Monday, May 18, 2009

When Urban Legend Turns Out to Be Fact

Living here in Katrinaville, we hear all sorts of ugly rumors. About how everyone seems to be sick. About how deaths in our city have skyrocketed even though the population has fallen. About how everyone is on antidepressants. About how in the months after the storm hospitals were dealing with more suicide attempts in a typical 24-hour period than they normally saw in a month. We’ve all been to more funerals in the past four years than most of us have been to in our lives, but up until now our perceptions have all been antidotal; we could tell ourselves maybe it wasn't really as bad as we thought.

Well, now the studies and facts and figures are coming out, and they’re not pretty. Yes, in the nearly four years since Katrina, levels of sickness have indeed risen sharply. Nearly two-thirds of New Orleanians now report chronic health problems, up a staggering 45%. The number suffering from depression has tripled, with suicides still running at double what they were in 2005 (and they’re actually now way DOWN from what they were in the first 12 months after the storm). The city’s population is still at less than 75% of what is was before Katrina. But here’s the scary part: Only 57% of the city’s medical facilities have reopened, and even hospitals that are open are short-staffed.

If this were Burma, or Bangladesh, I could maybe understand it. But for a major American city to be hit with a natural disaster and then essentially abandoned by the federal government is a disgrace. Yes, lots of money flowed in here, but as is typical in such cases, it went to the Shaw Group, and Halliburton, and Blackwater, fattening the balance sheets of Corporate America while the city itself—and its residents—were left to slowly collapse.

And here’s another unpleasant statistic: One in five New Orleans residents now say they are considering leaving the city.

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Blogger Charles Gramlich said...

Considering how strongly most people who are from New Orleans cling to it, that one in five stat is pretty telling.

11:47 AM  
Blogger Barbara Martin said...

This is very sad news.

12:36 PM  
Blogger Steve Malley said...

The Tiny Dynamo, coming as she does from, you know, *civilized* society, is struggling mightily with the scale of this monstrosity...

Sometimes, I'm deeply challenged (and ashamed) to explain the behaviour of my countrymen.

5:38 PM  
Anonymous Elizabeth (Beth) Westmark said...

Your post is discouraging, but I thank you for telling this story. I only live a few hours away in Pensacola, Florida. Our situation was much different in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan (9-2004), but even so, it is only recently that our town is beginning to look and feel like it is healing.

I did not realize the extent of the continuing misery in New Orleans.

10:18 AM  
Blogger cs harris said...

Charles, I can't believe the number of people who said they'd never leave NO but are now talking about it.

Barbara, Steve, it is so sad and monstrous.

Elizabeth, I know a lot of people here looked at Pensacola as a warning of how long it was going to take NO. The problem is, the devastation here was just so massive.

12:07 PM  

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