New Orleans lawyer Ernest Svenson's weblog, Ernie The Attorney, was one of the pivotal inspirations for my launching my own pair of weblogs. Ernie attempted to leave the city in advance of Hurricane Katrina, managed to travel less than 15 miles in four hours and turned back to ride out the storm. He made it, even managing a handful of posts, but as the city continues to fill with water he is making a break for it. Here's hoping that he, and all those affected throughout the region, will see their way through this no more scathed than they already are. No doubt it is much easier to be an optimist from thousands of miles away than it is in the thick of the destruction.
Given its speed and success in rallying donations in the wake of the September 11 attacks and last year's Asian Tsunami, I am surprised that Amazon has not yet launched a page for Hurricane Relief donations to the American Red Cross. The Red Cross' own servers seem a bit slow just now -- perhaps precisely because of an upsurge in Hurricane Relief donations -- but here is a link to their Online Contribution page.
UPDATE : Ernie has made it out of New Orleans and is now able to post again on his own behalf. He has even found the mental and emotional wherewithal to take an initial run at waxing philosophical over the long-term implications of the past few days' events. He suggests that "[t]his catastrophe will change America and we don't yet grasp how that will happen." He is almost certainly right.
Despite the helicopters and other high-end contemporary equipment being brought to bear in the initial phases of rescue and recovery, this disaster feels like something out of another era -- pre-industrial, almost medieval in some sense. Evan Schaeffer reports on crossing paths with a New Orleans solo lawyer whose escape path led him to St. Louis:
He said that his office had been demolished but even if it had survived, it wouldn't have mattered very much: his practice wouldn't survive in any case. He said he doubted that some portions of New Orleans would even be rebuilt. He talked about the refugee camps that would have to be established in other parts of the state. He criticized the local government for not planning well enough for the disaster and not ordering an evacuation soon enough. Very angry about what had happened, he mulled over possible causes of action as we talked, more out of frustration than anything else.
While we have taken in any number of displaced persons from abroad over the course of our history, internal refugees is not something we're used to in this country, at least not since the era of the Dust Bowl. One has to suspect that these events are enough of a blunt force to set our societal tectonic plates to shifting, and that the process is probably already at work, if only imperceptibly. Where and how those plates will reach a point of rest is beyond my own meager predictive skills.
Don't forget to click through the Red Cross link above before you go.
FURTHER UPDATE - Relief Links : Amazon -- a bit slower than expected, but better late than never -- now has a direct page for Donating To The American Red Cross. The extreme slowness of the Red Cross servers over the past few days has been relieved by a new donation site -- linked on the Red Cross home page -- provided by Yahoo.
A growing list of other routes for aid is also accumulating in this post at Instapundit.