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Mercy

By Michael Sitzman

Section: Arts

September 23, 2005

Dear God, help us. Hear our prayers and have mercy

The hurricane was summed up well in a newspaper quote as corpses floated down the street in the devastated Gulf Coast city: The weak and staggered senses of mankind may gather fragments of the disaster, and may strive with inevitable incompleteness to convey the merest impression of the saddest story which ever engaged the efforts of a reporter. *

Thus was described the incomprehensible scale of human tragedy in the aftermath of a nameless storm, for it was not yet a custom to name hurricanes in 1900 *(The Galveston Daily News, 13 September, 1900)

Fast-forward 105 years. I said to my mother, as the Cat-5 storm was headed for a direct hit on New Orleans: This could kill more people than 9/11. Were about to lose a major American city in a matter of hours. How right, and how wrong, one can be: The storms path suddenly diverted, it weakened, and the city survived overall. It was afterward that a much slower death began. And thus, as we remember the fourth anniversary of a different national tragedy, we find tragedy at our doorstep once more.

What went wrong? I ask fellow students. Bush is a douchebag is the kind of answer I often get, and I see the writing on the wall: Howls for impeachment from the Democrats in the near future (Read: Avenge Monicagate — its never too late, really). Believe what you will, play the blame game, call for heads to roll, but friends, thats not the answer we need.

I have even found radical newspapers carting out that tired, old standby, race, to explain Government inaction. Theyve got to be kidding;

are our leaders too stupid to know that death on the evening news doesnt help win votes? It doesnt have the ring of truth to me. You cant tell the original color of a human beings skin after it has been underwater for three days, and I cannot see the point in asking. I think its the color of a fellow American;

hey, that still means something to me.

Its time to leave politics aside, pull together, support the relief effort, and begin to ask the hard questions:

What really went wrong? Why, in the wake of four years of homeland security preparations, was our Administration so ill-prepared for a major urban disaster? Imagine a terrorist attack on a city, the sort we do not speak of;

you know what kind. Imagine a city wiped from the map in seconds, not hours. Would something like this current farce be the best the USA could do? Security indeed. I hope there will be a 9/11 Commission-style inquiry into the massive failure of Government to deal with the cataclysm in the storms aftermath, and to prepare for it in the years preceding. The inquiry should not serve to cast blame, but to show us, just maybe this time, how we might do things better. I know we can, and indeed we must.

In times such as these, I try hard to put things in perspective. For instance: The Civil War was worse, far and away, than 9/11, Katrinas carnage, and all of our foreign wars combined. Half a million Americans died in a nation at war with itself. It gives me some comfort to know that, for all of the political and social divisions of our times, wounds do indeed heal. Now, in an age when the lands of the Union and former Confederacy are a two-hour jet flight apart, the very thought of such a war seems inconceivable. Perhaps therein lies the kernel of hope that, by and by, things must get better.

And so, Brandeis now prepares for the arrival of students from Tulane and other storm-affected schools.

The word Dixie, by the way, had its origin in Louisianas Confederate ten-dollar banknotes, printed in English and French. Dix (say deese), the French word for ten, showed prominently on the money. To our new friends from the land of Dixie, Brandeis extends a loving Yankee welcome, with the prayers and good wishes for your health and success. Be it known: You are Brandesians to us, now and forever.

On a final note, let us reflect on the heroism that emerges among Americans in a crisis. To the relief workers, police officers, doctors, and others who are busy and tired at this moment, working in danger to bring comfort to desperate humanity in a distressed corner of this country that we love: Horseradish salutes. Indeed we all thank you.

Friends, my grandmother, after whom I was named, used to say, This too shall pass. Indeed it will, thank God. Until then, let us seek to unite once more and work together on this fourth anniversary of catastrophe, just as we did before. Thus we might honor the heroes and victims of that terrible time as well.

Lets roll again.

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