA and its like, money flowed in from every state and many foreign countries totaling millions (of 19th century) dollars! In little more than a day the railroads were operational, carloads of necessities arrived and volunteer workers in the thousands came to help. In months Johnstown was back in order and rebuilding was largely accomplished. Steel was being manufactured, and life had returned to normal. In San Francisco shipping restored and businesses were operational and booming again within a couple of years.

All we hear about New Orleans is bitching about insufficient governmental aid and money, the rest of us unwilling to fix them up better than before, and complaints that countrymen are tired of hearing about the problems, etc., ready to move on, and wondering when they will be so too.

The century old calamities offer testimonial to American ingenuity, vigor and humanity under duress in the 19th century, begging the question of what has happened in the 21st

Things worked well without government in command, with individuals assuming--and presuming--responsibility! Maybe we should consider another revolution? (Keep in mind that revolve--the root word--involves a return to a beginning.)

Somewhere we have lost our way!

Posted by respeto at September 28, 2007 12:30 PM