A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker

A Note From the Editor:   AS you read Joseph’s column about Katrina, and hear the news reports about Rita’s approach toward the US, please join me in heeding Joe’s advice… Let’s pray for Rita to spare the lives and homes of those in her path, and for God and His angels to protect all of those who may be affected.


I have never actually been to Belle Chasse, La.

At least, not in person.

But it feels like I have.  This column has appeared there for a number of years in both of its weekly newspapers, The Plaquemines Watchman and The Plaquemines Gazette, so I know a few people there.

Well, OK, I have corresponded from time to time with Theresa, who works with the two papers.  That’s sort of like knowing someone, isn’t it?

In fact, I just received a note from Theresa.  I read it the same day I heard that they were evacuating New Orleans because of Hurricane Katrina.  Since Belle Chasse is only about nine miles from New Orleans, I naturally started worrying about Theresa and the rest of the Watchman and Gazette teams.

At first, it all seemed a little surreal and disjointed.  It was a still, clear, balmy late summer day where I live, so it was difficult to picture the meteorological chaos that was raging half a continent away.  But the news footage convinced me that there was every reason to be concerned about Theresa and her colleagues in Belle Chase.  I wanted to do something, to reach out in a meaningful way to people who had stood by me and supported me and showed and infinite amount of patience with me through the years.

But how?

Even with all of the technological wonders of our times, there are severe limitations on our ability to be as instantly benevolent as we’d like to be in times of crisis and need.  Remember how we felt last year during the Malaysian tsunami, when it turned out to be ever so much easier to transmit to us the horrifying photographic evidence of natural disaster than it was to transport to them the rescue equipment and relief supplies that were so sorely needed?  We felt that same feeling again these past few weeks, as we helplessly watched live television coverage of what was just the most recent illustration of how puny and impotent humankind is in the face of Mother Nature’s boundless capacity for devastation and destruction.

Meteorologists identified Katrina and tracked her as she made her way across the Atlantic.  They warned citizens as the storm bore down on New Orleans and the Gulf Coast of the United States.  A remarkably safe and efficient evacuation moved hundreds of thousands out of the storm’s path and probably saved many thousands of lives.  Homes and businesses were boarded up and protected insofar as it was possible.

And yet, for all of the advance warning that modern science and communications could provide, lives were still lost and billions of dollars in damages were inflicted.  Technology allowed us to watch it happen live and in HDTV, but it couldn’t provide us with a way stop it from happening.  It was like living that nightmare I’ve had about a million times during which I see terrible things happening – usually to my children or grandchildren – that I am absolutely powerless to prevent.

So in the middle of all of the news coverage that held America transfixed, I stepped away from CNN and roamed around the office to find a quiet place where I could do the only thing I could do for my friends in Belle Chasse: pray. 

I couldn’t help but be reminded of the sobering words of President Abraham Lincoln nearly a century and a half ago: “I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.  My own wisdom, and that of all about me, seemed insufficient for the day.”

Especially if it was a day like that one in Belle Chasse.

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    © Joseph Walker

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