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 U.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.
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.
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
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 Bush Administration. Driven by concepts like cost cutting and lean government, shortsighted budget officials may save a few billion dollars, but they end up losing $50 billion when tragedies must be dealt with later on.
Anil Kumar Aleti
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 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.
Your reporting on Katrina has shown the world the ugly and 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.
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
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
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.
I was very impressed with the report on women in Japan [Aug. 29]. Here in Japan, few people have given such opinions fairly, so I have not been proud of being a woman for a long time. I want to cry out to all Japanese men: "We women are not birth-giving machines."
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.
We're Not Victims
I am disappointed with the coverage of Pattaya in your article "The People's Paradise" [Aug. 15-22]. The author wrongly portrays the Thai beach resort. Pattaya is, in fact, a vibrant international destination for families and individuals from across Thailand and around the world. Gone are the days of catering to American G.I.s and in are the days of honeymooners, independent backpackers, and families of all cultures. With water parks, shopping malls, nearby tropical islands, sailboating, zoos, Buddhist temples, water sports and several world-class 18-hole golf courses, there is little doubt why the young European family I met the other day has returned on four different occasions.
We are an expanding beach city and do suffer from some of the drawbacks of increased popularity, but victims of mass tourism we are not. Pattaya has one of the most diverse sets of expat residents and tourists of any Southeast Asian city. The diversity and open-mindedness that has attracted so many is ingrained in our city's heritage. From the local seafood vendors (who still sell seafood along the beach) to the luxurious foreign restaurants across the street, Pattaya is a unique crossroad of cultures.
We have been addressing sustainability and infrastructure issues as our city grows. Contrary to what the article communicates, Pattaya has a $45 million water treatment system. In addition, several new citywide beautification projects are currently under way. I encourage you to see Pattaya for what it is now—a truly unique paradise.
Pattaya City, Thailand
Moog in our Lives
Robert Moog, inventor of the Moog synthesizer, which produces electronically generated sound [MILESTONES, Sept. 5], could be called the Einstein of electronic music. The Beatles used the Moog in their Abbey Road album, and the synthesizer figures prominently in the score of the film A Clockwork Orange. In a March 7, 1969, story, we described the workings of the Moog: "The electronic synthesizer that bears [Moog's] name—a 4-ft.[1.25-m]-long contraption that looks like the control panel of a jet airliner with an organ keyboard grafted onto it—is by far the most effective device yet developed to produce electronic sounds. Besides serving as an 'orchestra' for works by avant-garde composers, the Moog (rhymes with vogue) produced the bing-bong theme that for years preceded all CBS-TV color shows ... Composer John Eaton says of Moog: 'He has brought electronic music out of the lab and into our lives.' The basic elements of Moog's machine are amplifiers, mixers, filters and voltage-controlled oscillators ... Because its voltage controls can precisely 'shape' tones as they are being produced, the Moog affords more spontaneous variations of sounds than other comparable synthesizers, and far more subtlety and musicality."