If the levees had held in New Orleans, the destruction wrought on the Mississippi Gulf Coast by Hurricane Katrina would have been the most astonishing storm story of a generation. Whole towns have been laid flat, thousands of houses washed away and, statewide, the storm has been blamed for the deaths of 211 people, a toll far higher than those from Hurricanes Andrew, Hugo and Ivan.The magnitude of Hurricane Katrina's impact is difficult to comprehend. As both the latest issue of The Economist and President Bush have pointed out, the hurricane brought disaster to an area the size of Great Britain! Because of the vastness of the impacted area, one can't blame the media for the attention on New Orleans.
But as it is, Mississippi - like the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001 - is coping with an almost unimaginable catastrophe, largely overshadowed in the news media's attention and the national consciousness, in this case by the disaster in New Orleans.
Besides, the triple disasters of the hurricane, the levee breaks, and shall we say, the questionable official responses to the first two events in a large American city which has, in many respects, been wiped out, has created an enormous story. Journalists and we consumers of journalism can only focus our attention so many places at once.
In any case, prayer is optional, but highly recommended. So too, are donations to our favorite relief agencies.