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Thoughts from Cheyenne, Wyoming on the Hurricane Katrina Tragedy of August, 2005

An article by Plainsboro.COM owner Kennedy Lemke
September 4, 2005


Skip the prayer and begin reading the article.
Skip directly to the section on where Wyoming-ites can donate money to Katrina relief.

Prayer for those affected by Katrina

Lord, about the recent hurricane Katrina and its aftermath:

Please bring peace and give a place to rest to those who died in the storm and during the rescue efforts

Please bless the living and help them and comfort them during their time of rebuilding their lives

Please remove any guilt from anyone who feels guilty or regretful about their actions during this crisis

Please help those of us who may blame others for the tragedy to find forgiveness in our hearts and move forward

Please help the suffering pets and other animals; help them get rescued and reunited with their owners, or remove their suffering

Please bless all the rescue and recovery workers and others who are physically involved in the relief efforts

Please help lost families to be reunited

Please bless the families of relief workers and help make their time apart go quickly

Please guide our President so that he will make good decisions about what the government should do in the upcoming months to help the situation

Please bless all the volunteers and those who donate money to the relief effort
And please, God, bless America


Introduction: September 4, 2005, early morning:

As I begin this article, it's about 1 AM on September 4, 2005. By this time, most of the survivors who have been living in horrid conditions in the Superdome or the New Orleans Convention Center have been evacuated out of the city. Many by now are temporarily housed in the Houston Astrodome, staying with family outside the city, or are at any number of temporary shelters set up and run by the Red Cross, churches, or other charities.

Like most Americans, I've been glued to my TV set watching this disaster this past week. And like many Americans, my interest turned into outrage on Friday morning after hearing Mayor Ray Nagin's interview with WWL Radio on Thursday evening. Thankfully, the next day and through Saturday evening, actual significant help and evacuation efforts took place. (If you haven't heard Nagin's desperate interview and plea, you can at least read the transcript of this important interview on cnn.com here.)

CNN and Larry King

Tonight (Saturday evening 9/3) CNN's Larry King ran a 3-hour program entitled "How You Can Help". Now, I like CNN and I like Larry King, but the best I can say about this 3-hour special TV show is that I was disappointed. I had expected, or at least hoped, that this program would be filled with lots of information about different ways all Americans can pitch in and volunteer with their spare time and other non-$$ ways to actually make a difference in the relief efforts. I had expected Larry and his guests, perhaps, to talk about things like:

  • Since the recovery and rebuilding effort will take a long time, discuss with your family and start thinking about whether you could perhaps sponsor a displaced survivor or family to live with you until they can get on their feet again.
  • Look around your house for spare clothing, food, and other specific items that you can donate for use by survivors.
  • Spread the word in your local community about the need for disaster-related help.
  • Consider if you can adopt and care for a pet that may have lost its family, or think about other ways to help animal hurricane victims.
  • etc., etc.

That's what I was *expecting*. Instead, basically what the program was about is it had a number of guests representing different charities and relief groups such as the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, and other lesser-known organizations such as Feed the Children (which is using its fleet of trucks to bring supplies to the Gulf), and the National Next of Kin Registry.

And basically, the show consisted of each guest plugging their own organization, with few creative ideas or suggestions. In between the charity-plugging were some entertainment stars basically repeating pleas for monetary donations, with some guests also singing or playing various New Orleans-themed songs. At the very end of the program, a couple of the guests as sort of a last-minute suggestion also said that we should contact our local volunteer organizations for further information on how to help.

In other words, I found Larry's TV show entitled "How You Can Help" to be mostly un-helpful and not very creative.

Little Local Wyoming Coverage

OK, so the idea of contacting local relief-related volunteer organizations is a good one for all Americans, and an idea that had occurred to me long before the end of Larry King's program.

