Aftermath of the Storm

HurricaneLike most Americans, I have watched with morbid fascination and horror the tragedy of immense proportions unfolding in the Gulf states and New Orleans. Partially distracted by the need to prepare for a large family get-together this weekend, the repeated images of this disaster nevertheless have been haunting and thought-provoking, in ways I have not yet clearly delineated nor had time to thoroughly digest. It is disturbing–deeply disturbing–in many more ways than I can easily ennumerate. The frames flash through my mind like some silent movie, with fast flickering images painting a grainy impression of a tragic story:

–The hyperventilatory commentary of Geraldo Rivera on the day before the storm, and his bedfellows in the TV media, hyping yet another storm with faux dread but thinly-guised glee at an impending Big Story, salvation from a slow news cycle and the increasingly-repulsive Cindy Sheehan. Like a broken clock–right twice a day–after countless storms, this time they predicted rightly;

–The spectacle of a major American city under mandatory evacuation: when you evacuate your city, where do you go? Where will you put these tens of thousands of refugees?

–The premature glee that New Orleans had been spared–yet again–while tens of thousands suffered and died in nearby, less-newsworthy Mississippi;

–The worrisome news that levies had failed, while still not comprehending the magnitude of those seemingly small breeches;

–The growing news of violence and anarchy–not merely looting (a given, sadly), but murder, and rape, and riots, shooting at rescuers and holding hostages;

–The disgusting spectacle of those first responders–not the emergency workers or National Guard, who were heroic but overwhelmed–but rather the moral shuttlecocks (mostly on the left and among our “friends” in Europe and Kuwait) who immediately blamed the President, or global warming, or unsigned treaties, or Allah, or racism, as responsible for this vast natural disaster and its brutal consequences–have you fools no fear of God? How will you stand when such a disaster is visited on you?

–The constant drumbeat of media pundits demanding to know “Where are the Feds?”–as if the American Ship of State can be turned on a dime to immediately compensate for decades of local corruption and incompetence, or the lost gamble of dikes designed to fail under someone elses’s watch, or the hubris of believing dirt walls and a little concrete can resist the awesome power of nature in storm and river;

–The American spirit–generous and compassionate, despite the harping and selfishness of its most vocal–and nefarious–citizens. Their generosity will far exceed anything this country–or the world–has ever seen when this crisis is over. This will happen despite the ignoble and disgraceful conduct of many in the disaster areas–and those in the public eye-who compounded the evils of nature with personal depravity. This is American grace, and you will behold it in an abundance not seen in the world’s history. It will be underreported by the media, but those who care to look will stand amazed.

I am grateful for some things in this tragedy, however. I am thankful for the unspoken heroism of those who stayed behind to help the sick, the elderly, the young, and the disabled, risking and sometimes losing their lives in this effort, whose story will never be fully told. I am thankful that no moronic televangelist has intoned righteously how this storm was the judgment of God on the wickedness of a city. I am thankful that the vacuous “compassion” of the mouthpieces on the left–those who hunger only for power, and use the poor for their own political and personal gain–has been shown, once again, to be the hollow deceit it has always been; perhaps a few more will see through their cynical charade. I am thankful for those in our miltary and National Guard–already under the heavy load of war, who will give of themselves far more than should be asked of anyone–and do so honorably and willingly.

And I am grateful for a wake-up call.

We have done some simple home preparedness for emergencies, partly in preparation for Y2K, partly for earthquakes which frequent the Pacific Northwest. But I now know it is wholly inadequte, and plan to promptly address the many deficiencies of our emergency planning. The disaster in New Orleans will not happen here–but a catastrophic earthquake, or mass casualty terroroism attack very well may–at any time. There will be breakdown in all major services–police, fire, medical, utilities, social. Food and water will likely be scarce if available at all. And help will be a very long time coming–if ever. A few things which come to mind which need to be addressed:

