Saturday, July 14, 2007

Creation and destruction

Here is the irrefutable fact about creation and destruction in the natural universe: destruction is fast and easy, but creation takes time.

It takes years to grow a tree, but you can cut it down with a chainsaw in a matter of minutes.

It takes months of gestation and years of nurturing, nutrition and support to produce an adult human being. But you can snuff out his life with bullet faster than he can emit a scream.

It took years of planning, design and financing, as well as millions of man-hours to build the World Trade Center Towers in Manhattan. But it took barely a dozen religious terrorists less than two hours to completely destroy both of them with two jumbo jets.

Destruction is always faster and easier than construction.

So why do so many people lament about "the slow recovery of New Orleans?" Is it because they don't understand this simple rule about creation and destruction?

More likely it is because they do not appreciate the magnitude of the destruction.

We're not talking about a few dozen houses clipped by a twister. We're not talking about a few lost shingles and some fallen trees.

We're talking whole subdivisions in which every house was flooded. Almost 400 of them in my own Vista Park neighborhood alone. To the roof. For more than two weeks.

All this destruction in a matter of days. Most of it in the span of a few hours.

I've heard it estimated that 200,000 homes just in Louisiana suffered severe or major damage due to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. How long does it take to repair and rebuild that many homes? One year? Two?

According to the US Census Bureau (Manufacturing, Mining and Construction Statistics), 1.6 million new single family homes were constructed in the entire United States in 2005.

So 200,000 new houses is about 12 percent of the home-building capacity of the entire nation. It would take a monumental shift in building resources to make that happen. Stretch it out to two years, and it would take locating 6 percent of the nation's home-building resources in this one state for two years to rebuild that many houses.

Could we really expect that many houses to get built in a state that is home to less than 2 percent of the US population?

As the expression goes, "Rome was not built in a day." And New Orleans will not be rebuilt in a year, or two, or even three.

So let's do ourselves a favor and quick talking about why things are going slowly, or why things are taking so long to get done. Every day we move forward is a good day. Every month we measure progress is a good month. Every year we stand taller and defiant against the forces of nature and the indifference or incompetence of politicians is a good year.

Here is one irrefutable fact about New Orleans: WE ARE STILL HERE.


Liz said...

What you say is so true. Keep telling the truth, it can change the world!

GentillyGirl said...

Darlin', I do understand you, but it is still very hard for those of us who have lined everything up to constantly face delays.

And we are lucky... we can and did set things up for our return to our home. It's just taking far longer than expected.

Many folks are nowhere near where we are, and my heart hurts for them. I do know what it means to miss your home. We miss our house every day.

All any of us can say is "Soon, sometime soon...".

Sophmom said...

Great post, Tim. It gave me chills. You're a wise fellow. I can't imagine how difficult it must be to keep this perspective given what you and yours have experienced.

Anonymous said...

This is why I love you, Tim!

Duff said...

The frustration comes from the fact that after two years, the basic infrastructure and planning process is virtually no farther along than it was in August '05. I think most understand that rebuilding a house will take time, but the framework should have been up and running a long time ago.

Sure, the WTC took years to build, but how long for the architectural sketches?

judyb said...

Good post, Tim. I was just visiting family in Massachusetts and they wonder why things aren't "fixed" down here. I'm sending them a link to this post.

Anonymous said...

When you look at the actual numbers of what we are trying to do, it is simply mind boggling. Something I have tried to remind people of is that nothing on this scale has ever been done before.

Anonymous said...

Hey Tim --

I'm writing a screenplay that takes place in New Orleans. Being a resident yourself, can you link me to some photos of the city -- as many different neighborhoods as possible?

Many thanks,

LSU sucks said...

this may seem like a dumb question, but I was in your area this past week at the children's hospital with my son seeing a orthopedic surgeon, anyway I was wondering if you can help identify what occupies the city block directly across the street from the entrance to the hospital. From goggle earth it looks like one of the buildings has a >-I-< shape? A friend of mine who used to live in new Orleans east until Katrina thinks it may have been an asylum at one time.


joseph said...

Ithink that every person from N.O. who lost his/her home understands that time is necessary to heal wounds. Theproblem is that the local, state and federal politicians are not keeping the people informed about their options for going home. All that you ever hear is that certain neighborhoods will not be rebuilt or perhaps rebuilding N.O. is a waste of taxpayers dollars and other negatives. Never do you hear a local, state or federal politician say that we will hold the Army Corp of Engineers responsible for this destruction and then we will build storm protection equivalent to that of the protection in the Netherlands, so that everyone can come home. When was the last time the Netherlands flooded? This would give the people hope. When aperson knows that his dreams will be realized, he has the strength to wait for that event to come to pass. christiansdo it everyday as they wait upon their JESUS to return.