New Orleans holds a special place in my heart, so I greatly anticipated the issue of Time that would come out following Hurricane Katrina [Sept. 12]. You did not let me down. From Nancy Gibbs' poetic story to the astounding photographs, Time once again took me to a distant place and helped me understand the enormity of the storm's destruction.
There are multiple lessons to be learned from the disaster of Katrina and the unnecessary loss of so many lives. Besides the government's obvious failure to respond rapidly and the further evidence of the Bush Administration's incompetence, the catastrophe demonstrates the folly of lower taxes and less government. We are in desperate need of policies that address the issues of poverty, deteriorating infrastructure and environmental degradation. Unless America's leaders devise a dramatic new approach for coping with hurricane disasters, we are destined to be devastated by many more Katrinas. We can only hope that this was the ultimate wake-up call.
Michael F. Hamant
Tucson, Arizona, U.S.
I am a native New Orleanian, who evacuated the city before the horror. Now, as I sit in San Diego, I try not to hate those responsible for the botched response to the hurricane. I've been listening to national politicians who state that what happened in New Orleans could not be anticipated. That is a blatant lie. It was common knowledge that we were vulnerable and the levees were inadequate for a hurricane as strong as Katrina. For decades, our local and state officials have fought for funding to rebuild the eroding coasts and levees. Although I know that my immediate family and friends are safe, my family has lost all its material possessions. I am sad and angry but not broken. I am alive. I am one of the fortunate ones. But what about my neighbors?
I am an evacuee from Metairie, Louisiana. The majority of people on the Gulf Coast, even those of us who left before the storm hit land, were in a state of denial. That was in part because we've faced hurricanes and evacuations before and in part because we didn't want to acknowledge the possibility that a catastrophe of biblical proportions was about to change our lives forever. Mistakes were made too many of them fatal and irreversible on all levels. Although there must be a thorough accounting of what went wrong and why, I beg the media to focus on the kindness and strength of the human spirit that we are seeing now. Just as with 9/11 and the Indian Ocean tsunami, good can come out of disaster. We have some tough choices ahead. I pray that we make the right ones.
Jane LaBreche Hebert
Friendswood, Texas, U.S.
Katrina and its aftermath demonstrate our misplaced priorities: cutting taxes for the rich instead of shoring up infrastructure and maximizing corporate profits at the expense of the environment. A nation that abandons its poorest, weakest citizens to the vagaries of a glorified free market shouldn't call itself civilized.
Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.
Sharon's Gaza Gambit
Your verbatim item quoted a statement by former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about Ariel Sharon's leadership [Sept. 12]: " Sharon gave and gave and gave some more, and the Palestinians got more and more and more. And what did we get in return? The answer is: nothing, nothing and nothing." I don't agree. The world saw Prime Minister Sharon make a very painful decision for the long-term well-being of his people that demonstrated shrewd strategic thinking.
For Iraqi Federalism
You reported on the stampede that killed more than 1,000 Shi'ite pilgrims in Baghdad, the Sunnis' honorable behavior and the dispute over Iraq's highly contentious new constitution [Sept. 12]. We need to grasp the fact that peace will come to Iraq only when all three major groups Kurds, Sunnis and Shi'ites are allowed to control their individual destinies in a federal system. Since the U.S. has a federal system of government, why does it want to deny long-suffering Iraqis the same privilege? The oil wealth can be shared.
Dangerously Out of Touch?
Matthew Cooper's article "Dipping His Toe Into Disaster" discussed Bush's awkward and slow response to Katrina [Sept. 12]. But the point is not the political tone-deafness of the President or his handlers. It is whether his incompetence and that of his appointees have cost the lives of Americans. While the White House was working on speeches, people all along the Gulf Coast were desperate. They needed food and water, not rhetoric.
Bloomington, Illinois, U.S.
Revising Government's Role
Columnist Joe Klein's argument that the disaster "should spark a reconsideration of what has become a casual disdain for the essentials of governance and our common public life" was right on point [Sept. 12]. Many government departments have seen budget cuts over the past few years, and we have arrived at the logical end. The Bush Administration can no longer provide security that most basic part of the Hobbesian bargain in which power is ceded to a central authority in exchange for protection. To consign people to death because of bureaucratic ineptitude is one issue, but speaking as a political scientist, I believe failure to provide security for one of the largest ports in the U.S. is simply unthinkable.
Barbara P. McCrea
Kalamazoo, Michigan, U.S.
I am sick and tired of people blaming the Federal Government in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. When did it become the President's responsibility to run the lives of free Americans? Aren't we responsible for ourselves? People were not forced to live in high-risk areas. That was a choice they made for themselves.
