Belated Reflections

Quarterly Review: Urbanist Reflections on Hurricane Katrina and “9/11”



On 9/11 this year, I spent the entire day writing a ranting, emotional post about why people don’t seem to care about Katrina the way they do 9/11.  I couldn’t articulate my opinions without feeling like I seemed to be irrationally attacking people, and making grand assumptions about people’s sentiments, etc., so I never posted it.  Or anything, for that matter, about the anniversary of 9/11. 

I have the post saved, revised again and again, with the hopes of eventually getting it up here in some provocative but more coherent form.  In the interim, click on the link above for a much more measured and qualified view of my perspective, now running on Foresight, the New Vision Institute’s blog.  Preparing this for their policy-oriented operation was an exercise in itself in understanding different perspectives on the two anniversaries. 

Comments, responses, most welcome. 


3 Responses to “Belated Reflections”

  1. October 8, 2006 at 10:29 pm

    I was in New York, again for 9/11 this year.

    I like to be back there, at Ground Zero, to show my respect for the families and to honor the day – I think one of the worst aspects of the Bush Presidency has been its failure to acknowledge, properly and fully, how we need to grieve. The ceremonies seemd rushed and many people turned away, and for the first time, I think it was possible to see that New York is turning away from Ground Zero, back to its normal city life.

    And yet, it’s not. There’s a hole in the ground where… something should be, and that hole is a reminder of the failure to come together around the rebuilding. It has wrecked George Pataki’s career. It may yet do in others. I am reminded of a New York Times Op-Ed on building a Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. The writer (this was years ago, they may have one now, though I don’t think they do) noted that the land for the Memorial was sitting empty, muddy, behind a heavy wire fence. And he said perhaps they should just put up a plaque saying “Here is where the Germans tried to build a Memorial to the Holocaust… and Failed.” And I think, here is where we tried to honor those lost on 9/11… and failed.

    It’s worth remembering, too, that this is not only New York’s event. Being in DC at the end of 9/11 week, I was reminded that they, too, have a 9/11 story, that it was the day when our Department of Defense was blown up. I think sometimes we … oh, coastal liberals, or whatever we are… tend to forget that what made 9/11 an act of war was probably more the events at the Pentagon. No one has struck so clearly at the heart of our military operations since Pearl Harbor. Maybe we shouldn’t wonder why the pro-military types are so eager to be at war. War may be their expression of grief.

    As for Katrina, I have not yet been to NOLA, but I hope to go soon. Part of me likes to separate out this event as a more natural type, if equally wrenching force of change. But of course it’s not. I mentioned to you that I was reading the book Disaster, and as it makes clear, this failure was a man-made one. What terrible, perilous times in which to live. I know we will go on, but my post-9/11 world is still a world I don’t entirely recognize, a geography of violence and fear and failure to find common ground. Instead we are left with muddy fields, holes in the ground, and the sense that we could, and should, do better. But I think it would help, for a bit, if we could just grieve.

  2. 2 jinbaltimore
    October 10, 2006 at 7:33 pm

    Though I agree with weboy on the embarrassing similarity between the lack of memorial at Ground Zero and that in Berlin, I think I disagree with him regarding grief.

    When I think of grief, it is always in relation to loss, and for me 9/11 is about loss’ opposite, presence: in this case the presence of evil. I know it sounds melodramatic to use a word like “evil,” but then I don’t know anyone who would attach the word “melodrama” to the events of 9/11/2001. To this day, when I allow myself (and I rarely do)to vividly remember the second plane hitting, a pain shoots through my spine; and I think of this pain as the force of evil demanding to be recognized. Like many lucky people, I’d been fortunate enough to avoid it before. Ailments, loss, pain, death have all come rather close if not in, but evil? Not until then.

    Maybe weboy is talking about a loss of innocence as well as lives in the above post, but for me, grief, by itself, will never be an adequate response to 9/11; the trouble is I don’t know what will.

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