FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Better Cuba Than Florida?

by HOWARD LISNOFF

The words struck with such intensity because of their complete lack of compassion!  “It would be better if the storm hit Cuba than Florida.”  My fellow usher explained that she had a winter home in Florida and worried as the hurricane season neared its peak. Those were the words uttered by a person with whom I served as an usher at a local theater company.  She was referring to Hurricane Gustav, as it emerged off of Jamaica and put the southwest coast of Cuba and the Gulf Coast of the U.S. in its sights.  The memory of Katrina is still vivid in the minds of anyone who has had to deal with the human misery and devastation of a powerful hurricane, so I was at a loss to explain the total lack of sensitivity.

I thought that many could, and would, make the same pronouncement.  Anybody but us: anyone but those anointed from some imaginary celestial high place.  No matter that others have the same blood running through their veins and struggle with the vagaries of a radically changed environment like legions of people around the globe, irrespective of the political system in which they live.

Having lived through the hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005 in Florida, and worked as a crisis counselor there during one of those seasons, I came with a different perspective of what it means to have lives ruined by powerful tropical cyclones.

With a background in counseling, I went to work for the State of Florida in a F.E.M.A.-funded program named Project H.O.P.E. (Helping Our People in Emergencies)  in 2005 and 2006, just after Hurricane Wilma (a category 3 storm) struck the state.  Wilma was far, far less destructive than Katrina (a category 5 storm), but nonetheless it changed the lives of many for the worse.  The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s program was a travesty!  I traveled with teams of fellow crisis counselors in Palm Beach County speaking to people whose lives and property had been damaged by the storm.  The vast majority of those I worked with had no backgrounds in counseling, and despite a mandate by F.E.M.A. that supervisors in the program have counseling backgrounds, only a tiny majority had any formal training.  The Florida Sun Sentinel did series of articles about the $23 million program and found it riddled with the same incompetence and lack of accountability as other relief efforts overseen by F.E.M.A.

Traveling to towns in south-central Florida such as Belle Glade and Pahokee, I was left speechless by the devastation poor people living in trailer parks had suffered from the storm.  Whole roofs and sides of trailers had been sheared away, leaving families exposed to the elements and the invasive and pervasive attack of mold spores that sickened many, including scores of children.  F.E.M.A. did provide money for some of the damage that I saw, but there was never enough to make the lives that had been so strained whole again.

As the teams from H.O.P.E. scoured the area, there was almost nothing we could do to ameliorate the suffering and loss of people we met.  About the best that crisis counseling teams could do was talk, and that didn’t solve any of the material needs of the people we met.  Again and again the agencies that we contacted that were supposed to offer help with repairs and materials in the region did not follow through to deliver promised assistance.  Often well-intentioned, these private agencies ran out of money soon after hitting the ground in the area and had nothing left with which to help people.

It was alarming to listen to the person in the comfort of a theater voice her disdain for those in the path of destruction.  I had seen firsthand the horror that could be foisted on people without distinction for the geographical region one inhabited, and particularly on those without money.

HOWARD LISNOFF is an educator and freelance writer.  He can be reached at howielisnoff@gmail.com

Your Ad Here
 

 

 

 

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
Dan Bacher
New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual
Wayne Clark
A Reset Button for Political America
Chris Welzenbach
“The Death Ship:” An Allegory for Today’s World
Uri Avnery
Being There
Peter Lee
The Deep State and the Sex Tape: Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, and Thurgood Marshall
Patrick Hiller
Guns Against Grizzlies at Schools or Peace Education as Resistance?
Randy Shields
The Devil’s Real Estate Dictionary
Ron Jacobs
Singing the Body Electric Across Time
Ann Garrison
Fifty-five Years After Lumumba’s Assassination, Congolese See No Relief
Christopher Brauchli
Swing Low Alabama
Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones
La Realidad: the Realities of Anti-Mexicanism
Jon Hochschartner
The Five Least Animal-Friendly Senate Democrats
Pauline Murphy
Fighting Fascism: the Irish at the Battle of Cordoba
Susan Block
#GoBonobos in 2017: Happy Year of the Cock!
Louis Proyect
Is Our Future That of “Sense8” or “Mr. Robot”?
Charles R. Larson
Review: Robert Coover’s “Huck out West”
David Yearsley
Manchester-by-the-Sea and the Present Catastrophe
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail