Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Katrina Revisited

I published this post last year, on Katrina's anniversary. I think alot of the problems from last year and the year before remain as they are, unfixed. Check out the discussions from last year's post.
My younger sister was telling me a while ago, after I started this blog, that reading my accounts of life in Baghdad, and reading a Palestinian lady's accounts of life in Gaza, made her lose a certain respect for the people of these nations. Reading about the crazy violence, and the random kidnappings and murder, made her see these people as rather uncivilized people.
That was never my intent when I started this blog, and as I continue it today. But I realize that my sister's words do not only reflect her feelings, but those of many people who are bombarded by daily images and stories of bombings, lootings, kidnappings, terror and violence in these hotspots.
But I must say that such behavior is not necessarily endemic to these people. It is a result of a catastrophe that has left Iraq, and any other country in its same shoes, in complete chaos, the result of having no government, no governmental authority, no leader, no law in place.
That is what happened in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrine hit it exactly one year ago today, on April 29, 2005. I remember watching the news of this natural catastrophe which hit the Gulf Area, in between the few moments of quiet I had while caring for my then newborn daughter. I remember the images of chaos, the dead bodies floating in the streets, the people begging for help on national television, the looting, the guns going off randomly, the National Guard threatening not to come to the city if individuals did not stop using random gunfire to defend their belongings; the horror of having your home destroyed in seconds, of losing your loved ones and not knowing if they were dead or alive, ...
At that moment, all I could think of was... Iraq. This is Iraq. This is Palestine. This is every land and people that have been destroyed by a catastrophe. This is America getting a taste of what it is like to be left without law and order. It doesn't only happen in the Middle East, it happened right here, in the heartland of America. When I saw the looters who had to steal food to survive (or not), when I saw people having to take the law into their own hands, defending their homes and businesses from randoms looters, all I could think of was life in Iraq today. This is what a state of chaos and lawlessness does to a people. It leaves them to fend for themselves, some stay true to their goodness, in others, it brings out the worse.

I was looking over pictures today of New Orleans then and now, just to remind myself of some of the horrors that these people went through. I saw a horrific picture of a body floating down the water-flooded streets, unclaimed and unburied for days. I saw a picture of a man standing in front of his oriental rug shop, with a large hand-made sign reading, "Don’t try. I am sleeping inside with a big dog, an ugly woman, two shotguns and a claw hammer…." I saw a picture of a makeshift grave for an elderly woman who had been killed in a hit a few days after Katrina. Her body was left unburied on the side of the road for five days. I saw a picture of a family standing with a large sign which they waved at the helicopter flying above, begging for help. I saw pictures of human misery, and I hope they never recur to any race of people, here or abroad.
What happened in New Orleans, or Iraq, or Palestine, can happen anywhere. We are just fortunate that we are not living under the circumstances that these people are living under, or we might very well see the worst in our fellow neighbors and friends. May God protect us from all catastrophes, natural and man-made.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Away from Blogging

A few things are keeping me away from blogging. 1. Living away from Baghdad (Thoughts from Baghdad is my title! :) ), and 2. my new Facebook account. Seems to be filling up my blogging time and needs.
Sorry about the few and scattered posts, but I have an important post coming up, inshaAllah, a story of my street in Baghdad.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Group Effort to Clear Highway

I was driving home from an eye doctor's appointment in DC a couple of hours ago, on 66 West, when the car in front of me suddenly stopped. It took me a couple of minutes to fully register what had happened in front of me.
A huge tree had fallen and completely blocked the highway in front of me. All the cars around me came to a full stop and people started running out of their cars to see what had happened. A woman had climbed out of her car, which was stopped right at the tree. She was looking ahead of the pile of branches and screaming. I realized that the tree had just fallen, and a car was stuck under the mass of branches, and I feared someone was hurt.
After a few minutes it became clear that everyone was ok, just really shaken up, and one car was seriously wrecked.
I climbed out of my car, opened the back seat door and took my two year old out of her car seat. I explained to her what had just happened. And then I started worrying about my five month old at home with my sisters, she'd be waking up soon, and ready for her feeding. Man, if i had only been a few minutes earlier. But in reality, if I had been just a minute earlier, I may have been that car stuck under the tree, wrecked. So, alhamdulillah.
Within minutes, I saw a line of men walking up from behind me. They went up to the fallen branches and started moving them. Man after man came up, till there were at least twenty men picking up the fallen debris. I was impressed by this feeling of civil responsibility and communal work. People could have just sat in their cars and waited for the firemen and police who drove up soon after to pick up the debris. But they realized that we would all get moving that much quicker if everyone pitched in and picked up a little. A car and a motorcycle even stopped on the other side of the highway (which was moving really slowly because of the rubbernecking and a bunch of leaves on the road), and two men got out to help. They could have driven on, but they were there to help their neighbors. I wish I had a camera to take a picture of the men standing in line, picking up a heavy branch, led by sixtyish year old looking man. ...
I was thinking of what the response would have been like had I been in Iraq... People would have started backing up on the highway, driving 'wrong-side' as they call it, to get on their way home, or wherever they were heading. That was my first reaction, was there anyway I could back up to the exit I just passed...
It took about thirty minutes for the firemen, police and the random passersby to clean up most of the fallen tree. Within minutes, a policeman started waving the first cars through the one open lane, and I was safely on my way home.

For some pics, check out this link.