A Katrina Lesson

I spent the weekend with family and friends in the Cayman Islands. Beautiful place. Far more developed than I had expected. Particularly on the south side of the island where we stayed.

When I gotto thecondo wherewe were staying, one of the first things I got the chance to glance at was a book detailing the devastation of Hurricane Ivan on the island. Category 5. Wind gusts up to 200mph. The devastation was incredible. Four Feet or more of water covered the ENTIRE Island.

Pictures in the book mirrored what we saw in the Gulf Coast.

I had totally forgot about Ivan. Out of sight, out of mind I guess. But I started asking locals that I got to meet about it. Taxicab drivers. Waiters. People I met.

They told stories of no electricity for 6 or more weeks. No water for 2 weeks. How to take a shower with a half a bottle of water.

The real question I had was how the island had been rebuilt. Who paid for it ?

The stories were all the same. We did. We did. We did. The government tried to do their part. But when it came right down to it, enterprise stepped in. Insurance proceeds were invested.

A couple people felt like that the island should have done a better job of asking for assistance, like the US did for Katrina, but most seemed to be proud of the fact they did it themselves.

It was great to see.

But part of me was sad.

That used to be an American story. I kept on waiting for the story to end with a description of American know how and ingenuity. But they werent talking about Americans.

Im sure there are parts of their story I dont know. I was just a tourist asking questions. Maybe i wasnt in the right area. But all I could think ofwas,if this little island could get back on their feet through free enterpriseand through their own initiative, why cant we ?

31 thoughts on “A Katrina Lesson

  1. Community Television to share this exciting new project. It is a great example of the work of MCT staff and volunteers!

    August 29, 2007 is the launch of traveltelevision.org a television show and web site project that owes its success to our volunteers efforts. I am proud that I had chance to work with them. Together, we pooled our time, enthusiasm, and determination to create a program that will increase the number of volunteers who travel to the Gulf Coast region, while telling stories of volunteers and focusing on efforts of local citizens who have traveled to the region and made a lasting impact there. On Wednesday, August 29, 2007, the premier of this show will air. I would like to invite you to be a part of the studio audience for this live program. Arrive at 7:30 at the Montgomery County TV studios for refreshments and we will watch the premiere episode followed by a live broadcast at 9:00 PM. The event will conclude at 9:30. Please RSVP to me via email or my cell phone 301 294 2211.
    Wouldnt it be wonderful if what started as our small but determined community-based group of volunteers has a major impact on the number of people who decide to use their volunteer time to work in the Gulf Coast region?

    The links include: http://www.traveltelevision.org
    The Katrina volunteer site: http://www.projectkatrinavolunteers.net
    PR Newswire release: http://sev.prnewswire.com/television/20070824/NEF01224082007-1.html
    Gazette article: http://www.gazette.net/stories/082207/germnew195548_32371.shtml

    Comment by steve friedman -

  2. There is a website to share the volunteer stories for those who have gone to the gulf coast. Visit

    http://www.projectkatrinavolunteers.net to read about and share your stories

    Comment by steve friedman -

  3. Bureaucracy is to blame and, ironically, looking for blame itself is another problem. As soon as something goes wrong, the blame game begins. We focus too much on blaming somebody for something and not enough time fixing it. Fix it first, then evaluate it and find out what we can do better next time. Bureaucratic fatcats in Washington hold hearings on the matter before people can even return. That is just nonsense.

    Comment by Brian -

  4. The small merchants will be Indians, Pakistanis, etc who are looking for a place to get into business. The poor population of New Orleans will get shut out of jobs, and find no affordable housing.

    Comment by runescape money -

  5. The skilled jobs will go to people experienced in the gaming industry (from Las Vegas, Atlantic City, et al). The service jobs will be filled by Hispanics. The small merchants will be Indians, Pakistanis, etc who are looking for a place to get into business.

    Comment by wow powerleveling -

  6. very good!!

