Sunday, September 04, 2005

Some Perspective from 1862

The illustration below, from Harper's on June 14th, 1862, is entitled "The Starving People of New Orleans Fed By The United States Military Authorities."

Click for a larger view

Much of my family fought on the losing side during that particular conflict, and this newspaper is one of the documents that we still have around. We also have letters written home on captured General Ben Butler stationary, but that's a story for another day.

The point is that New Orleans - and the US in general - has come through some pretty awful times in the past. We've gotten through them, and we'll get through this. In the midst of the horror that we're now witnessing, it is important to keep perspective.

Through a friend's email exploder, I've been exposed to comments like "New Orleans shouldn't have been there in the first place. Don't rebuild anything there. You want long term, there's long term" (followed by a screed against the President that isn't worth reprinting). The internet is overflowing with professional and private pundits opining on the death of New Orleans. There will always be pessimists and naysayers, and they rarely if ever contribute anything useful to the debate.

The mayor of Charleston was interviewed recently on NPR about his city's recovery from Hugo. Although the distruction from Hugo pales in comparison to Katrina's wrath, he made some good - and optimistic - points. He said that Charleston rebuit faster than anyone predicted and came back stronger, better, and completely revitalized.

Here's my prediction. Before the end of the month, the hoardes of charities working in the striken areas will be joined by hoardes of contractors rebuilding New Orleans and the rest of the coastal area. By Christmas, some residents of New Orleans will have returned to their homes to begin the reconstruction. And next year there will be a Mardi Gras celebration in downtown New Orleans - and it'll be one hell of a party.

Anyone want to bet against me? Against American optimism and industriousness? Drop me a line. I'll contribute to the charity of your choice if I'm wrong.

But I won't be.


Anonymous said...

I think your pretty close on what might happen, I'm thinking it will be more like Florida last year the contractors will come in droves, take all the money they can get their hands on and split!

Scott said...


Next time, I would suggest that you pay your contractors only after they have completed the work for which they were contracted. At that point, I would imagine that you'd be glad to see them "split".