Sad and grateful all at the same time

I apologize in advance for a post that has nothing to do with SQL Server but I have this urge to express the sorrow and anger I’ve been feeling these past few days. Before you go any further please be mindful that the opinions expressed in this post are solely mine and may not be shared by my employer or my co-workers.

I am horrified that in the richest country in the world, after a forecasted natural disaster, people are being left to fend for themselves without food, water and sanitation. What struck me the most was the plight of the poor people gathered at the New Orleans Convention Center, desperately waiting for help that took days to arrive. Babies and senior citizens were dying of dehydration and I felt so helpless witnessing it all as if I were there and yet unable to help. Giving a little bit of money was all I could do. But money wasn’t what was needed most urgently. This country has the doctors, the food, the medication, and the vehicles that were required to rescue the victims and yet, none of it was where it was most needed.
In the end, I am certain that through the public’s generosity and the government’s efforts, there will be money to help the victims get their lives back to normal. But how many people will have died in New Orleans who didn’t have to?
Yesterday, I bought my 15 months old daughter her first pair of real shoes.  I felt so grateful that I could do this… something as simple as going to the store and buying my baby a pair of shoes, when so many little ones in New Orleans have been wearing the same filthy diaper and going hungry for days.
In the end, this is a sobering reminder that I have been taking so many things for granted. Eventually I’m sure the raw emotion will subside and I’ll go back to complaining about inconsequential little things, like the price of a gallon of gas or the lack of decent cheese at my local supermarket. Still, I hope I won’t forget how I feel right now.

Comments (6)
  1. Peter Teoh Teik Huat says:

    First I must say that I may wrong, as I am not living in the US, and have not read a lot about recent events.

    This is all about disaster management. I thought US now has implemented all kind of measures after the 911 event? And yet this kind of disaster is not even handled immediately?

    It goes to show how top-heavy organization the entire disaster management plan goes – so much of reports, so much of news media coverage, so much of management talks about terrorism, so much of scientific analysis of terrorists behavioral patterns etc, and yet at the lowest level, so little emphasis is given to the implementation of the disaster management plan, so little volunteers are there to help out in management of the disaster, and most importantly, how despicable human behavior can become, if left on its own without external controls.

    Some of the events sound similar to those in Indonesia’s aftermath of the Asian tsunami that happens last year – most of the lessons from one event can similarly be applied to another disaster, and it has got to do with certain organizations setup being prepared for this kind of disaster handling – u must be trained for it to do it well, so it has to be a professionally setup organization. Self-help and volunteer can help, but they will need higher level of organization like the military, and police to help out, who will then have more resources to take control of the scenario.

    Organized handling of disaster need to have more autonomous response from different parties , like dispatching troops like helicopters, food supplies, all can be channelled in parallel, and coordination comes later as the amount gets saturated, as too much coordination initially can lead to slow down in response.

    Less red tape need to be incorporated into the system (referring to the Congress) – which is more important – money or life? Why is funds needed to be approved for usage in an emergency and why not the approval comes later AFTER THE EMERGENCY? Why can’t they preapproved the funds first for emergency? It really amazes me of the the prioritization society gives….

    society/organization structure and hierarchy/country always comes before individual human life (this comes from a chinese saying)…..BUT HUMAN LIFE ARE THE BASIC COMPONENT OF THE SOCIETY/COUNTRY!

  2. John says:

    Take a lesson from what happened in and around New Orleans…in the event of a disaster, natural or man-made, you need to plan on fending for yourself for at least a week. That means having enough food, water, medicine and whatever else you think you might need to survive a week with no electricity, running water or fuel. You CANNOT depend on your federal, state or local government to take care of you. Hell, there were New Orleans police officers turning in their badges and quitting in the middle of all of this. If something catastrophic happens in your area, assume that you will be on your own.

  3. tthtlc says:

    It is a tough and difficult decision. This kind of event only happened possibly once in 30 or 40 years, and so it may not justify having resources setup to prepare for it, or people trained for it. Police are not trained and expected to these things, so understandably when they have to do it, they will quit. And the government always ask us not to depend on them – yes, we have to be independent and organize our own self-help group. But if these kind of event happened only once in a lifetime, everyone will not be bothered to be prepared for it, or setup warehouses to keep stocks of additional supplies etc. If individually we try to fend for ourselves, most likely it will end up having more casualties than if we can properly organize ourselves to help each other, each one doing something different in a small way. The best strategy I can suggest is to have a mobile team that is specially trained to handle this kind of disaster, who won’t quit halfway in their responsibility due to their proper training and skills acquired. And they can be quickly be redeployed whenever possible. This will help to cut costs as compared to every states were to be prepared for it individually themselves. And most importantly, with the advanced weather forecasting, can’t they be deployed IN ANTICIPATION OF THE DISASTER, instead of after it has happened?

    They never expected the levee will break – I thought that was the most naive statement I have ever heard in my life. Always expect different results when planning strategies. This is the basic foundation of military planning – and they only have ONE solution for it – which is the levee and nothing after it has fallen? I am just amazed at those technocrat…..

    Peter Teoh

  4. MSDN Archive says:

    Peter and John, thanks for your comments.

    Peter, you are right about the weight of bureaucracy. Actually I’m watching a live interview of Rep. Bobby Jindal right now and his point echoes yours. Rescuers shouldn’t have to go through red tape. They should be free to act as they see fit and the paperwork should be handled later.

    John, I agree with you that you have to be ready and that you may not be able to count on anybody for a while. Trust me I am taking a very hard look at the state of emergency preparedness in my own house right now! However in this case it has become obvious that some government officials were asleep at the wheel. I mean, watching the head of FEMA admit to Paula Zahn that “until recently” he had no clue there were thousands of people stranded at the N.O. Convention Center was surreal. People cannot expect the government to perform miracles but they should expect it to do its very best. The delay in getting supplies and personnel on the ground, the breakdown in communication, all those things are very concerning. We’re days away from the fourth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. For all the talk about Homeland Security, for all the money spent in the last four years, have we learned nothing? If this is the response we can expect to a forecasted natural event, what about man-made unannounced disasters?

    Again, I’m sorry for addressing this on a SQL blog (and obviously the opinions expressed here are my own and do not reflect the views of my employer or co-workers) but I am outraged by what has happened (or NOT happened). I am not a US citizen but all three of my children are (exclusively at this point I might add; none of them as dual citizenship). As their father I am responsible for their safety and well being, and I will make sure that if they ever were in such an emergency situation <I>their</I> government is ready to do everything in its power to help.

    I’m going to cut the rambling short for now but in the next few weeks I’ll probably write some thoughts on emergency preparedness. If you have any experience or ideas regarding that particular subject please use the contact form to email me.

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