  • A well-stocked emergency medical kit, with bandages, IV fluids, antibiotics, splints, and other short term medical supplies;
  • A substantial supply of bottled water, and water purification items, such as bleach and filters;
  • A one-month extra supply of critical prescription medications, rotated to maintain potency;
  • Non-perishable canned and dried food for at least several weeks–the more the better;
  • Tarps, plywood, and simple repair supplies to fix roof leaks, broken windows, etc.
  • Candles and kerosene lamps;
  • A portable cooking or camp stove, matches, fire-starters;
  • Batteries, flashlights, battery-powered radios;
  • Ropes, axes, hunting knives;
  • A home generator to maintain critical electrical appliances or short-term PC or TV use;
  • A large gasoline container, filled, for emergency auto use;

There are, no doubt, other things which will come to mind.

But there’s at least one other thing on the list: a gun, and the training to use it.

I have long believed that the Second Amendment guaranteed an individual’s right to keep and bear arms–it is hard to imagine any other intent when it was implemented, in a society where a firearm was a necessity of life for hunting, protection against man and beast, and the final recourse against tyranny. Yet I have long been ambivalent about guns, having seen the devastation and tragedy they have caused in poor neighborhoods and through careless use in homes and around children. And I have long been wary of gun zealots. I had basic weapon training in the military–but medical providers didn’t get much. I have had no desire to own a personal firearm, and never expected I would. My wife would never approve, anyway, so the point was moot.

But life is full of surprises.

While watching the anarchy in New Orleans, my wife turned to me a said, “I want to get a gun.” She expected my usual skepticism about her over-the-top paranoia. But she was serious, and I was shocked–I had always assumed she would never want a gun around. After first checking to make sure she wasn’t angry with me (she wasn’t), I responded, “So do I.” Her shock matched mine: we had both assumed the other would never agree to such an idea. I was, in fact, a bit startled at my own response–but there was at that moment no doubt about my conviction–nor is there now.

The thin veneer of civilization is easily cracked–perhaps more easily in our current age than in decades past. Katrina has demonstrated clearly that mere provision of needs during emergencies–food, clothing, water–is not sufficient: nursing homes and hospitals were under seige in New Orleans by armed gangs without conscience, and the normal restraint of law enforcement, once neutralized and overwhelmed by disaster, will bring forth the hideous beast of man at his basest. It may well become necessary to protect oneself and family in such a setting.

Such a decision is not without moral qualms: as a Christian, could I kill another man? In just warfare, no doubt–but personally, to protect possessions only, the act would seem dubious. But to protect one’s self and family–and the provisions necessary to sustain their lives–might well warrant such an act, extreme though it be, and be therefore morally justifiable. One hopes that the deterence would be sufficient that such a moral choice would be unnecessary; without such deterence, there would be no choices available.

So we will proceed in our preparations. Advice will be sought on appropriate weapon or weapons, safety and training undertaken, safe and secure storage obtained.

And may God spare us the need to ever use such a weapon.

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10 thoughts on “Aftermath of the Storm

  1. It is definently a zoo down here (outside Houston). The predominate feeling seems to be “thank God” and “I don’t need my hurricane stockpile, so, hey can you use this, I’ll go buy some more”. The small town I live in has refugee families stuck in every knook and cranny. And we’re not out of the woods yet as far as hurricane season goes (knock on wood).
    If you’re contemplating a firearm, I’d suggest a shotgun. Complete believability without appearing paranoid.

  2. Hmm. Thinking about it, many of the survival necessities could be found as a backpacker’s kit. The food, palatable, portable, and lightweight; the equipment, likewise highly mobile; the water filters or tablets. It does not, however, have more than first aid supplies. As a doctor, what would you recommend for usually healthy laymen?

    Of course, when many people speak of survival, a generator is mentioned, which may be critical in cold winters, but as for me, I know where I’d run… and camping out is not a bad way to be a refugee.

  3. While considering the ‘unthinkable’ for the Seattle area, don’t forget the active volcano in the back yard, Mt. Rainier.

