The places change, the images do not. The wrecked homes, flooded streets, downed power lines left in the wake of Laura’s landfall early Thursday will look all too familiar to the survivors of powerful storms of the past like Harvey, Andrew, and especially Katrina, which also hit the Louisiana coast 15 years ago this week. And while the worst predictions of destruction did not come to pass, Laura is still linked to at least six fatalities.
What’s less visible is the human response to such disasters. You can glimpse it with videos of the nurses who rode out the storm at Lake Charles, Louisiana, hospital to care for 19 babies in neonatal intensive care, the volunteers manning emergency feeding stations, and the woman in Texas leading a llama to safety.
Even more powerful are the acts we don’t see. Neighbors making sure everyone is safe. People sharing with strangers food that otherwise would go bad in a refrigerator without power. The collective cleanup that begins even before the emergency crews arrive. I’ve witnessed it firsthand covering hurricanes and tornadoes, starting with Andrew in south Florida three decades ago. It’s as if the winds that tear down walls also break down the mental barriers that keep us separate.
When all that is familiar is twisted beyond recognition, we reach out and reaffirm our common bond. Hurricane recovery is a long hard slog. But just as Miami, Houston, and New Orleans rebuilt, so will Lake Charles and the surrounding countryside.
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