It is hard to believe that nearly five years have passed since terrorists hijacked four airliners and crashed them into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, DC, and an open field in Pennsylvania.
Fast-forward to August 29, 2005 and you will find it disturbing to learn that our nation still isnít prepared to handle a major disaster. Communication networks crashed and are not compatible, evacuation plans for some jurisdictions are a failure, but perhaps the most disturbing is the sluggish performance of our state and national government to respond in a meaningful way.
Here in St. Charles Parish, as much as our lives have changed since then, many things we took for granted before the terrorist attacks and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have returned to that level of comfort while others still serve as a constant reminder of our vulnerability. Take our levees for instance. We have never really taken them for granted. We know where our weaknesses are and certainly our exposure to tidal surges are top our list. But, our homes are intact and there is a comfort level there that gives false hope.
We were fortunate; Hurricane Katrina spared us the brunt of her destructive forces. Our ability to rebound so quick is directly related to the fact that our levee system, even though lower in height than our flooded neighbors, it held the water back. Now, as state and federal funds will be available to rebuild the fractured levee systems caused by Hurricane Katrina and with an eye set of increasing the height of those levees, what will this mean for us?
Although intact, our levees are actually lower than most of the levees that breached during Hurricane Katrina. Our low-lying areas are just as vulnerable to tidal surge as any other parish in Southeast Louisiana. Our infrastructure, roads, communications, etc, are vital to the well being of the entire region. Yet, many think we are doing okay in St. Charles Parish.
Our good fortune may very well cost us in the long run. We need to make our case for equal protection and make it loud and clear. St. Charles Parish, with our strong industrial base has a huge economic impact on not only the New Orleans Metro area, but the nation as well.
September 11th has shown us everything, everyone, everyplace is vulnerable. Hurricane Katrina has proven this. We need to be vigilant and make sure our levees are part of the overall levee assessment and fortification.