All day on Aug. 29, the day before Katrina struck land, I kept expecting President Bush to put some emergency evacuation procedures in place for New Orleans and other cities that might be affected by this hurricane. Surely, I thought, he would issue an executive order to evacuate people who had no transportation out of these cities. Surely he would order the airlines to coordinate flights into these cities to fly people out of danger, free of charge to anyone who wanted to leave and did not have the resources to do so. Surely he would order all taxis and buses to take such people, free of charge, either out of the area or to the airports where airplanes would be available.
But, no, all I heard him say on the subject was that people should evacuate. Doesn't the president of the United States know that at a time of national crisis people need specific direction and assistance, not just vague suggestions and encouragement? Doesn't he know that everyone does not own an automobile? I got no indication that he was giving the situation any serious consideration at all. Well into the evening, I continued to hear about plans for his trip to El Mirage to advocate for his new Social Security program. The next day, I was appalled to learn that he was actually making his planned speech in El Mirage during the hours that Katrina was annihilating thousands of homes in New Orleans, Biloxi and other cities and towns.
It is all very well to grieve for people, tour the area by helicopter, and send relief after the fact. But where was our leader during the 72 hours before this tragedy struck? It was well publicized that the hurricane was of category five intensity and heading directly for our coastal cities.
I can only hope that this will be a wake-up call to somebody in the administrative and bureaucratic maze surrounding Mr. Bush. Surely there must be somebody there with the sense and foresight to plan for orderly evacuations in case of national emergencies, whether of natural or human causes. Surely we don't have to wait for such foresight until January of 2008 when a new administration takes over. Until that time, all we can expect from the president is for him to cheer us on while we engage in "hard work."
Elaine Bohlmeyer, Payson