    Comment by 11nong -

  7. cool blog 🙂

    good luck

    Comment by kettaneh -

  8. When I first noticed that the people on the ground in New Orleans were shouting ‘help me government’. I noticed that after about three days of that, they started helping themselves. I even bet a friend of mine that if I were dropped off in the middle of that place, that I would be right back here at home in 24 hours. If Katrina is to be an experience to learn from, let us hope that our ignorant government will finally understand that you cannot make fishermen out of people by giving them fish. We are going on the fourth generation of welfare minded people in this country, and I hope, but am not counting on, change in the system. What a great disservice the government has done to these people.
    Al Golnquin

    Comment by Al Golnquin -

  9. I never cease to be amazed. Everyone seems to have an opinion on this, especially those people who are neither from the areas hit by Katrina and Rita nor have been there. Just so that you know, New Orleans was not the hardest hit area. It is the area that the networks have deemed most newsworthy. I live in St. Tammany Parish. Louisiana. We were devastated by Katrina and flooded by Rita. Every member of my family as well as those in my wife’s family had their homes destroyed in the storms.

    What you have seen on CNN and Fox News is the aftermath through a narrow looking glass. The overwhelming majority of the population here is not waiting for government aid. Since early September, I have been working with individuals to rebuild homes and business. I am not any exception. This is the norm. People are helping people and businesses are helping business. We all know that to recover, we must help and cooperate. An example of this is The United Radio Broadcasters of New Orleans. It is a joint effort to provide the region with reliable and consistent radio broadcast of emergency recovery and relief information. It is comprised of stations operated by Clear Channel Radio, Entercom Communications and independent stations.

    Banks are providing interest free extensions on loans. Physicians have been providing free and discounted medical care. Local stores are selling replacement goods at a fair price with interest free financing. The population of the parish in which I live has grown by 100,000 in the weeks since Rita. FEMA has provided housing for only 600. Where are the other 99,400 people living? With friends, relatives, and even total strangers.

    To all of the ill-informed and self-appointed experts I suggest you reform your options after helping an elderly person rescue cherished tidbits from a destroyed home. Please bring boots, gloves, and a respirator. It is a mess. Mr. Cuban, if you want to invest (as opposed to speculate), come to southeast Louisiana and costal Mississippi. You will get a return.

    Comment by Paul Augustin -

  10. Mark: I am surprised that you found this surprising. This is true for majority of the developing nations around the world where governments are corrupt or don’t have any money. In these places, its the people and the society/enterprise that re-builds…and re-builds fast.

    Check information on the recent floods in Western India, especially Mumbai/Bombay – the financial capital. Mumbai was downed – literally with first floor apartments in water – and yet the city sprung back in no time. Wayyyyy faster than the Gulf Coast.

    So I definitely find your implicit suggestion that Americans are good at recovering faster/better from natural disasters somewhat one-sided and biased. Americans (everyone who lives here, including me) are awesome, no doubt. But I feel people in Cayman and Mumbai who brought things back quicker with no government money/funding deserve more admiration.


    Comment by Vaibhav -

  11. For far too many people in America today, the John F. Kennedy quote has been reversed. “Ask not what you can do for your country, Ask what your country can do for you”.

    Comment by Glen Wilson -

  12. I think this rant raises a larger issue. Americans have no clue how the government is supposed to work. Few people understand the constitution, declaration of independence, bill of rights, etc… And even fewer take the time to at least consider founding fathers when making important decisions. Say what you want about the cut and dry nature of the documents and its authors, these papers built/maintain the backbone of america and every citizen should at least know their rights AND responsibilities.

    Comment by George -

  13. Just to add my .02… there were (and are) a lot of expatriates there as well who dived in up to their elbows to help rebuild Cayman. Ex-pats from Jamaica (unskilled labor) Canada (skilled labor and construction foremen, etc) US (A whole whack of linemen and their trucks) Brits, Aussies, kiwis, south africans and phillipinos doing everything from clearing to roofing to cleaning to helping people put tarps over their roofs. Aid came in from the US, Canada and the UK. (I remember tacking down some heavy tarpaulin-like covering on a couple roofs that were imprinted with USAID logos on them, unloading and handing out UK rations and water from Canada and Jamaica).

    I think that the Americans(let’s just call them people, as they’re of all different nationalities) of yesteryear that Mark is pining for are still alive and well, they’re just spread out over the rest of the world.

