September 17, 2005


Far From Home, They Feel They've Arrived: In shelters across the nation, grateful New Orleans evacuees aren't looking back. Instead they're relishing the chance for a fresh start in a new city. (Stephanie Simon, September 17, 2005, LA Times)

Struggling residents from one of the poorest cities in America say New Orleans no longer looks like a good place to rebuild their lives. They see an opportunity for a second chance elsewhere.

"You know that old saying, 'If I knew then what I know now?' Well, now's my chance to apply it," said Byron Hughes Sr., 39.

"God did this for a reason," said his wife, Ruth Sanders, 44.

Similar conversations are taking place in shelters across the nation — in Houston and Des Moines and San Diego; in Bluffdale, Utah, and Opelika, Ala.; by the beaches of Cape Cod in Massachusetts and in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains in New Mexico.

"I can start all over and make something of myself here," said Trenise Nafziger-Lewis, 23, who liked the job prospects in Aurora.

She worked two part-time jobs back home, as an office assistant and a gas-station cashier, and could barely pay her rent. At a job fair here last week, recruiters were offering $10- and $11-an-hour jobs, "with benefits from day one," they promised. Suddenly Nafziger-Lewis was dreaming of homeownership.

"Any chance I can, I'll save," she vowed.

Hughes said he never realized how rundown the New Orleans public schools were until he enrolled his son in second grade here. "I was amazed how clean it was," he said. He was astonished, too, when his son whipped through math problems he was struggling to comprehend back home.

Thomas Sowell has pointed out that black immigrants--from Africa, Haiti, Jamaica, etc.--follow the same successful pattern as their peers in other ethnic groups, suggesting that the persistence of the black under class in America is a peculiar function of the effects of historic racism, rather than of current racial barriers. In effect, we denied black America its first immigrant generation and thereby permanently warped its development to some degree. It would not be surprising then if the experience of being forced to begin anew outside of New Orleans turns out to be a tremendous positive for these families and particularly for the next generation.

President's Remarks at National Day of Prayer and Remembrance Service (George W. Bush, Washington National Cathedral, Washington, D.C., 9/16/05)

On this Day of Prayer and Remembrance, our nation remains in the shadow of a storm that departed two weeks ago. We're humbled by the vast and indifferent might of nature, and feel small beside its power. We commend the departed to God. We mourn with those who mourn, and we ask for strength in the work ahead.

The destruction is immense, covering a city, a coastline, a region. Yet the hurt always comes down to one life, one family. We've seen the panic of loved ones separated from each other, the lonely pain of people whose earthly possessions were swept away, and the uncertainty of men and women and children driven away from the lives they knew. Many did not survive the fury of the storm. Many who did ask, why -- and wonder, what comes next.

In this hour of suffering, we're prayerful. In a wounded region, so many placed their faith in a God who hears and helps. And so many are bringing their grief to a Savior acquainted with grief. Our nation joins with them to pray for comfort and sorrow, for the reunion of separated families, and a holy rest for the ones who died.

Through prayer we look for ways to understand the arbitrary harm left by this storm, and the mystery of undeserved suffering. And in our search we're reminded that God's purposes are sometimes impossible to know here on Earth. Yet even as we're humbled by forces we cannot explain, we take comfort in the knowledge that no one is ever stranded beyond God's care. The Creator of wind and water is also the source of even a greater power -- a love that can redeem the worst tragedy, a love that is stronger than death.

In this hour of suffering, our nation is thankful. We have been inspired by acts of courage and goodness: Coast Guardsmen and military personnel reaching out of helicopters and lifting victims from rooftops; firefighters wading through mud and debris to search for victims and survivors; doctors and nurses defying danger so their patients might live. Many of those who saved others lost their own homes and were separated from their own families. And many stories of heroism and rescue will never be told because they are known to God alone.

We're thankful for a spirit seen across the Gulf Coast that faces the worst and chooses to hope. We're thankful, as well, for the many ordinary citizens who heard the cries of neighbors and answered them. Across the country, Americans saw the hungry and gave them something to eat; saw the thirsty and gave them something to drink; saw strangers and invited them in. One man who was rescued and given shelter after the storm said, "I didn't think there was so much love in the world."

In this hour of suffering, our nation is also mindful of the work ahead. Through this tragedy great duties have come to our nation. The destruction of this hurricane was beyond any human power to control, but the restoration of broken communities and disrupted lives now rests in our hands. And we accept this responsibility not as a burden or a chore, but as an opportunity to serve our fellow Americans, as they would do for us.

This task will measure our unity as a people. Americans of every race and religion were touched by this storm; yet some of the greatest hardship fell upon citizens already facing lives of struggle -- the elderly, the vulnerable, and the poor. And this poverty has roots in generations of segregation and discrimination that closed many doors of opportunity. As we clear away the debris of a hurricane, let us also clear away the legacy of inequality. Let us deliver new hope to communities that were suffering before the storm. As we rebuild homes and businesses, we will renew our promise as a land of equality and decency. And one day, Americans will look back at the response to Hurricane Katrina and say that our country grew not only in prosperity, but in character and justice.

On this National Day of Prayer and Remembrance, we pledge ourselves to the demanding work of revival, and renew the faith and hope that will carry that work to completion. In the worst of storms, and in the rush of flood waters, even the strongest faith can be tested. Yet the Scriptures assure us, "many waters cannot quench love; neither can the floods drown it."

So now we go forward, confident in the good heart of America, and trusting that even among the ruins, the love of God remains at work.

May God bless and keep the souls of the lost. May His love touch all those in need, and may He always watch over the United States of America. God bless.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 17, 2005 8:09 AM

"It would not be surprising then if the experience of being forced to begin anew outside of New Orleans turns out to be a tremendous positive for these families and particularly for the next generation."

I agree. Although some failed economically, it seems to me that the development of the black middle class in this country can to some degree be traced to the migrations out of the South and into urban areas in the North.

Really, I would think that the Harlem Renaissance, the growth of the KC jazz/swing scene, Chicago blues, LA bop, etc. all represented the first fruits of a black middle class which finally had time, talent and money to spend on funding artistic endeavors--just like the flowering of any other second generation group of immigrants as they mix and meld with the broader strands of the culture.

Posted by: cornetofhorse at September 17, 2005 9:15 AM

Okies never returned from California's Central Valley.

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at September 17, 2005 1:32 PM

I guess Barbara Bush was right when she made her comments a few days ago - despite the Lame Stream Media protesting her insensitivity.

Posted by: obc at September 17, 2005 4:44 PM

But family and church were both stronger in the Jim Crow South than in the Northern ghetto.

Posted by: ghostcat at September 17, 2005 6:43 PM

This paragraph was the most beautiful of all:

"Her voice-mail message reflects her determination to make the most of her fresh start. "I've made some changes in my life," she tells callers. "If I don't call you back, you're one of those changes."

She ends the message: "Peace."

Peace out, Keyon. You'll do wonderful here in my backyard.

Posted by: Brad S at September 17, 2005 7:58 PM