Across the Eastern section of Virginia, residents are recovering from Hurricane Irene, a Category 1 hurricane that vented her wrath across the mid-Atlantic states from South Carolina to New York. Irene struck almost exactly six years after Hurricane Katrina devasted New Orleans and much of the State of Louisiana. Katrina was more powerful – a Category 3 hurricane – but Louisiana is much more accustomed to hurricanes than are the mid-Atlantic states.
Here in Virginia, surely Irene caused a great deal of damage. But there was seemingly only one hurricane-associated death and recovery is now well under way. Most of the power has been restored, roads are largely cleared of debris, and homeowners are rapidly cleaning up their yards. Katrina, by comparison, wrought much more damage – indeed recovery is still a work in process.
To a considerable extent, the quality of a state’s government, together with the underlying integrity of its residents, can be judged by how effectively such natural disasters are guarded against and dealt with. Virginia must rank highly in these terms. Louisiana, by comparison, would appear to have much to learn. Across Virginia, evacuations were required and largely obeyed. Government officials did not flee the scene. Transit systems dealt with any exodus and then shut down. Power crews were drafted in in a timely fashion. In Louisiana, by comparison, chaos reigned. Government officials deserted their posts, hospital patients were left to die, and police officers joined in the looting of New Orleans. Walmart was the only institution of integrity that took care of its people.
So my reflection for today is that it really does matter where one chooses to reside. The Commonwealth of Virginia stands high in my estimation. And I am deeply thankful that Virginia is where I set up my home.