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09/07/2005: "News and Oblivion"

Images reel in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The shock of another disaster, sound bites from experts and survivors, newscasters standing in front of broken buildings and flooded streets with debris floating by and opportunities to donate on the internet. The word “refugee” has new associations. Instead of bringing up images of people fleeing war torn countries elsewhere, the refugees come from within U.S. borders. And we can’t criticize some other country or NGO for not being prepared.

I was going to write a blog just before the hurricane hit about getting bad news. This was in the wake of my mom falling and breaking a hip, her second. It was going to be a musing, partly, on the way we get information these days and the choices and possibilities for inundation with cell phones, e-mails, voicemails and other technologies. I don’t regularly carry a cell phone so the latest news and shock came from my sister on the answering machine, with a request I call her. Her voice suggested something had changed and the news she would share wouldn’t be reversible.

I was oblivious that day, of both the coming news and the ease of my life. I got up and made coffee with shade grown, fair trade, organic beans. I filled my water bottle with water from our local artesian well, grabbed an apple and walked out the door for a morning hike on a quiet path up part of a mountain. One of my first images of the day is of a man driving past me with a plate of donuts on the top of his car. I tried to wave him down, but either he didn’t see me or thought I was crazy and ignored me.

Yet, now the image of the man with the donuts on his car seems all the more arbitrary. It is buried by dozens of phone calls with family. Then it is replaced by images of despair, wreckage, bodies, and displaced people. Then the words echo from an e-mail, sent by a friend who grew up in New Orleans, with family still living there, “I think I'm moving into the "anger stage.”