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Hurricane Katrina

by Archie Wortham    --show me more like this

“A national disaster that’s causing the country to take a closer look to question whether race matters,” Rehema Ellis, an NBC correspondent commented after help finally began to arrive in New Orleans. I think rather than question whether race matters…the more important question becomes… “Why does it take a national disaster to unite us?”

Like many of you, I was glued to my TV set watching scenes unheralded in America. Night after night, I watched in total disbelief. I almost had to pinch myself to believe I was not watching a movie; I was not dreaming; in order to believe this was happening in America. I was reminded of an old sermon I’d heard. “If God blesses you…can’t no man curse you. If God curse you…can’t no man bless you.”

Years ago, I remember a preacher edifying his congregation by letting them know the importance of prayer. He talked about the cover of a magazine that declared “Negro, get off your knees.” This was back before we overcame. This was back during the sixties, and we were marching everywhere except to Zion. This was back when we became so enthralled about what was happening that we forgot something very important. It was something the preacher admonished his flock about. Pride goes before the fall, and it was time “African-Americans needed to get back on their knees.”

Did Katrina put America on its knees? Perhaps. Sometimes when you think you are beyond contempt, you are beyond humility, yes, sometimes when your ego has sprung a leak so severe you don’t even know you are hemorrhaging, God decides to step in. And that’s what has happened to America over and over again. It happened on 7 December 1941; 22 November 1963; and on 11 September 2001. Now we have a new date to add to the list, and add a new name to Andrew, Camille, and Ivan. Things will never be the same again in New Orleans, but for the people who lived through Camille, now the survivors of Katrina have a kindred understanding. For those who know where they were on the 22nd of November, the younger generation who saw the World Trade Center crash can somewhat understand the significance of emotional events that bring us to our knees.

People in New Orleans were angry. But how much will it take for them to put aside their anger and realize what they have to offer to this country? People are pointing fingers. But what will it take for them to realize that either you are part of the problem or part of the solution? People were stubborn. Things don’t happen over night, and by refusing to admit there is a problem, indifference makes you an accessory to the problem.

It’s not my desire in this column to condemn anyone. It is my desire in this column to elevate anyone who is reading to understand that they need to step up. They need to make sure that things that happen in New Orleans don’t happen in their homes or communities. In light of what I have been reading lately, for those that survived, their best days are ahead; the worst is behind them. They have had a wake-up call. They have had a brush with death. They have seen and read the handwriting, and many of them are heeding what it’s saying. But what about you? What about me? How can we men make it better for our sons? How can we protect our families? We do that by taking a closer look to see if we matter. We don’t put this power into someone else’s hands. We take it.

I asked earlier why does it take a national disaster to unite us. That was more of a rhetorical question, but it seems that when national disasters happen, we respond. We remember what’s important. We forget about our golf games, our waistlines, even the IRS. We start thinking about family, friends, and our faith. We are reminded that if takes us longer to find God, it’s because we’ve given Him a phony address. That address could be hidden by cars we don’t need; cell phones we can’t afford; or habits that have gotten the best of us. And unlike many of the friends we thought we had, God never gives you a wrong number, and His line is never busy.

It’s nice that America finally got to the point that other countries felt that they could help, even Sri Lanka... look at the outpouring of aid. We may be the biggest bully on the block, but our attempt to try to give the world what we have, have experienced, and die for…well it seems to have made an impact.

Now is the time for some of you to get up off your knees and be the men, husbands and fathers you were created to be. Don’t take life for granted. Don’t wait for a wake-up call like Katrina to get you moving. Move now. And remember…things are only created if we want that.

Remember, as the character in ‘Shawshank Redemption’ says, “Hope is a good thing…and no good thing ever dies.” And the good that is New Orleans, the good that is men becoming fathers, and the good God has given all of us will never die.


"By amending our mistakes, we get wisdom. By defending our faults, we betray an unsound mind."

The Sutra of Hui Neng

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