By Cokie Roberts and Steven V. Roberts
Hurricane season is here. With predictions of more major storms headed for the battered Gulf Coast, emergency planners tell us they’re prepared – that Katrina and Rita have taught them hard-learned lessons. Right at the top of the list of last year’s mistakes: no one considered the needs of children. There’s a move in Congress to correct that unconscionable omission in future disasters and it should be quickly adopted.
It’s outrageous that the United States is less responsive to its children in the wake of calamity than primitive provinces in the mountains of Pakistan. But when Cokie visited those remote regions last November, she learned that the children there received better care after the disastrous October earthquake than the children of Louisiana and Mississippi did after the hurricanes six weeks earlier. The reason – international protocols dictate that children’s concerns will be systematically addressed as part of relief operations.
Shortly before the pilgrimage to Pakistan, Cokie returned to her hometown of New Orleans to find a shell-shocked city 10 weeks after Katrina. In what was a drowned-out and blown-apart ghost town, the silence was more startling than the miles of ruined homes, piles of debris and oddly tossed cars and boats. Sweet strains of live music, exuberant shouts of rowdy tourists, screaming sirens responding to pervasive crime – eerily all were missing.