How could nobody have known? How was I so unaware of what was going on in my own country?  Why was I so concerned with what little insignificant things were going on in my life when there was a bigger picture going on?  It seems as though this is a time of materialistic things, self betterment, success and wealth.  Everyone cares about how they dress, how other people perceive them, and really, it all amounts to nothing in the end. 

August 29, 2005 was a day of the United States of America’s greatest challenge yet and it was on the homefront.  Mother Nature was building up its wrath and headed straight towards the cultured and unique town of New Orleans.  Yes, Hurricane Katrina was a Category 5 hurricane.  Yes, its sheer force broke the levees created to protect the city of New Orleans.  Yes, it created catastrophic damage.  BUT, what its greatest weapon was was unveiling the United States of America’s inability to protect its own people and citizens.  How ironic is it that the United States of America, one of the “greatest” countries in the world, can protect and aid many other countries, yet it has many flaws when protecting its own.  Besides the political boundaries that got in the way, the inability to act, the poor planning, and the lack of help, the worst part about this whole situation I felt, was the after effects. 

After being in this LEAD 325: Civic Engagement Initiative Course, it has opened my eyes to something I thought was long over with and definitely forgotten about.  We research all the different angles of what went on, the poor leadership skills and maybe the few good ones, the aftermath and what still goes on today.  This travel course is by far my best experience with any class I have ever taken.  I learn about things in a normal classroom setting,  but I actually get to go to the place I study about.  It’s one thing to read about things in books and try to make conclusions about things from an outside perspective, but its a whole other world when you actually go there.  Especially in this case, we get to actually create change and be a positive impact in a situation that has an ongoing struggle with rebuilding and just surviving.

In one part of this class, we watch the documentary of  “When the Levees Broke,” produced by Spike Lee on Hurricane Katrina.  We have just finished Act II and it was intense to say the very least.  After being here, meeting the people and experiencing the culture, you feel a certain odd connection with this city.  It hits you in your soul with its friendly nature, delectable food and interesting characters.  You feel like you become a part of it and when you see actual footage of someplace you have built a relationship with being totally torn to its and pieces, you get emotional.  I think the part that hits people the hardest is that I was so oblivious to what was going on.  Of course I had heard about Katrina and some of what it had down to the Gulf of Mexico area, but there was so much that I had not known.  You feel so naïve and terrible that you did not know about 200,000+ people just like you being left with absolutely nothing, their homes being destroyed and having to leave the only place they have ever known.  How could America not have known about much of what was really going on? How could we consider ourselves such a great nation when we could do nothing to help our own?  Why had help not gotten their sooner?

All these things kept bringing up questions in my head and thoughts that I had not yet explored.  A few key quotes hit me from the film.  The media referred to the evacuees as “refugees” on many different occasions.  One New Orleans resident said, “Katrina took away our homes and everything we knew.  Did the storm take way our citizenship too?”  This was true.  That’s how the people were being treated as.  How inhumane and terrible it was.  One sign read, “Not as seen on TV.”   It was insane how so many people did not know what was going on and did not see the real picture unless they would have watched this documentary.

There is still so much to be done that people are so unaware about.  I feel like New Orleans may just be the next forgotten city.  But why let a city with such a diverse, unique and amazing culture die.  There are 13 of us who decided to come on this trip, and although that is a miniscule amount of people to help out with the ongoing struggle to rebuild, I am glad that we are here, making what little difference we can.  Such an amazing experience with such amazing people.  We will all surely take this back to Chapman with us and hopefully can spread the knowledge we have discovered and spread it to other people so that they too can be more aware.  This city is wounded and it has a long ways to go, but its spirit and soul will never fade.  Just one other reason why we need to continue to help rebuild this city…..

Rebuilding tomorrow again.  One more person we can help, only thousands more to go, but we will get there. =)


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