    Comment by Mark -

  14. I agree with Mark; the size of the destruction is irrelevant. They were both hurricanes, you stupid Pacers fan. And New Orleans isn’t a major anything except “major place to get drunk and pee in the street.”
    Just as a personal aside, I haven’t given a dime for Katrina relief and I won’t. The issue has become entirely too political for me to feel good about any sort of giving.

    Comment by Josh Z -

  15. AMEN! I cry in agreement b/c so many people just don’t get it. The Gov. does not exist to provide assistance, only freedom/opportunity, so that we can do it ourselves. To many people mistake opportunity for assitance. I’m honestly scared of my young generation I’m growing up along side.

    I’m going to have to put a link to this blog from mine. I can just see Mark’s brain, going at it, “what can I build, what do the people need, how can I help and at the same time make a viable business…”

    Comment by Taylor -

  16. AMEN! I cry in agreement b/c so many people just don’t get it. The Gov. does not exist to provide assistance, only freedom/opportunity, so that we can do it ourselves. To many people mistake opportunity for assitance. I’m honestly scared of my young generation I’m growing up along side.

    I’m going to have to put a link to this blog from mine. I can just see Mark’s brain, going at it, “what can I build, what do the people need, how can I help and at the same time make a viable business…”

    Comment by Taylor -

  17. New Orleans is going to redevelop as a Disney World for adults — a Las Vegas with a Miami climate. The skilled jobs will go to people experienced in the gaming industry (from Las Vegas, Atlantic City, et al). The service jobs will be filled by Hispanics. The small merchants will be Indians, Pakistanis, etc who are looking for a place to get into business. The poor population of New Orleans will get shut out of jobs, and find no affordable housing.

    The Golden Rule: “He who has the gold makes the rules” The evacuees from New Orleans don’t have any. Might as well find a better place to get on with your life.

    Comment by Paul Lambert -

  18. I seen on Channel 4 on tv on viewers comments one person who sent in a response to some of the comments that people made on the help that they received was “Maybe God should put one hand on their shoulder and the other on their mouth”. I thought that was about the best comment on the subject I had ever seen.

    Comment by Billy Taylor -

  19. Jason (go Pacers)
    that is quite a micro view on Marks piece. (in a macro sense) he is stating that the attitudes in the US have become, what are you going to do for me? Rather than, what can i do to help myself?

    Comment by Jeremy -

  20. Wow, you really want to equate a small island rebuildign on its own to how a huge metropolitan center, with much more infastructure and other issues to deal with than a BEACH ISLAND, should rebuild itself with that mythical magic of “free enterprise”?

    That’s like saying that the because the homeless man rebuilt his cardboard box on his own that the family of four who’s house was washed away should be able to do it to.

    My God, I really thought you were smarter than that.

    Comment by Jason (Go Pacers) -

  21. CNN had better headlines to cover right after Ivan hit. It barely got national attention even though it was the hardest hitting hurricane of 2004. Over 100 dead in the panhandle and I don’t recall CNN ever reporting a single death.

    We had a place on Perdido. It took us almost a month to get back on the Island because the bridges to the barrier islands were damaged. We also had a rental house on the bay that was leveled to the slab. Our tenants had evacuated, but they had nothing to come home to.

    We’ve since moved 50 miles east to Destin, FL because this area was spared the wrath of Ivan. Many houses still remain destroyed over there and FEMA left town almost completely once Dennis, Katrina, Rita arrived in the LA, MI area.

    Luckily my wife and I had funds to fall back on (spent now), but many did not plan ahead and are still suffering.

    Comment by Michael -

  22. It’s not time for a philosophical approach yet, isn’t it? Besides, it’s both frustrating and motivating to here the stories from Katrina and Ivan involved.

    Comment by Jens Meiert -

  23. We expect Uncle Sam to take care of us in a crisis because he takes care of everyone else during their crises. one example – recent tsunami. There was another hurricane and people are suffering just as much as Katrina victims.

    I get upset with all the Katrina this and Katrina that. I’ve been to New Orleans and it was a great place and I want to go back one day. It will be rebuilt and if the government won’t do it, I believe the people of New Orleans have the attitude to do it themselves.

