Hello, everybody--nice seeing you again.
Like everyone else, all I know is what I read on the Internet. Of course, this week I’ve been following the story of Hurricane Katrina, and I’ve listened to the mayor of New Orleans’ radio interview and I’ve watched the president of Jefferson Parish break down and cry, and I’ve read all those commentors asking, “How could this happen?” That seems a little disingenuous to me. People want to know why President Bush couldn’t attend to the biggest natural disaster in the country’s history, when he was in Florida--the Bush Fascism Testing Ground, the state that “won” the election for him in 2000, where his brother’s the Governor--within 48 hours after one of the big hurricanes hit there last year. Well, why do you think? Within 48 hours of Hurricane Katrina the administration announced that all those Louisiana and Mississippi National Guard soldiers over in Iraq were NOT going to be allowed to come back early, and if that’s not a good, solid indication of their brand of leadership, I don’t know what is. People say the Department of Homeland Security failed during this crisis, but actually they’ve continued to do their work--spying on American citizens’ public library records and preventing Canadian rescue teams from entering the country to help us. And the Navy has announced that Robotic Lord Cheney’s former company, Halliburton, will be restoring power and rebuilding three naval facilities that were wrecked by the hurricane in Mississippi. We can all take comfort in that, I guess.
As time goes by and the refugees make their way out of New Orleans, Biloxi, Pascagoula, and all the little towns up and down the gulf coast, we’ll be hearing some amazing stories of survival. I always wondered how it is that some people defy death and make it through the most impossibly lethal situations and now I know, because right before Hurricane Katrina hit I finished reading “Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why” by Laurence Gonzales. For more than 30 years, Gonzales has studied the great mystery of wilderness survival, the science of neurological processes, the art of taking risks. In “Deep Survival” he’s distilled the rules of staying alive, based on the behavior of real survivors. I bet every person who makes it out of the ruins of Hurricane Katrina will have consciously or unconsciously abided by these rules:
1. Immediately recognize, acknowledge, and accept the reality of your situation.
2. Remain calm and keep a sense of humor.
3. Get organized, set up a routine of small, manageable tasks in an overall survival plan, and institute discipline.
4. Be bold (take necessary risks) but cautious (carry out each task meticuously) while taking steps to reach short-term goals.
5. Celebrate each success, no matter how small. Take joy in completing each task.
6. Be grateful to be alive.
7. Keep the brain engaged--sing songs, recite poetry, mentally solve math problems, count things.
8. Appreciate the beauty of your surroundings. Could survivors look at the flooded streets of New Orleans with awe and wonder? If so, it would both calm them and allow them to take in more information about their challenging new environment.
9. Develop a deep conviction that you’re going to live.
10. Give up the fear of dying. Don’t let pain bother you too much.
11. Do whatever is necessary. Don’t over- or underestimate your abilities. but get what you need and do what you have to do.
12. Never give up. There is always one more thing you can do.
Of course, the book expounds on all these rules and even applies them to non-wilderness situations such as the attacks on September 11, 2001. I plan to go back and reread sections of “Deep Survival,” because if I’d been stuck in New Orleans last week I don’t know whether I would have lived through it, and because I think these are pretty good precepts for living in general. It seems like once you make it out of the worst danger, there’s always another challenge. When the first evacuees from New Orleans arrived at the Houston Astrodome on Thursday, there was a Houston-Oregon college football game going on in the stadium right next door. The battered, starving people of Louisiana walked from their buses into the Astrodome past the Reliant Stadium parking lot, where football fans were having their tailgate barbecues. Even if I survived the hurricane, I don’t know that I would have survived that.
Thanks for reading my blog post this week, and may God bless