The fourth anniversary of the landfall of Hurricane Katrina would likely be garnering bigger headlines right now if not for the death of Senator Edward Kennedy. It might have even drowned out the howling over “socialized medicine” and “death panels” and South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer’s ill-timed yet completely hilarious attempt to shame Gov. Mark Sanford out of office. It might not have, though.
New Orleans post-Katrina is caught in a quandary. It hasn’t been completely rebuilt, and it still has less than half the population it did before the storm, and yet as a city that relies on tourism, it has to put forward the idea that it’s open for business, that it has recovered enough to be a viable destination for conferences, for major sporting events, for music festivals, you name it.
And then there are the ghosts that have to be dealt with; not ethereal spirits that haunt the city streets (though there are plenty of those, if you ask the locals), but the memories of people who were faced with painful and difficult choices. The NY Times Magazine this Sunday is running a very long piece on one hospital in New Orleans and the medical staff that had to decide who lived and who died, who got evacuated first and who had to take their chances.
It’s not an easy piece to read, but it’s an important one. Even if you believe the worst about Dr. Anna Pou, who was charged with the murder of several patients–the Grand Jury declined to bring an indictment–it’s important to remember that it was the system that failed. If the people failed, it’s because the normal rules didn’t apply at the time. That’s what happens when society breaks down after an emergency.