September 14, 2005 News & Features » Cover Story


Reaching Out 

In the immediate aftermath of this tragedy, it is human nature to look for someone to blame, to ask what went wrong and who is responsible. In these instances, we unfortunately find ourselves subject to the tender mercy of the federal government, more so than truly should be the case.

I am choosing to focus my own energy, though, on finding ways to provide relief to those who find themselves without families, shelter, jobs, or other means of support or survival. The dramatic compulsion that we all feel to do what we can to assist those in need speaks for itself. I have been directly involved in helping evacuees relocate to temporary homes here in Virginia, both in Richmond and Tidewater — with the assistance of my friend Jim Holley, mayor of Portsmouth — but we as a community and a nation must continue to search for creative ways to lend a hand, both now and for the untold future.

In Richmond, my administration has adopted the city of Moss Point, Miss., which was absolutely devastated by this most unforgiving natural disaster. We have all heard about the travails of New Orleans, and rightfully so, but there are literally hundreds of communities throughout that region that also will need our concentrated support if they have any hope of immediate or long-term recovery. A 70-percent minority community of just about 16,000 residents, Moss Point already faced economic and other challenges before this event.

I am also gravely concerned about the future of the population in that overall region, and about how the federal government may aid or hinder the recovery process. We Richmonders have had our own experiences with storm devastation in recent years. Hurricane Isabel of 2003 was quite unkind in her treatment of Richmond, and we are only now nearing complete recovery from that event. We recently marked the one-year anniversary of Tropical Storm Gaston, and I am distressed to point out that many repairs to its localized damage are only now beginning.

What, then, does the future hold for Moss Point and other areas that have been so thoroughly destroyed? If Richmond's experience with FEMA during our own restoration efforts is any indication, there are some serious bureaucratic roadblocks that must be removed if Moss Point has any hope of ever becoming inhabitable again. I expect to speak about this in more detail in the days and weeks to come.

For now, Moss Point and other communities need our help, and we intend to provide it.

Mayor L. Douglas Wilder is in his first year as mayor of Richmond. From 1990 to 1994, he was governor of Virginia, serving as the first elected black governor in the country.

Katrina Continued...

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