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Patriot Day 2005

| Sunday, Sept. 11, 2005

What was 9/11 supposed to teach•

Katrina laid waste to New Orleans and the suspect presumption that the nation had learned the lesson of Sept. 11, 2001. Certainly New Orleans didn't.

Four years after a small part of New York City, after attack, collapsed into ruins -- leading to war yet without victory and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security -- New Orleans fell to a man-made disaster.

The Big Easy was a representation of whistling past the graveyard, a city so deep that you could see the barges above your line of sight. People lived in this hole. What did they expect?

Bourbon Street, Mardi Gras -- the deepest of the Deep South -- quaint and Cajun and without security from the inevitable.

The disaster unfolded in ways predicted in detail -- the levee system could not withstand a Category 4 hurricane, and it did not. Emergency response unfolded, when it unfolded, haphazardly and late, and those left from the evacuation were poor, or infirm, and too often criminal or stupid.

To this day, people still will not evacuate, and scores of police officers simply walked off the job.

It was a war zone because homegrown, Louisianan incompetence put New Orleans at war with itself and the sea.

These observations should not be construed as plaudits for the federal response from FEMA, a body subsumed in the Homeland Security Department. From its Web page: "In the event of a terrorist attack, natural disaster or other large-scale emergency, the Department of Homeland Security will assume primary responsibility ... ."

Governments at all levels -- locked together in a creaking monstrosity of rules, politics, ego and backside-covering -- did not protect New Orleans from the flood, and then did not adequately protect her afterward. All of them fouled up.

What was 9/11 supposed to teach•

That if we had done things better, if we had heeded and acted upon the evidence before us, 9/11 might not have happened.

But we did it again. Again!

And after all of this, will New Orleans be rebuilt• That, itself, may be the dumbest idea of all. But if folks tempt fate again, will they pay the money to defend themselves from the waters always straining to swallow the Big Easy?

And is the Department of Homeland Security, when it really comes to homeland security, a horrifically expensive disaster?

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