In the face of profound, immediate loss, the human struggle is always against that loss. It's in our nature; we race to fill the loss in by finding, and we're seeing that race play out hundreds of times daily now, in New Orleans. The most dramatic stories coming out of Louisiana aren't political, though certainly, the smallest decisions have affected great numbers of people. The most dramatic stories are individual--losses of life, losses of children, losses of sanity--the losses that, regardless of their cause, are overpowering for a citizenship that can only sit idly as the images stream by (for it feels that way, no matter how hard our emotions are wrenched, no matter what kind of aid we give).
The world's citizens have reached out and provided absolute compassion and generosity in scenes that go some ways towards reaffirming our trust in basic humanity and goodness. But in the face of profound, immediate loss, time is of the essence, especially when losing that race, even by a minute, can mean anything, including unnatural, untimely death. That, more than anything--and the knowing of its possibility--is the hardest thing to see in the faces of the survivors of Hurricane Katrina.
Recently, celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Phil have done as much as they could--counseling, providing compassion, and even reuniting families for their television shows. It's impossible and inappropriate to criticize the results of their efforts--one loss found, one void filled, is how it starts, how we start chipping away at the overwhelming situation on the ground in New Orleans. But in a more perfect world, the reunions they enabled wouldn't have been delayed for tape, as they seemed to be during recently-aired programs. Shows wouldn't have been built around grieving family members already separated from their loved ones, especially when the structure of those shows was merely a conceit--the missing family members were on the sets, waiting, it seemed, for the shows' staffs to bring them out, at the "right" moment for television drama.
The drama is already there, these weeks; there's no need to augment it. And using that by drawing it out--not the end result, not the intent--is what was inexcusable. Finding people, dead or alive, is of the utmost importance, and moving quickly and letting the lost know what, and who, has been found--as soon as possible and not even a minute later--is the only way to do it.