I write this column two days after Hurricane Katrina brought incalculable devastation to the Gulf Coast and the people of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. I spent last evening glued to the television as I was during the Gulf Wars and on September 11, 2001. Thousands of people need help. Trapped people need rescue. Water, food, shelter, sanitary facilities, and clothing are needed for the displaced and now homeless. Restoration of authority and civility is a priority.
I resist the urge to go to the scene. Having been a first responder in the past - Emergency Medical Technician, firefighter and search-and-rescue worker during my national park ranger days - theres a temptation to pick up and go. But my last attempt at this sort of thing didnt work out so well. Years ago, as the world responded to Iraqs invasion of Kuwait, I noted that the U.S. Navy was taking many vessels out of mothballs in order to deliver supplies and people for what would become the first Gulf War. I called to offer my services as a navigator and, upon providing details, I was politely told that I exceeded the age requirements and that the Navy, regrettably, could not accept my enlistment. I understood, perhaps wryly, that ones time for doing in such situations may be limited.