  4. I too have thought the same, especially here in Los Angeles. I figure that if such destruction, only half of what has affected the Gulf region of our country hit California (the entire coast line and 50 miles inland) I’d pretty be much on my own. Trying to evacuate Los Angeles would be impossible. And where to go, the desert? Thank god my boat carries about 300 gallons of fresh water and food. I’ll sail away from such a mess. Although I use a hand gun, 9mm, believe me a shot gun is the best personal defense item out there. A hand gun you have to aim and shoot. With a shot gun point it in the general direction. Plus there in no sound in the world that will repel a thug better than the destictive sound of cocking a shot gun. It get’s there attention very fast. Good luck.

  5. Might I suggest one other item of preparedness. Your neighbors! How about talking about disaster preparedness with your neighbors. It seems to me there is strength and security in numbers so why not do a little disaster preparedness with the folks who will be geographically, most closely involved. Think about where people will look for aid first… their neighborhoods. Why not enlist their help in providing for the common good. Working out a plan (pre-emptively)for mutual support and protection seems to me to be a way to short-circuit the hysteria, loss of order and possible violence that could ensue in a disaster situation. Plans can help to unify a group when the normal reaction is to separate into the “me and mine” mentality. Just food for thought!

  6. Doc, your revelation that keeping a firearm is a rational choice is interesting.
    I suspect that you and I would agree on most things political, and I’m sure that in your capacity as a physician you have seen things that could have an impact on your opinion about guns. What I find interesting is that the graphic visuals from New Orleans could produce this change in attitude while all the statistical data re self defense and historical data with regard to disarmed populations couldn’t.
    Your awakening to the futility of trying to protect your family in a chaotic situation while unarmed,despite your years of thinking that firearms are “bad” is a testament to the effectiveness of the tactics of those who desire an unarmed population. I don’t presume to know the motives of anti-gun people, and I’ll even stipulate that most have pure reasons, safety, anti-crime, etc. but the fact that you and millions of bright, well meaning people have been conditioned to ignore both common sense and provable, repeatable evidence that firearms are safe to use and the best self defense available is a powerful lesson.
    I have never carried a firearm for self defense and hope I’m never in a position where I think it would be prudent to do so, but I own and am competent in the use of firearms and should that time ever come, my family will be safer than they would be otherwise. To do less is to shirk your responsibility

  7. Kevin,

    Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever been influenced to a significant degree by the anti-gun folks–although guns in the wrong hands (read: gangs, criminals) and guns kept carelessly have caused much societal mayhem and tragedy. I have not wanted to own a gun because I never felt a compelling need to do so. What New Orleans brought home to me was the need to own one–as part of emergency preparation in case of societal breakdown–which now appears all but certain in a major natural or terrorist disaster.

  8. My family evacuated N.O. prior to landfall, seeking refuge here with me in Texas. When allowed to return to select areas in N.O. briefly to check on property and gather belongings, my brother went back from Monday to Thursday. He says the first thing he did when he got home was to load his gun. He kept it with him the entire time he was there.

    I’m not a gun owner and have never felt the need to change that . . . until now. I don’t have Mt. Ranier in my backyard, am way too far inland to worry about hurricaines and don’t recall there ever having been an earthquake ’round these parts, but tornados . . . nuclear threats . . .

    This entire event has changed my thinking on a lot of matters. Thanks for sharing your perspective, Doc.

  9. We’re a hunting family, and have a variety of guns on hand. We all know how to use them, break them down, clean them … etc. …

    We’re in a rural area, and it’s common knowledge that almost everyone has at least one gun at home.

    I live in an ancient house – and the doors and windows don’t lock. My brother lives down the road in a antique cape, newer than ours, but still with no locks.

    Although I really don’t think about the guns much, I guess that it is a contributing factor to sleeping soundly at night, alone, in an unlocked house.

    Guns aren’t an “issue” where people have them as a matter of course … they have too many practical uses.

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