Archive for the ‘Hurricane Katrina’ Category

With his red cape rustling in the hot Gulf air, Superman flies low over the collapsed levees. His mighty arms carry a 300-foot-wide, 30-foot tall steel wall, which he carefully slides down into the gaping hole in the levee, turning back the waters.

He welds it shut with his heat vision and proceeds to repair the other retaining walls. Then with one giant inhalation into his super chest, he takes in the floodwaters and spews them back into the Gulf, leaving the city to dry out.

Superman always responds to disasters with courage and determination, for he cares for the people of Earth, his foster home, whose yellow sun gives him his super powers.

Suddenly the phone rings and my short daydream from reality is over.

Images of submerged cars, flooded homes and helpless refugees stream across the television screen. Press conferences and body counts continue. Unfortunately, there is no Superman who can save the day for the thousands left dead or homeless in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

There’s also no movie script that can match the devastation and personal tragedies we’ve seen in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Even our wonderment of computer-generated landscapes in fantasy films cannot measure up to the horror we feel when viewing real images of this natural disaster’s aftermath.

Not that Hollywood hasn’t tried.

Some of the biggest blockbuster films use natural disasters as a plot device, such as The Poseidon Adventure (1972), Earthquake (1974), Twister (1996) and Volcano (1997).

But the scenes from New Orleans, Biloxi and Mobile are so much more terrible than what we, or Hollywood, could ever imagine. The pain and suffering of the citizens in this area are real; making the disaster films just a weak imitation of this real-life disaster.

However, there are examples of cinematic courage and helping others that can inspire as we each decide how best to help the victims of Katrina.

In The Poseidon Adventure, Gene Hackman portrays Reverend Frank Scott who leads a group of survivors in the capsized ship. After scaling the ballroom’s 30-foot Christmas tree to the balcony, the survivors climb up to the bottom of the ship where the hull is thinnest. When an open steam pipe blocks their way, Reverend Scott jumps to the handle and turns it off, saving the group, while sacrificing his own life.

VolcanoIn Volcano, Tommy Lee Jones plays Mike Roark, the “hard-boiled head of the Office of Emergency Management” in Los Angeles. To minimize the damage from a volcano that has sprouted from the La Brea Tar Pits, Roark and geologist Dr. Amy Barnes (Ann Hecht) convince city workers to first blow up the street in order to create a trench to the ocean. Then they rig explosives to tip over a building and guide the lava to the trench. But as the explosives ignite, Roark has to run and save a young boy who has wandered into the area.

Entertaining? Yes. Inspiring? Well, the real life images on television are more inspiring. These are true heroic efforts, without special effects or choreographed turns to the camera.

KatrinaWe watched Coast Guardsmen connected to a tether, lowered down to rooftops to hoist flood victims to safety. Then we saw National Guardsmen working 18 hours a day under the threat of bullets to hand out water, food and clothing. We also read about heroic efforts to evacuate hundreds of patients and thousands of employees from New Orleans area hospitals.

But there is always room for more heroes. You can be a part of the relief efforts and experience your own “heroic moment.” Perhaps you can…

• Donate blood or contribute money to the Red Cross.
• Fill up special trucks collecting food and clothing for the victims.
• Contribute money to the Catholic Charities USA’s efforts at special collections this weekend.
• Contact Catholic Charities if you have room to house evacuees from the region.
• Pray for the victims, the workers and the entire country during this emergency.

Though none of us can fly like Superman and completely save the day, we can each do our part to help our brothers and sisters in need. That’s a scene all of us should reenact in the movie of our lives.


First published in the September 9, 2005 issue of The Tennessee Register.
© 2005 Christopher Fenoglio.

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