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Robert Radujko-Moore, Ph.D.

Emotional Devastation of Katrina Rising

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita combined with forecasted levee failures have obliterated your homes, your records, broken apart your families, scattered you across the country, and the United States of America has not provided you with relief, safety, security, and certainly no recovery. It's abandoning you. Other than that, how was your day?

Friday, March 17, 2006
Quotes from the March 17, 2006 Los Angeles Times article: "Emotional Toll of Katrina Is Still Rising" by Stephanie Simon:

"NEW ORLEANS — Dispersed across the nation, survivors of Hurricane Katrina are suffering such severe psychological distress that the federal government has launched the broadest — and probably the most costly — counseling program in the nation's history.

An estimated 500,000 people need some form of mental health service, which could include treatment for post-traumatic stress, substance abuse counseling, anti-anxiety medication, even art therapy for children too young to talk out their grief."

"In New Orleans, even those trained to offer solace break down easily and often: A hospital nurse, a school psychologist, a paramedic, a counselor all lose composure as they talk about Katrina.

"The truth is, we are not OK. We are so definitely not OK," said Burke Beyer, 31, who leads a federally funded team of counselors in New Orleans.

Experts knew from the start that Katrina would be traumatic. The storm killed more than 1,300 people, submerged 80% of New Orleans, flattened neighborhoods and forced friends and relatives apart. But the scope of the mental health crisis is only now emerging."

"A recent student survey there had uncovered overwhelming anxiety. Asked how they were feeling, kindergarteners drew frowning faces dripping tears. Second- and third-graders wrote down their fears:

"I'm worried that I will never see my family again."

"Katrina threw my house somewhere."

"My cat is gone."

"My friends are gone forever."

"What will we do? Where will we go?"

To the gentle rhythm of classical music, counselor Nikky Redpath led a kindergarten class through half an hour of art therapy. When she asked them to draw any emotion they wished, five of the 15 kids drew "scared," illustrated by the dark, angry swirls of a hurricane.

At the next session, Redpath asked fourth-graders to draw something they had lost.

They drew teddy bears, pets and, above all, houses: Perfect squares with triangular roofs and chimneys puffing smoke and flowers by the front door.

"I had a big old window right here," one girl said, reaching for a crayon.

"Have you seen your house? How is it?" another counselor asked a boy.

Still sketching, he answered: "It's bad."

When they gathered in a circle to share their drawings, several students could not talk. They held up their pictures in silence."

Now the Federal government is going to provide millions of dollars for counseling to the survivors of Hurricanes Katrina & Rita, the levee failures, and the victims of this country's systematic abandonment of relief. I am a disaster mental health worker. I'm a psychologist. I worked directly with over 15,000 survivors of Katrina and was in Hurricane Rita while providing psychological services. Let's counsel some 200,000 abandoned, displaced American citizens and see if we can talk them out of feeling bad about it.

The horror of Katrina and Rita only grows. The bureaucratic "barriers" from relief work are nothing short of despicable. FEMA recently began the eviction process that will swell to over 150,000 displaced residents from hotel rooms they were "allowed" to stay-in. It took court interventions to extend the planned stay. 1,800 homes were offered to survivors, but every effort was made to block access to them. I met with a former colleague in Greenville, Mississippi, and traveled through Hurricane Rita to get there, because he had a 225,000 square foot facility that he wanted to convert into residences for the survivors (he wanted my help with developing a recovery program). However, he could not get a relief contract.

These American citizens have no homes to return to; mud and oil saturate the remnants of their homes. They have no records, tax documents, bank statements, clothes, pictures, appliances, tools, etc. Of course, 60,000 thousand trailers are available, yet no one will take the lead, get them set up, and people in them. What are these people supposed to do? What's more, tens of thousands of survivors have roamed the northeastern area above New Orleans and southeastern region of Mississippi without housing since the disaster struck nearly six months ago. Hurricane season is almost here. Perhaps the evicted can join those who haven't had a roof over their heads in six months and have a giant scavenger hunt.

In 1964, 28-year-old Kitty Genovese was brutally stabbed while 38 New York City residents watched and did nothing to save her. Social psychologists have used this horrible scenario as a metaphor for passive crowd behavior, i.e., the amazing situation where people will essentially ignore something awful happening to fellow human beings nearby.

American citizens on our own soil need our help, our advocacy, and our intolerance of media/political avoidance and denial. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the man-made levee failure should not become American society's version of Kitty Genovese.

Junior

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Robert Radujko-Moore, Ph.D.

Let’s Get Past Diluting the Disaster with WordsYet Once We Know Who The Enemy Is, It May Be Us

The U.S. population is fed a lot of misinformation through radio, TV, newspapers, and the Internet. It’s about language, how things are defined or described. Words seem to equate with national reaction, selectively to inflame or paralyze it.

Example: Libby admits that Bush authorized a “leak” about prewar intelligence on Iraq. It sounds like a plumbing problem. This “leak” pertained to the falsified information used to justify war. Attacking the sovereign nation of Iraq was not about exterminating the Al Qaeda or stopping weapons of mass destruction. The rationale of the “liberation” of Iraq or imposing democracy doesn’t hold water, or America would invade the other totalitarian regimes in the mid-east, let alone Asia, Central and South America, and Africa. When the news came-out about Libby, the press stated that Bush’s “foes,” i.e., Democrats, seized this as another opportunity to go after the Administration. By golly, this could be an “embarrassment” to the Bush administration.

