Before Hurricane Sandy struck the northeast, the prevailing attitude in Washington, D.C. and much of America toward Katrina survivors was that hurricanes and flooding were New Orleans' problem.
Myself, a resident of that cultural gem, I was considered partly responsible for my losses when the government-built levees broke and flooded 80 percent of New Orleans. Why do I live in a region vulnerable to hurricane storm surge? Why should I be America's burden?
Forget the fact that with logic like that, everyone who lives in a region that sees events measured by some sort of scale -- be it Fujita, Richter or Saffir-Simpson -- should pack up and leave. Nonetheless, compassion for Katrina survivors was lacking, many of whom were blamed for not heeding Governor Kathleen Blanco's order to evacuate.
But I predict that Sandy will change that.
Even though parts of Lower Manhattan from Wall Street to 34th Street remain without power, and floodwater is sitting stagnant in miles of century-old subway tunnels, it's not likely that anyone will suggest that everyone in Lower Manhattan ought to permanently relocate. It's not likely that anyone will recommend that the survivors in Hoboken or Queens should not ever return home.
Fifty-five percent of the nation's population lives in counties protected by levees. For centuries, mankind has settled near water for irrigation, navigation and aesthetics. Most of the nation's largest cities lie at least in part on a floodplain. The time has come to admit that one-size-fits-all flood protection will not adequately protect the regions with the most people, property and infrastructure.
Our leaders will hopefully unanimously agree after Sandy.
Founded after the levee failures during Katrina, Levees.org has a mission of education on why New Orleans flooded, and now has chapters in five states including New York.