Wednesday, May 29, 2024


| September 7, 2005 12:00 AM

American refugees.

On American soil.

I heard on the news that one woman in New Orleans vociferously resented the use of that term saying over and over, "We're Americans. We're not refugees." The Lt. Governor of Louisiana echoed that sentiment. Technically, they're right.

But I can't think of another word that carries with it the impact that refugee does. Especially within our own country.

It's happened before but never on the scale it is happening in New Orleans, southern Mississippi and southern Alabama.

An estimated 350,000 to 400,000 people left their homes and jobs prior to Hurricane Katrina striking the city of New Orleans. They headed north and west from the Crescent City. Some went to relatives. Others went to motels and hotels.

But for how long?

It's being reported that 142,000 people are being held in shelters in 16 states and that does not include those who left New Orleans voluntarily for hotels and motels throughout the South. For many of those evacuees, their homes and/or jobs were destroyed. Or their home and/or jobs are under water.

Consider that for a few minutes. Put yourself in that position. How long could you stay away from what had been your home? How long would your finances hold out without a paycheck coming in during the near future? On a more short-term basis, what would you leave home with in terms of clothing, food, valuables and necessities?

Many of these people have had everything but life taken away from them. We can only guess at this point but it appears, an alarmingly untold number lost that.

Many thousands have been evacuated by rescue and relief efforts because they did not have the means to leave prior to the hurricane hitting the Gulf Coast. They may be in worse shape than the people who left on their own. Or are they?

The numbers of people impacted so severely by this storm are staggering. The emotional toll, captured to a small degree by the news media, is heart wrenching. I can't shake the desperate, screaming voice of a small boy being separated from his puppy by a National Guardsman supervising loading onto buses for evacuation from the Superdome. "Snowball, Snowball," the voice on the radio wailed pitifully. I don't blame the Guardsman, I just feel for the boy, who is being emotionally steamrolled by one catastrophic thing after another. Too, I can't help but wonder about the Guardsman. I'm sure that situation and that pitiful crying voice will stay with him for a long time.

These are Americans and this happened on our soil. They all need our help. — Roger Morris