In Katrina’s Aftermath

Watching the heroic rescues in the aftermath
of Katrina is awe-inspiring.

All else pales as the images of Katrina’s aftermath come to us. Human suffering contrasts with heroism. We are haunted by the unknown, and the known. I’m thinking of friends along the Gulf Coast whom we haven’t heard from yet. I was with them only days ago. The unknown.

We see people sitting on their rooves, praying to be rescued. We hear Jeanne Meserve’s voice crack on CNN as she speaks of people unreachable to rescuers calling for help in the darkness. We see housetops seemingly floating in the murky water but, in fact, they are whole neighborhoods under water. The known.

In disasters our humanity is laid bare. Faces reveal shock, grief, bewilderment, and joy in surviving. Every survivor has a story. They are heartbreaking and heartwarming.

Life is utterly disrupted, turned upside down. The rhythm of city, town and home, virtually torn asunder. Tragedy puts life in perspective. In the face of the power of nature, we realize how fragile life can be. And we also realize we cannot live in isolation. We need each other.

We are most fully human when we share burdens and provide life-saving help. We say catastrophes like this bring out the best in us, as if we understand we are created by God to show compassion, to care, to reach out to one another. In this, even now, we can take hope.

We see, and thank God for, those in public service who are trained to carry out life-saving tasks–police, fire, emergency medical technicians, nurses, doctors, pilots–a host of others who risk their own lives that others may live. They, and those who will volunteer and serve in unseen ways just because they care, become the embodiment of community in times like this.

For them, for those left homeless, wounded and bereft, we pray, and more. We search for God.

We speak of natural disasters as “an act of God,” but we get it wrong. Natural disasters are acts of nature, the laws of physics playing out in precise measure.

No, this is not an act of God. The acts of God are to be seen in the coming together, the selfless service and the hands of compassionate rescuers, volunteers and healers. Look no further than their eyes and you will see in their faces the reflection of God.

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