So throughout this past week, I had noticed a few things when looking for local (Wyoming) participation in relief efforts: first, that the local Casper and Cheyenne television news stations had apparently pretty much decided to air little or no information locally about hurricane relief during their local news. I can understand that: they're all very small stations with small budgets and it's important for them to cover local news. But what I don't understand is why they couldn't devote like 30 seconds at the beginning of most of their newscasts to at least acknowledge that Wyoming is aware of the disaster and perhaps display the Red Cross donation phone number and web site? This week I did not once see a Wyoming television station tell us Wyoming residents what we could do to help or at least donate. I admit that I did not see every local newscast so I may have missed something important, but the only thing I recall seeing was how the hurricane will affect our gas prices here in Cheyenne (yes, sure enough I paid $3.19-9 for premium Saturday). Also during this week, there were at least two opportunities for the Casper NBC affiliate to broadcast special hour-long NBC network programming instead of the local news, but the Casper station elected not to participate, and broadcasted their local news instead.

The second thing I've noticed is that there is virtually no mention or links from most major Wyoming-based web sites to anything mentioning the disaster or how to donate or help. I checked the Cheyenne and Laramie newspaper web sites, wyoming.com and several other major Wyoming web sites, and on those sites saw no mention or links about how to contribute.

I *did*, however, find at least three Wyoming Web sites that at least mention the hurricane relief effort or even go farther, and I'll mention them prominently here:

  • The Casper, Wyoming Casper Star Tribune newspaper's web site is working with an the Wyoming-based McMurry Foundation to raise disaster relief funds. McMurry will match contributions up to $250,000. Follow this link to read the full article and find out how to contribute to this awesome matching donations program. My kudos go out to McMurry and the Casper Star Tribune for this generous program.
  • The Cheyenne CBS television affiliate CBS 5 KGWN TV web site has a prominant link on their front page pointing to a page on FEMA's site listing approved charities. I give channel 5 kudos for being one of the few Wyoming web sites to at least post a pointer to where we can donate.

Third, I have been noticing over this past week that when it comes to where to donate money, almost all national television programs basically only suggest sending donations to either the Red Cross, or the Salvation Army, and the Red Cross is the far more prominent place to donate. So, I thought I'd see if there was a local chapter of the Red Cross nearby where I could talk to somebody about what hurricane-related opportunities might exist nearby. There is only one Red Cross chapter in Wyoming, and it's located in Cheyenne. Unfortunately, there is no Wyoming- or Cheyenne-specific web site for the Cheyenne chapter, and therefore little information about ideas for local involvement. I called the listed phone number once (off hours) and got a recording.

I'm not a big newspaper reader nor a subscriber, however, and I would guess that news of the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico was very likely displayed prominently on front pages of Wyoming newspapers this past week.

How Can *Wyoming* Help?

OK, look: by my previous section on the lack of local coverage I'm not really meaning to criticize anybody in Wyoming, so I apologize if I come across that way or if I've missed some important coverage that I did not mention. I, in fact, have donated no money to date, nor have I done any Katrina-relief-specific volunteer work.

But I want to change that. I want to discover specific and substantial ways that I can help. And I also want Wyoming to be known as a state that stepped up to the plate and helped out the Katrina disaster in a significant way.

Please don't get me wrong: I'm new to Wyoming (moved here about a year ago), and I do understand that we're a very small state population-wise, and that we might not have lots of financial resources to draw on for donations. That said, I have also seen that Wyoming residents are proud, helpful people, and I'd still be excited to hear about Wyoming-ites having done their part to aid in disaster relief for Katrina.

I hope over the coming weeks (Katrina will be a long, ongoing relief effort) to get involved, and I will post any progress. I have a few specific ideas about getting Wyoming a bit more involved than we are now, and I hope to work with local organizations to implement these ideas. Stay tuned.

In the Meantime

In the meantime, or in case I'm not able to follow up on this project any further, I have the following suggestions for Wyoming-ites:

Conclusion

Hey, thanks for taking the time to read this article. I hope Wyoming can find creative ways to help out with the Katrina disaster. Stay tuned for further possible articles and ideas.