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When Words Fail Us… « Be Ready Library « American Family Safety
American Family Safety

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When Words Fail Us…

Win Thanh Nduyen fills up water from a city pipe to cook rice for his family in Biloxi, Mississippi. (KRT photograph by Nick Oza/Macon Telegraph)

As journalists, we struggle to find precise phrases to describe a disaster’s devastation. Too often, we know that words, the tools of our trade, are insufficient to convey the level of destruction and human suffering that follow in the wake of a tragedy of Hurricane Katrina’s magnitude—and a mounting death toll that will make this monster storm the worst natural disaster in U.S. history, a record formerly held by the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.

In Katrina’s case, the pictures speak for—and to—us:

  • Residents—the poorest in the city—stranded in their homes, wading through chin-high water.
  • Packed stadiums with no water, food, air-conditioning, first aid or bathroom amenities—and reports of dying evacuees who lack critical medications. Many have been forced to flee, unable to tolerate the overpowering stench of urine, feces and body odor.
  • Wives, husbands and children who have watched their loved ones die—and who have no assistance in removing the dead bodies.
  • The “urban swamp” that historic New Orleans has become—a sight usually reserved for Third World countries.

If you have postponed or waffled over your decision to preplan for emergencies or buy a disaster kit, those horrific images of Katrina serve as your personal wakeup call. Even if you live in a state that’s not prone to hurricanes, you may eventually have to survive a fire, earthquake, tornado, winter storm or terrorist attack.

Look closely at the pictures of Katrina’s wrath. Don’t avert your eyes. Imagine what the residents of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida are facing. Open up your heart—and your wallet—and contribute what you can to the American Red Cross. Yes, with today’s tenuous economy and skyrocketing gas prices, money is tight. Give what you can.

Tonight at 8 p.m. EST/PST, NBC, MSNBC and CNBC will broadcast A Concert for Hurricane Relief, a benefit to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina, with performances by Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Harry Connick Jr., Aaron Neville, Wynton Marsalis and other artists. It will re-air on CNBC on Saturday (7 p.m., 10 p.m. and 1 a.m.), as well as Sunday (9 p.m. and midnight.) All viewers will be encouraged to donate to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund in support of hurricane relief through its website and donation hotline (800-HELP NOW). The humanitarian needs from this catastrophic hurricane are immense and will continue to emerge over the next weeks, months and even years. The American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund enables the Red Cross to provide shelter, food, counseling and other assistance to those in need.

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