Katrina has become a post-apocalyptic American nightmare for those living in the disaster zone, or dying there, or neither living nor dying but stumbling through the carnage like zombies.
Chris Rose is a columnist for the New Orleans Times-Picayune. His columns since Katrina and the ensuing flood of New Orleans have been an unblinking look at what passes for life in the Crescent City. At times angry, bitter, and despondent, yet still mustering occassional hopefulness, Rose, through his column, has been a lifeline for those who want to know what is really happening in the city beyond the narrow frame of TV cameras.
The personal toll on those covering the storm and its aftermath has been too little documented. The Times-Pic, whose main office was flooded in the storm, forcing its temporary evacuation, has faced challenges that no modern American newspaper has ever endured. A few weeks ago, one its photographers attempted suicide by cop. Fortunately for all involved, he was well-known and respected by the police, and they showed a level of restraint that was heroic, even as he tried to provoke them into killing him by using his car as a weapon.
Today, Chris Rose has a column that describes in agonizing detail his own descent into depression last fall as the days after the storm turned to weeks and months. Like most of us would, he resisted entreaties from his family and co-workers to get help. He went a year without treatment, 360 straight days of crying. It is, as such things are, a very personal tale. One man. One family. One city.
It breaks your heart. But it also makes me mad as hell. Mad that this slow-motion disaster of broken levees and shattered lives happened in the first place. Mad that the disaster is still happening, a feckless governmental response dragging out the misery and the suffering just as if the fetid water were still pouring through the levee breaches. Mad that in the face of this overwhelming catastrophe at home we are spending by some estimates $246 million a day to create a catastrophe in Iraq. Mad that in light of all of this ineptitude and indifference the party in power has a chance, a very real chance, of retaining some or even all of its power in the first national election since Katrina.
But Chris Rose did not intend for his column today to be a springboard to a political rant. It is just his personal story. You ought to go read it.