Dear Lord, Not Again

Across town in the 9th Ward, a neighborhood decimated by Katrina, Sidney William climbs slowly out of his truck. He's 49 but moves like he's 20 years older.

"My legs hurt; my feet hurt a lot," he said. "It's not easy."

William wants desperately to leave his native New Orleans to avoid Gustav. He didn't leave for Katrina because he didn't have the money. He won't talk about what happened to him during that storm.

"I wish I had the money to go." Rejected for disability subsidies, he depends on his 23-year-old daughter, Gloria, to support the family.

"Lot of folks around here are gonna make do with what they have, and you won't hear a terrible amount of complaining," he said. "You can't just come in here and expect to hear people fussing about how they don't have nothing. People just be used to not having much, and so you don't even think too hard about it until someone starts asking you questions."

As you may have heard, New Orleans is being evacuated, and another storm is on its way. A lot of people, like last time, won't be able to leave, for a myriad of reasons. And, as before, they won't be getting much help. America's homeland security chief, Michael Chertoff, dismissed those remaining as,"exceptionally foolish," and Mayor Nagin, according to the BBC, "warned any potential looters that they would go straight to prison." Here we go again.

I was in New York when Katrina hit, and it was a terrible time to be human. Watching the news call hungry, desperate people "looters" and "animals" made me feel physically sick. I'd never trusted authority, and I always knew in my heart that those who stood above us so loftily were monsters, but to see that unhuman evil acted out in front of my eyes was something else. I was never the saqme after that long week, where the powers that be sat on their hands, locked a whole gang of people in an sports arena and waited to see what happened.

Katrina felt like a test, at the time - a test to see far they could push us. What they might get away with in broad daylight. The levies blew, lies were told, the poor drowned, thousands of children went missing, homes and guns were seized, bodies disappeared, and the swine smiled in the knowledge they could do pretty much anything they liked to us.

It seems an awful long time ago now. I feel a long way away. My heathen prayers are with those remaining.