In 1927 the apocalyptic floods in the Mississippi River Basin ravaged a huge swath of the South, stranding tens of thousands of impoverished people on levees as narrow as six feet wide for days. The devastation was enormous. The response from the humorless, taciturn president, Republican Calvin Coolidge, was for the most part nonexistent.
Two tiny children with big eyes stare dolefully into the camera, their identities blown away by Hurricane Katrina. The children, both about 2, couldn’t give workers their names or explain what happened when they were finally rescued along with hundreds of other New Orleans refugees along the Interstate 10 causeway leading out of the beleaguered city.
President George W. Bush, under fierce criticism for his government’s slow response to Hurricane Katrina, sought to reassure storm survivors on Monday as a veteran lawmaker complained that bureaucratic red tape was hampering relief efforts in Mississippi.
Those who deal with disaster on a local level warned Congress and the Bush Administration earlier this year that training and equipment for first responders were titled too much toward combatting terrorism and away from dealing with natural disasters like hurricanes.
Congress’ agenda for the remainder of the year has changed dramatically in the last few days, as lawmakers vowed to help Gulf Coast hurricane victims and senators faced a confirmation decision for a new chief justice — rather than an associate justice of the Supreme Court.