By Oswaldo F. Hernandez
For more than 16 years now, I've been pointing out to many that the type of new construction that is taking place in the southeastern United States, consisting of the outer walls built of "particle board," or whatever plastic or artificial material they want to call it, is nothing short of criminal behavior, denoting nothing but greed and lack of concern for human safety. I do not know what types of materials they are utilizing in other regions of the country, but in the Southeast I believe they shouldn't use this type of construction, because of the hurricane-force winds that ravage the region annually. Immediately, the States of Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, should conduct studies focusing on the damages caused by the winds (not the water) on the different types of structures (wood post-and-beam construction with outer walls of solid wood and the new "stuff," brick, concrete blocks, and even log houses (which I am certain will prove to be as strong or better than any other). Regardless of the water damage along the coastline and in New Orleans, my first impression is that recently built homes and buildings were actually shredded by the strong winds. I firmly believe that such studies should be immediately undertaken.
According to information I have just received from Gabriella Granlund, my best friend in Sweden, the cost of gasoline in that country now stands at $6.40 per gallon (I did the conversions). For reasons other than the power and greed which have always been shown by the oil companies, I see no reason whatsoever for the price of fuel to have risen in Sweden, because of the New Orleans tragedy. Regardless, the American Government has to realize that (I am sure it does) all those developed and industrialized European and Asian nations offer their citizens and inhabitants the most modern and energy-efficient networks of urban, national, and regional rail-passenger (i.e: passenger trains) transportation, something barely existent in America.
What worries me the most about what has taken place in the Gulf Coast is the obvious lack of ability of the Federal Government to cope in a speedy manner with events that result in national disasters. To me it is clear that the director of FEMA should probably be dismissed after the results of some objective in-depth investigation takes place. According to media reports, the main activity of this individual prior to becoming director of the agency was to serve as a judge in competitions involving Arabian horses. His statements following the development of the crisis are just pitiful, to say the least. The most recent information becoming public however, indicates that since its "integration" into the Homeland Security Office/Agency, the ability of FEMA to be able to deal with natural disasters has been substantially reduced, most of the attention being focused on critical scenarios developing as a result of terrorism. Something is just not right in the resulting mess, including the Administration's position of defending Mr. Brown regardless of the lives which have neen lost, and the statements and attitude he has continued to make and show.
According to a dear friend of my family who has been a resident of New Orleans since she left Cuba in 1960, she was already thinking about moving out of New Orleans before the disaster struck. She says that the crime rate during the past three years has skyrocketed, there being about 4-5 murders every day. She is a Cuban-Anglo, and is a highly respected person, as is her family, which is originally from the Covington area, just north of Lake Pontchartrain, which is where she went to as Katrina approached.
While studying and working in New Orleans and Baton Rouge in the 60s, I only ventured to travel on the 24-mile bridge over Lake Pontchartrain in two occasions, especially after I found out that the pilings/columns of the darned thing did not penetrate into the thick muck at the bottom of the body of water, but were actually just standing on large concrete platforms which had been placed on top of the muck. The last time I went over the thing was in the car of a friend of mine, together with two other LSU buddies (I will not give out the names), as we left the French Quarter after having a lot of fun, and of course, drinking a lot. I can't remember for what exact reason we decided to go back to Baton Rouge thru the bridge instead of taking Airline Highway. However, we couldn't even make it back to Baton Rouge, and ended up sleeping under a tree on the other side of the lake. One on the front seat of the car, one on the back seat, one on top of the hood, and one on top of the trunk. It was a large old car. Good memories, just good memories, but I never trusted that structure crossing the lake.