Compared with Monica Lewinsky, this is stratospheric immorality. You’d think the Press would have a field day. America is invading and occupying a sovereign country for reasons other than national security. It certainly wasn’t okay when Japan, Germany, Italy, North Vietnam, and many other country’s did it. Why would it be acceptable for the USA? However, the Press dilutes seriousness and describes dismay in terms of the reactionary behavior of political parties. It misinforms. As issues dissolve into the cloud of competition between Elephant and Donkey, they no longer seem of great concern. Otherwise, the citizens of this country wouldn’t just stand by when the immoral and unjust are happening so flagrantly. Or would we?

“Houston Wants Katrina Evacuees to Move On” is a Newsweek headline. This is misinformation because it’s talking about a symptom and not the cause. Evacuees are “persons who’ve been ordered or authorized to move from a place of danger by competent authorities, and whose movements and accommodation are planned, organized and controlled by such authorities.” FEMA, an arm of the United States government was responsible for the transportation of New Orleans citizens to Houston. However, it would be wholly inaccurate to claim that FEMA represents a competent authority, and it certainly did not plan for or organize accommodation in the short or long-term. FEMA wanted to evict tens of thousands of displaced New Orleans citizens from hotels shortly after they arrived in Houston, although legal intervention stayed their action until last month, and then they were. Transported citizens could have moved into 60,000 mobile homes and trailers; however, federal and local government couldn’t pull it together. Instead, FEMA abandoned thousands and thousands of people in Houston, as if Houston became the competent authority.

Of course the city of Houston is growing tired of becoming permanently accountable for the United States’ responsibility to the New Orleans citizens involuntarily relocated by FEMA. The people of New Orleans just experienced near obliteration by hurricane Katrina’s impact on the man-made levees, and went along with it. Moms and dads, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins, friends, colleagues, grandmothers and grandfathers, just like the people of Houston, and the city opened its doors to the people of the New Orleans catastrophe. Houston would ensure people’s safety and security until longer-term solutions were found. Yet once Houston volunteered, it became akin to receiving a gift, and a third of the New Orleans population arrived without governmental plan for the short or long-term. Drop a couple hundred thousand people bereft of any personal information, records, or property, into any city tomorrow and see how long the welcome lasts.

It isn’t the displaced citizens of New Orleans fault either. It’s very difficult to “create life after death.” Ever try to apply for something without the required information? Like getting a job, buying a home, seeing a doctor, it isn’t easy to do or simple to resolve. Then have no car or phone, no files, bank statements, tax returns, records, and no clothing, food, appliances, toiletries, checkbooks, tools, computers, pens or paper. People were transported to Houston from New Orleans with nothing. Many were elderly; many “fell” into lower middle-class to poor “socioeconomic categories.” The assistance and support to reclaim their lives simply is not there. Get on a bus tomorrow in your weekend clothes, go to another city, bring nothing with you, and begin your life anew. Wouldn’t that be challenging?

Houston and New Orleans are the major cities of two states of the federation known as the United States of America. The federal government is responsible for the safety and security of its citizens. This is national security from the inside. The preservation of the security of the Nation from its enemies, foreign and domestic, is the obligation of government and one of the foremost reasons for government to exist.

Many articles, newscasts, and political speeches pour out selective stories on New Orleans recovery and rebuilding. In truth, no relief has ever happened for over 200,000 people. America has excuses to turn away. These are not wealthy, rich, or upper middle class people. However, the vast majority were employed. This capitalistic democracy eschews “the lower class” and emulates wealth, and treats both accordingly. Many won’t appear on the cover of Vogue or GQ. Old or fat or unkempt or missing teeth are not desirable characteristics in our society. They’re the butt of jokes. The majority of displaced citizens are black/African Americans. From Willie Lynch to the “Jim Crow” laws and beyond, racism is a fact in the United States. A lot has changed, yet from sea to shining sea there is nothing like the South.

The United States and her people, like Houston, should step-up for fellow citizens now displaced by hurricanes Katrina, Rita, the man-made levee and recovery failures. In a representative democracy, even politicians respond to the citizenry. A minority of the people who can vote win the presidential elections, because the “silent-majority” stays out of it. Whatever one’s political orientation (or lack thereof), government is ultimately accountable to its citizens. One call, one email, one letter to your elected representative, multiplied by millions, would turn this situation around on a dime. If you watched the devastation of the hurricanes and all that came with them on TV, if you donated money, gave blood, or volunteered, you impacted the government’s response. Yet the demand for real action must be made directly, because it will be diluted and ignored otherwise. The message should be very clear, it’s intolerable to allow fellow Americans to remain devastated. If you stand idly by, then you have failed them. Hurricane season is less than two months away: there will be no excuses.

Take 10 to 30-minutes and contact a representative and the Press. Push for higher governmental responsibility; take a stand for the survivors. The government will respond to a call for action. Make a declaration for their independence: “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

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common cause
www.commoncause.org

www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/10/AR2006021000267.html
www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/01/AR2006030101731.html


http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/10/politics/10katrina.html?hp&ex=1139634000amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;en=914abcf6c2b5fc5a&ei=5094&partner=homepage

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/10/politics/10katrina.html
http://www.hrw.org/


http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/28/AR2005112801681.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/10/AR2006021000267.html
Louisiana
New Orleans

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9729481/site/newsweek
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/11/AR2006021101409.html
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/16/AR2006031601060.html
New
Katrina
Hurricane
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/16/AR2006031601060.html
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-mentalhealth17mar17,0,1919331.story?page=1&coll=la-home-nation
http://www.thenation.com/doc/20060410/davis
los angeles times
LA Times
illinois
mississippi
colorado
florida
california
san francisco
human rights

Robert Radujko-Moore, Ph.D.

American Values, Integrity, and Honor

A specialist in disaster mental health services, disaster relief, family services, and mass care, psychologist Radujko-Moore's writings reflect the urgency of the Katrina and Rita circumstances albeit within the context of America's virtual abandonment of responsibility.

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