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W. Md. Reacts to Katrina

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Today’s theme ended up being less Labor Day than Katrina Day.

But I suppose that happened with lots of people this weekend as we think less about a day without work as people without jobs, let alone homes. After days of reading about the suffering in Katrina’s wake tonight I opened my eyes and ears to what is happening around me.

I’m writing this after attending an interdenominational service at my church where we read prayers about the disaster from different faiths, donated money, gave clothes, etc.

Two quick anecdotes from today:

As I drove through Hagerstown’s public square I saw a man in his 20s holding a large sign. I figured it was someone pushing a car wash or something. Instead it was a sign that read:

“How many more must die!? Ask President Bush.”

At first I thought he meant Katrina and I thought, well, that’s stretching things to blame him directly for Katrina deaths. Then I thought he probably meant the war to which I said, “amen, brother.”

I debated asking if I was right but decided not to. It was still a surprise – though a pleasant one – in the apathetic conservative region I lived and covered for about seven years.

Later I was at a gas station – gas is about $3.28 here – when I overheard this conversation:

So this guy says, “The gas is cheaper in West Virginia.” (We’re about 10 milies from the W. VA and PA borders)

I said, “Well, then go back there!”

He said, “You go back in the store!

“So I told him, “You want to complain to someone about the gas prices, complain to President Bush!”

Now ok, that’s not as much of a zinger as it seemed when it happened – and is probably more misdirected anger (as was the case here) – but for Hagerstown to have two Bush-related complaints in one day is pretty unusual.

Evidence perhaps of people becoming less apathetic? One can only hope.

If there’s a theme song in my head today, it is this. I had a CD that I was listening to and I’d forgotten that I had put this Bruce Springsteen song, City of Ruins, on it.

It was written about New York City post-Sept. 11 but seems to me to fit New Orleans as well.

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About Scott Butki

Scott Butki was a newspaper reporter for more than 10 years before making a career change into education... then into special education. He has been doing special education work for about five years He lives in Austin. He reads at least 50 books a year and has about 15 author interviews each year and, yes, unlike tv hosts he actually reads each one. He is an in-house media critic, a recovering Tetris addict and a proud uncle. He has written articles on practically all topics from zoos to apples and almost everything in between.
  • frevie

    Good morning Scott. I, too, live in Hagerstown (a transplant from the DC area) and have marveled (in not such a good way) at the conservatism, the closed-mindedness, the constant Bush-cheering. What I don’t understand is a seeming inability to question. Or perhaps, it’s just a simple unwillingness to question. Everything’s so entrenched. My 9-year-old son brings discussion of God and Bush and their connectedness home from school. Other children regurgitate their parents’ opinions and my son is left to navigate through ideologies most grownups don’t understand. Fortunately, my son has some factoids of his own to regurgitate. However, I’ve discovered, though small, a community of people who are like-minded and it helps to know I don’t wade through the republicanism of Washington County alone.

  • Eric Jablow

    Actually, the Springsteen song had been written a few years earlier, and it was originally about Asbury Park, NJ.

  • I stand corrected re: Springsteen. I figured since it was on the Rising album… oh, well, my apologies.

    Frevie, email me please.
    Great to see another Hagerstown person in here. Since I’m involved these days with the schools – and in the past with the media and covering politics – we probably know each other or have mutual friends.

  • Rise Up

    You will see someone else was also thinking of the song and Katrina. Means as much today as it did 6 months ago. The video is heartbreaking….

  • Scott Butki

    Good link. Thanks.