Things cannot get worse for Louisiana,” many said just after Hurricane Katrina made her unwelcome visit to the southeastern part of the state. But they did: Hurricane Rita.
Things cannot get worse for Louisiana,” many said
just after Hurricane Katrina made her unwelcome visit to the
southeastern part of the state. But they did: Hurricane Rita.
The double-whammy leaves people expecting new and
more encouraging words from ministers about how to make it through the
pain and loss. But it seems about all that can be said was said after
the first hurricane left hundreds of thousands of people fleeing angry
Katrina. We may all scramble for new insights and more encouraging
words and thoughts, but about all we can do is refresh our memories on
what we have already heard and read.
There is no question, the impact of the sister
hurricane will not be known for three to five years. There was already
a slow, outward migration of our citizens, but Katrina caused the
largest population migration in the history of the United States and
Rita apparently added to that migration. Some will return, but how
many? How many businesses will leave? How many will rebuild? How long
before new businesses are willing to come to Louisiana?
In the middle of this uncertainty, Christians should
remember that destruction can become a new beginning. Out of the
gigantic piles of rubble littering our state can come something new,
A destruction of another kind came to Central
Louisiana years ago with the closing of England Air Force Base in
Alexandria. The military installation was the major
financial engine of the area. Dire predictions of doom reigned when the
official announcement of the base’s closure came down.
When the closure was certain, the hard-biting
reality did something in Central Louisiana that good times had not been
able to achieve. Community leaders came together in remarkable unity of
purpose. Parish leaders, city leaders and state leaders agreed to lay
aside individual and special interest political agendas and work toward
something better. Business leaders who had competed with one another
first in mind cooperated with one another to bring about something new
The federal government gave the land and buildings
of the closed Air Force base to the England Airpark Authority, a group
made up of representatives from various segments of the area.
They hired John Grafton, a Louisiana preacher’s son,
to become the executive director of the authority. They stopped looking
at what they did not have and started concentrating on what they could
do with what they had left.
And then, with a positive attitude and a united
spirit, they set about bringing businesses to locate in the industrial
park, or what had been the Air Force base.
Today, businesses located in the remnants of England
Air Force Base employ more people than did the Air Force base, the
payroll is larger and the population more stable. Multitudes of
enterprises were established and now what was considered a disaster has
become a national showplace.
So, from the devastation, Louisiana can start
focusing on what we have rather than on what we had, but lost.
Certainly our business and political leaders can lay aside strongly
self-centered agendas and focus on what is best for the state. Yes,
even a new kind of state.
Our state’s governor and legislators can see their
actions in light of a do-or-die situation. We either reform and unite,
or we can live with our losses for generations, and sink further in our
morass. Our local, parish and state governments can work
together, as a unified body rather than one divided along racial,
regional and economic constituents. And the motivation is this: They
either unite in purpose as never before, or we can go further down.
Severe testing reveals weaknesses, and strengths.
One writer said that Katrina and Rita pulled the lid off the state to
show us what we really are and what we really have, and what we do not
have. In some cases, it was not a pretty revelation. We suspected it,
but now we know for sure.
Certainly we have seen many of our weaknesses during
the last five weeks. But our major strengths will be shown in the
months and years ahead, if we have the intestinal fortitude to do what
must be done to become something new, and much better. Seldom does a
state have this opportunity. May we rise above ourselves and do and
have something new, and much, much better.
Because of the hurricanes and the death of my
computer, all e-mails sent to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or
email@example.com from September 8 through October 2 have been
lost in cyberspace. I apologize for the inconvenience, but if you have
e-mailed me during this time, I did not receive the correspondence and
I urge to you e-mail the message to me again. Thank you!