Lewisville, Texas, U.S.
Katrina was the first disaster. The response by fema [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] was the second. Shame on those in charge. Shame on us if we let the government get away with it.
Lake George, New York, U.S.
To Rebuild or Not
Walter Isaacson's viewpoint "How To Bring the Magic Back" [Sept. 12] stated that New Orleans "needs to restore itself authentically rather than produce a theme-park re-creation." A fire reshaped Chicago's destiny, and an earthquake remolded San Francisco. Now, in the wake of a hurricane disaster, New Orleans can have its future written by people like Isaacson. Why not have him serve on a steering committee with other esteemed natives to help rebuild?
Maplewood, New Jersey, U.S.
It is deeply disturbing to hear cheerleading for the rebuilding of New Orleans. Have we not learned that nature is more powerful than man? Maybe the French Quarter can be saved, along with a small area around it. But let's give the rest back to nature and establish a reborn New Orleans farther from the Gulf Coast.
Hollywood, Florida, U.S.
Instead of being rebuilt after the ravages of Mother Nature, New Orleans should be allowed to be covered by water and become a part of mythology, like the island of Atlantis. Then a different New Orleans could be built somewhere in the Southwestern desert. We could have history and mythology come together in our very own lifetime.
Hurricane Katrina has shown the world America's Achilles' heel: its inability to deliver a quick and coordinated response to a natural disaster [Sept. 12]. Could the U.S. cope effectively with a terrorist attack involving biological or nuclear weapons? More than ever, the U.S. needs big thinking on a big scale.
Philippe P. Weber
Your reporting on Katrina has shown the world the ugly and the dark side of the U.S., the side in which the color of the skin or the size of a bank account takes top priority. We all watched the agony and suffering of Americans, and we felt for them. Perhaps the time has come for the U.S. to review its priorities and become more compassionate and morally obligated toward its people. Next time, instead of preaching to other countries about human-rights issues, the U.S. should try to look more closely at what is happening at home. Shame on you, America.
I literally gaped at the photos of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The storm not only blew off rooftops and took the lives of innocents but also swept away the confidence of citizens. Yet now is not the time to assign blame. Instead, Americans need to delve into the heart of the problem and rebuild for the newly homeless and the helpless, regardless of color, race or religion. I am glad I live in a safe place, but we know that disaster can strike anytime.
Katrina's damage was multiplied a thousand times by the breach of the levees. This is a classic case of the penny-wise, pound-foolish policies of modern politicians and bureaucrats. The problem is not limited to the U.S. Driven by concepts like cost cutting and lean government, shortsighted budget officials may save a few billion dollars but end up losing $50 billion later on when tragedies must be dealt with.
Anil Kumar Aleti
The pictures of New Orleans showed that the people most affected were black, poor, vulnerable or sick. Was that the reason for the Bush Administration's delayed, apathetic response? The world watched in disbelief as a superpower that could send troops to fight a war in Iraq couldn't help its own people in their hour of need.
Nature has in no uncertain terms punished President George W. Bush for his haughtiness and nonchalance toward environmental issues. Bush continues to ignore the dangers of global warming and has refrained from endorsing the Kyoto Protocol. We sympathize with the victims of the disaster, but let this be an eye-opener to all: even a superpower nation is only a sapling in nature's path.
Colombo, Sri Lanka
The looters, murderers and other degenerates who fired on rescue workers in New Orleans should have been shot at by the police to maintain civilized order. Taking food and water from a grocery store in order to survive is understandable, but stealing luxury items just because there is an opportunity to do so is criminal. I hope that those caught on camera will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
West Vancouver, Canada
Time's special report on the plight of the victims of Hurricane Katrina was soul stirring. Judging by the many natural disasters the world has recently witnessed, one can only conclude that global warming is taking a heavy toll on the earth. For those of us who live in developing nations like India where people have to contend with ill-equipped civil authorities during natural disasters it was a stupefying revelation that the U.S. has the same problems in coping with nature's fury. Perhaps the world's richest nation should channel its plentiful resources into serving its people rather than pursuing military goals.
If instead of wasting billions of dollars looking for imaginary weapons of mass destruction, the Bush Administration had spent the money on preparing for natural disasters, a number of innocent lives would have been saved.
The suffering that hurricane Katrina has brought to the residents of New Orleans is heartrending. The entire world is awed by this human catastrophe. The international community must stand by the people of the U.S. through these difficult moments of trial and agony.
M. Fazal Elahi