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
 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He is the author of Against the Wall: Memoir of a Vietnam-Era War Resister (2017).

January 17, 2018
Seiji Yamada
Prevention is the Only Solution: a Hiroshima Native’s View of Nuclear Weapons
Chris Welzenbach
Force of Evil: Abraham Polonsky and Anti-Capitalist Noir
Thomas Klikauer
The Business of Bullshit
Howard Lisnoff
The Atomized and Siloed U.S. Left
Martha Rosenberg
How Big Pharma Infiltrated the Boston Museum of Science
George Wuerthner
The Collaboration Trap
David Swanson
Removing Trump Will Require New Activists
Michael McKinley
Australia and the Wars of the Alliance: United States Strategy
Binoy Kampmark
Macron in China
Cesar Chelala
The Distractor-in-Chief
Ted Rall
Why Trump is Right About Newspaper Libel Laws
Mary Serumaga
Corruption in Uganda: Minister Sam Kutesa and Company May Yet Survive Their Latest Scandal
January 16, 2018
Mark Schuller
What is a “Shithole Country” and Why is Trump So Obsessed With Haiti?
Paul Street
Notes From a “Shithole” Superpower
Louisa Willcox
Keeper of the Flame for Wilderness: Stewart “Brandy” Brandborg
Mike Whitney
Trump’s Sinister Plan to Kill the Iranian “Nukes” Deal
Franklin Lamb
Kafkaesque Impediments to Challenging Iran’s Theocracy
Norman Solomon
Why Senator Cardin is a Fitting Opponent for Chelsea Manning
Fred Gardner
GI Coffeehouses Recalled: a Compliment From General Westmoreland
Brian Terrell
Solidarity from Central Cellblock to Guantanamo
Don Fitz
Bondage Scandal: Looking Beneath the Surface
Rob Seimetz
#Resist Co-opting “Shithole”
Ted Rall
Trump Isn’t Unique
January 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Democrats and the End(s) of Politics
Paul Tritschler
Killing Floor: the Business of Animal Slaughter
Mike Garrity
In Targeting the Lynx, the Trump Administration Defies Facts, Law, and Science Once Again
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Hong Kong Politics: a Never-Ending Farce
Uri Avnery
Bibi’s Son (Or Three Men in a Car)
Dave Lindorff
Yesterday’s ‘Shithole Countries’ Can Become Classy Places Donald, and Vice Versa
Jeff Mackler
Lesser Evil Politics in Alabama
Jonah Raskin
Typewriters Still Smoking? An Interview with Underground Press Maven John McMillan
Jose-Antonio Orosco
Trump’s Comments Recall a Racist Past in Immigration Policy
David Macaray
Everything Seems to Be Going South
Kathy Kelly
41 Hearts Beating in Guantanamo
Weekend Edition
January 12, 2018
Friday - Sunday
George Burchett
Wormwood and a Shocking Secret of War: How Errol Morris Vindicated My Father, Wilfred Burchett
Roberto J. González
Starting Them Young: Is Facebook Hooking Children on Social Media?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Between the Null and the Void
Andrew Levine
Trump After Bannon: What Next?
John Davis
Mud-Slide
Ajamu Baraka
The Responsibility to Protect the World … from the United States
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Stirs the Methane Monster
Paul Street
Lazy Liberals and “the Trump Effect”
Carmen Rodriguez
Trump’s Attack on Salvadoran Migrants
Mike Whitney
Oprah for President, Really?
Francisco Cabanillas
The Hurricane After Maria
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail