Katrina’s Aftermath

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:35 pm

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, I wrote about the enormous generosity of business organizations. You remember all those heart-warming stories of funds, manpower and equipment flowing into Manhattan.

Of course, business and industry have been responding with just as much generosity – and efficiency – to the three-state area whacked by hurricane Katrina and the flooding in its wake.

I don’t know of any business organization, of any size at all, where the leadership is not asking, "How can we help?" Business is a powerful engine and no one will ever know the extent to which organizations are responding – the list is too long and still growing.

Countless nonprofit organizations are also reaching out to the thousands of displaced evacuees. In my own city, I’ve heard about groups volunteering to bring music to the shelters, to take children to the zoo, to help in job searches, etc. The principal of one private school offered to enroll all of the children who are in our local shelters.

I’m sure this is just a smattering of the outreach effort going on.

Former First Lady Barbara Bush got a lot of flack for a comment she made suggesting that some of the evacuees might be better off after the disaster than before. I believe, based on the newscasts I heard, that she said that in response to comments she heard directly from people sheltered in the Houston Astrodome.

What I imagine is that good and bad will come in the aftermath of Katrina. Ripples from the disaster will reach every one of us in some way. So many of our fellow human beings lost every thing they owned – wedding photos, handmade holiday decorations, grandma’s recipes – not to mention tables, chairs and beds. Most of them consider themselves lucky if the storm didn’t snatch away family members.

Much of coaching is working with clients so they are better equipped to deal with change. We all know change is inevitable in business, as in life. Still, who is ever prepared for a business to be here one minute and gone the next? Instead of taking a daily helicopter ride to your office, you slosh to the address in a rowboat and can’t even see the cement slab, which they tell you is all that’s left.

I cannot imagine change that huge – yet I know that is what thousands of business owners are facing.

Many of you most likely have some kind of insurance against catastrophic loss. We’re all advised to back up data and store it someplace remote from our business site. (And who among us has been diligent about this?) The point is there are some steps we can all take to protect ourselves against financial ruin and to protect intellectual property.

What keeps gnawing at me is how those victims of Katrina are dealing with the inside stuff, the gut feelings, the grief. They must have to plumb their depths to get to the stuff they’re made of, and out of that, fashion some kind of lifeboat to take them forward.

Lisa Earle McLeod is a newspaper writer who, through her church, got involved in helping Katrina’s victims. She wrote a story about one heroic woman, Mabel Brown. Mabel’s untiring, creative and exhausting efforts to get herself, her sister and their six children out of rising waters will warm your heart – and most likely move you to tears.

By the time Lisa got involved, Mabel had, by phone, secured a job in Atlanta and the group she was determined to rescue had grown to 18 family members. You won’t believe the obstacles faced by Mabel and Lisa. They succeeded, by using their own resources and Lisa’s charge card.

Here’s one small part of Lisa’s account of a compelling saga:

"If you’d have told me two weeks ago that $1,500 and a phone call from a single mom who worked as a maid in New Orleans would transform my neighborhood and church into the kind of people we’ve always wanted to be, I would have written you a check on the spot."

You might want to read the entire piece, which is available on www.forgetperfect.com.

While the many victims search their own depths for courage and energy to move on, and the rest of us search for ways to relieve the suffering, we all will be connecting with a deep, human core within. This fierce battle with Mother Nature might not then be a total loss.

Jo Hawkins Donovan has a coaching and psychotherapy firm in Whitefish Bay and can be reached at (414) 332-0300, or at jo@hawkinsdonovan.com.

The firm’s Web site is www.hawkinsdonovan.com.

Sign up for BizTimes Daily Alerts

Stay up-to-date on the people, companies and issues that impact business in Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin

No posts to display