Idaho Examiner - Sen. Larry Craig News Releases

Friday, September 09, 2005

Counteracting Katrina

by Senator Larry Craig

By now, we have all heard of Hurricane Katrina and the ensuing disaster in the Gulf Coast region. For many days, our televisions and internet news outlets have been filled with images and stories of the destruction and the suffering. It is a humanitarian disaster on a scale not seen for years, perhaps decades.

Although much of the commentary has been devoted to assigning blame or responsibility for the hurricane’s aftermath, I’m not going to get into that here. Congress is already beginning to take a hard look at the response of federal, state, and local agencies to Katrina, to try and identify what went wrong, what went right, and how things can be done better in the future – and we will get the answers in good time. Meanwhile, right now, people are still suffering in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Pointing fingers will not put food in their mouths, clothing on their backs, or a roof over their heads.

As I write, the full range of federal resources is being brought to bear on the relief efforts underway. Troops of the 82nd Airborne are patrolling New Orleans on search-and-rescue and security missions. The Army Corps of Engineers has been busily repairing the city’s system of levees and pumps, and the floodwaters are now receding. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has swung into action and is helping to coordinate the evacuation of stranded civilians, the delivery of food and supplies, and cleanup efforts. Congress is considering an emergency supplemental appropriation to cover the costs of rescue and relief work. These are just a few of the efforts in progress.

Millions of Americans, however, watch the situation and immediately feel a personal need to contribute to these efforts in some way. Fortunately, there are many different ways to get involved. All you have to do is pick one.

Organizations like the Salvation Army (www.salvationarmyusa.org), the American Red Cross (www.redcross.org), and Catholic Charities of Idaho (www.catholicidaho.org) have long histories of responding to disasters around the globe. A cash contribution to charities like these is always an effective way to get relief to victims.

Idahoans are also mobilizing their talents and imaginations. At Idaho State University, the Greek Council has set a goal of raising $25,000 for hurricane relief. Governor Kempthorne sent five Idaho National Guard tanker trucks carrying a total of 12,500 gallons of gasoline to the Gulf Coast region. With the cooperation of St. Luke’s and St. Alphonsus hospitals in Boise, the governor also organized teams of doctors and nurses to volunteer their services in the region. A gentleman name Roy Prescott, of Jerome, is making available long term care and assisted living facilities for Katrina victims. The Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Chainsaw Crew in the Magic Valley area is organizing to send a mobile group to cut and remove trees that have fallen on houses and cars and across roads.

For more ideas, an excellent resource is the USA Freedom Corps website at www.usafreedomcorps.gov. There, you can find links to different disaster relief funds and charities, learn how to donate goods or services, or you can read up on ways to volunteer.

In this time, I would also encourage you not to forget your local charities like the Red Cross of Greater Idaho. The valuable work they and other groups do at the state and local levels must continue, but in the past, massive disasters have often diverted attention and donations elsewhere, while the charities closest to home might be forced to scale back services or close their doors altogether.

Despite the vast distances that often separate Americans, we’ve never had trouble pulling together and helping each other in times of disaster. No matter what the challenge, at home or abroad, we have always stood ready to come to the aid of those suffering and in need. Once again, this has proven to be true. I am proud that Idahoans will continue to do their part.

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