It's really hard to describe to folks who are not from here, haven't been through the post-Katrina years. In August we will pass the 5 year mark since the storm-who-must-not-be-named. And here we sit, anxious and worried, confused and angry, puzzled and pretty helpless as oil pours into the Gulf of Mexico and drifts our way, bringing with it the great unknowns - do they have a CLUE how to stop the leak? Do they know what the environmental impact will even be? How will our poor fishermen, shrimpers and others, ever survive this hit?
What have we done? Why isn't more done? How could this happen? WHY IS THIS FAIR?
I kind of lost it a bit with someone the other day, someone who doesn't live here, who hasn't even seen "here", other than the news reports that would, on occasion, wander over from New Orleans to show where Katrina actually made landfall. His comment was something about "can you believe this oil spill mess? I mean, people just don't understand what it will mean to our nation and our economy and how much it's going to cost me in seafood price increases and gasoline price increases".
Really? That's the concern? It might impact the pocketbook and bank account of people far away, who only get their news in the sound bites they are fed and who for the most part are shocked to learn just how ravaged the coast of Mississippi was by that DAMN HURRICANE?
I was not kind in my response....
I am not one to panic. I know that there is much to be done and much I don't understand about how this stuff works. I don't think anyone knows enough to scream that this is the end of the world as we know it - it's all guesswork. But common sense tells us, even if they stop the leak tomorrow, there are ramifications on both fishing and tourism industries that absolutely cannot take such a hit. And they really don't know if they can stop it, which is what the little voice in my head keeps reminding me. But I refuse to panic without more information, and I am (recognizing I am in the minority here) not going to scream at the Feds or BP for their "slow" response. I think, like Katrina, this is something no one had really prepared for (although in this case THAT is inexcusable). And while they try many, many approaches to both stop the leak and contain the spill, some of those will fail, fail hugely, but that's ok - keep trying. We live in a world where we expect our government to snap it's huge, money-printing fingers and fix all our ills overnight, friends that's just not reality.
Meanwhile, as usual, there is another side, another story that has been told. Thousands of people have already signed up to volunteer to help with cleanup. Many, many local folks already have gone through training on beach and animal cleanup procedures, many more from all over are waiting on the chance to come and help. As I told my parishioners Sunday - don't forget you are incredibly resilient - you KNOW you ARE. You CAN get through this. God is with us, in the faces and voices and hands and feet of our neighbors. We can pray and we can dig in when it's time. And we will, of that I have no doubt.
In someways the anxiety and the "it's so unfair-ness" is more distressing than the smell of oil or the images we watch. It triggers something in folks who have been here, it weighs on us, it haunts us. This is the part I pray would go away, and the part I don't think anyone else really understands. A friend called it a "tipping point". Perhaps that is the best way to describe it. Friends - pray we don't tip. That may be the best thing you can do for us, for now, as we wait and watch again.