The Gulf

When the tsunami hit we were in Sydney. Psychically, Indonesia, Thailand, the whole of southeast asia, just doesn’t feel very far away from Australia. They are our neighbours. Yet the tsunami hit, thousands of people died and we ate our breakfast of mangoes, bananas and passionfruit, granola and yoghurt like always. Sure we cried, followed the coverage, donated money, but our life in Sydney was unaltered. We thought about other things, went out with our friends, laughed.

Now New Orleans is destroyed, hundreds are dead in Mississipi and Louisiana but life in New York isn’t any different. We’re in the same country, but we’re miles and miles away, here water is plentiful. We’ve cried at the coverage, donated money, but our life is just the same. Tonight we’ll watch the second playoff game between the New York Liberty and Indiana with friends. I still want the Liberty to win. I’ll scream at the tellie when there’s a bad call from the refs. I’ll yell happily when we score.

I don’t know what I was expecting. I don’t even know what I’m saying.


  1. anonymous on #

    In Iraq yesterday 950 people died in a stampede.

  2. Lauren McLaughlin on #

    Perhaps I’m going through the phases of grief over Katrina at a different pace because I am all the way across the pond in London, but I’ve already progressed to anger. This was not a “natural” disaster. A Category 4 Hurricane was always going to happen some day and New Orleans was not prepared. Many, many people knew how to prepare and begged for the funding to prepare but were denied. The chaos unfolding down there is the result of neglect not nature. But hey, according to W if we all just pray really hard, everything will be ok.

  3. anonymous on #

    But aren’t they mostly poor people in New Orleans? Why spend extra money on them?

  4. ron on #

    what an absolute mess it all looks! i can’t quite understand why the authories and governement people weren’t better prepared and that the aftermath appears to be such chaos – after all, it’s not like they didn’t know it could happen. i remember doing a walking tour of the city when i was there for worldcon back in… 1988? 89? and the guide then painted a scenario that wasn’t too different to Katrina hitting. all the scenes of people looting and running wild – and hearing on the news now that snipers have been firing on rescuers and helicopters… madness! i can’t believe that i’m seeing that kind of behaviour in america. it certainly didn’t happen in nyc after 9/11 or the blackout. almost beyond belief. so terrible.

  5. marrije on #

    oh yes, anger and disbelief here too. good thing there are no caps here or i would be shouting about why the fuck haven’t people at the superdome received food/water/diapers/anything – do they have any idea what the life expectancy is of an infant in that heat with no access to clean drinking water/formula??? etcetera.

    in other news, justine, my friend has finished your book already and pronounced it ‘stone good’. can’t translate that exactly, but it means something like ‘spiffing’.

  6. Beth on #

    Maybe it’s a proximity thing. I’m in TX, and I think we all realize that a shift of the winds could’ve brought Katrina to us instead. It’s easy to blame people/agencies, etc., but this disaster carries so many difficult obstacles —getting to the people in need due to high water, hidden structures that impede water travel/rescue, lawlessness/snipers that are slowing down relief workers. This isn’t like 9/11.It’s more like the tsunami—with a big difference: nobody is lining up to help the United States . I think we’ve heard from Canada, but that’s about it. So the Feds weren’t the only ones slow to respond. The rest of the world is so far responding with criticism rather than support. At least that’s the way it seems.
    Off topic : My daughter loves your book—she’s a 7th grader reading it for her Language Arts project.

  7. marrije on #

    Beth, I understand you feel sad, but I’m sorry, it’s just not true that the rest of the world has not responded. offers have come from many countries.

  8. Justine on #

    Beth: So pleased your daughter liked my book. Mostly I’ve been hearing from adults about it, so it’s lovely to hear that an actual teenager enjoyed it!

    Marrije beat me to it, but I was going to say that my country, Australia, pledged money and assistance very quickly, both from the government and the people. It’s awful to see such suffering. You can’t help but want to do whatever you can to help.

    Marrije: Glad your friend liked my book. “Stone good” works pretty well in English. It’s a flexible language!

    Ron: I really don’t think you can compare this to 9/11 or the blackout. The scale is entirely different, as Beth points out it’s much more comparable to the tsunami. Whole communities have been wiped out and the survivors are trying to stay alive in the remnants. There are people without food or water. And remember, it’s summer here. Down there it’s around 30C every day, so death from dehydration is a real danger. Taking food and water without paying from shops is the only way for many of the people there to survive.

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