    Remember the people of Rita also. I believe, from personal experience, that people will rebuild and things will be better with or without the help of the government.

    It’s understandible that they can’t get money now, but were was the preparedness in case something like this happened.

    Comment by Melissa -

  24. A business partner of mine recently complained, “After three-generations, we all become spoiled brats.”

    Sad, but true.

    This entitlement mentality affects our basic spirit for free enterprise; we reflexively blame “the other guy”.

    What’s the typical American response to outsourcing? Well, something to the effect of “What’s our government gonna do about these outsiders competing for our cushy jobs?”

    Remember when Mr. Brown (ex-FEMA) and Mr. Nagin (New Orleans mayor) were both asked, “What mistakes did you make in Katrina’s aftermath?” They both said something to the effect of “Well, I made the mistake of thinking that those other guys would do their jobs more effectively.”

    Such thinking won’t fit in the 21st century.

    Comment by Charles -

  25. A blatant Cayman-Islands hurricane-related plug, but those of you with a few extra dollars / euros / pesos / yen / etc in your pockets may wish to check out assisting the conservation of the critcally endangered Cayman Islands Blue Iguana: http://www.blueiguana.ky – hurricanes and humans have thinned the wild population to below 50 animals, but a dedicated (and well-organized) effort is in place to repopulate them. Plus, some of us just find them to be rather cute.

    Comment by Erik Carlseen -

  26. We expect Uncle Sam to take care of us; gov’t safety nets affirm bad behaviors in the US population. Yes, we need to help, but is their no benefit in having insurance against such events? If not, why ever insure or plan for the unexpected?

    Comment by Brad Respess -

  27. You have to look at who was affected by Katrina. I’ll bet you anything that the citizens of Mississippi pulled together just like the people of the Cayman Islands. Louisiana, on the other hand…well, did you expect any different?

    Comment by Mike -

  28. It is a shame that a nation built on such a hands-on approach can’t make it work.. but it’s a hint at the changing economy- We don’t want to invest in ourselves anymore, and it’s a shame. Besides investing in a city under the sealevel being a rather bad idea in the first place, there should be someone ready to go buy up the commercial land to put in a new fancy bar or ngihtclub- it’s like a clean slate for developers.. Hopefully the government slows down, and take the opportunity to rebuild right, lay fibre since hte phone system is out, make sure everyone has 200 amp electrical service, bring things up to code! (and for goodness sakes, dont’ let hospitals put generators in the basement!) If cards get played right the rebuilt NewOrleans will be twice the city the orginal was.. On a side note, I bet it took the caymens a long time to rebuild too.. and Don’t forget to factor in the financial instituitions supplying investment money- they have a major reason to ensure those islands came back strong.

    Comment by Christopher Uthe -

  29. My family has a rule; no complaining unless you are doing something about what you are complaining about. While I agree that there are many issues involved in the Katrina aftermath,if more people would shut off CNN and do something about all of these problems, the cures would become self fulfilling prophecies just like the problems seem to have become. Rich Karlgard (writer for Forbes) wrote a column a few months ago about a trip to Austrailia, the part that interested me was that he said it was the first time ever that he almost regretted coming back to the US because he was leaving behind (Austrailia)a country of positive, happy people with fantastic can-do attitudes, much like the US used to have, the same attitude that got our country through many tough times…. The same attitude that is overshadowed by all of the negative sensationalized media coverage of problems in the US…

    Comment by Eric -

  30. The short and simple answer is that we can but choose not to invest.

    Why? Because fundamentally our political, corporate and societal systems are not one where people matter most but rather where money matters more and that is the inherent flaw that is slowing destroying our country one fiber at a time.

    During the immediate crisis we demonstrate that life and people matter most. However, when the immediate crisis and threat is over we revert back to the same lazy and self-absorbed belief systems and practices. To-wit presupposes that people are secondary to the selfish wants of those who have in the face of those in need.

    Comment by Christopher -

  31. What a well spoken post asking us to harken back to a better day – I totally agree.

    But honestly, I’m suprised you don’t have more incindiery comments here about this one (maybe I should check back tomorrow?)

    Comment by paul -

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