Tom Foreman | BIO
Reporter's Note: President Obama is scheduled to visit New Orleans to mark the 5th anniversary of Katrina. I didn’t get him a card, but I am marking the occasion with yet another letter to the White House.
Dear Mr. President,
Went for a boat ride out in the eastern part of New Orleans today and saw an impressive sight: a two mile long dam being built across a lake to stop the surge of water that can come with a hurricane. Really a grand bit of architecture from your pals in the Army Corps of Engineers, and along with improvements to levees, floodwalls, and pumping stations, I hope it will be an encouraging sign for many folks here in the neighborhoods that suffered the worst flooding.
As we walked on top of this monolith, I talked with Corps officials and they clearly feel not only proud of having made real progress in a short time (well, short in terms of projects like this, which are a bit more involved than Flip This House,) but also confident that this will make a difference. You can hear it in their voices and see it in their faces as they point to all the other improvements they are making to the city’s hurricane protection system: Barriers that have been raised much higher, braced to be much stronger, and overall made into much more formidable walls against disaster.
Still, I know there are people here who have doubts. Big ones. And it comes down to one thing: The Corps told them for years that the levees and floodwalls were solid, and when the big storm came, some of those barriers folded like tissue. (Well, not exactly like tissue, but they certainly didn’t hold up.) So what the Corps has to rebuild here is not only physical, but also mental. They have to make people believe once more that the government can be trusted in this matter. As you know, in this day and time, that can be a real challenge.
So the Corps folks are taking reporters like me out to see what they have done, so we’ll tell our audiences about it. They are convinced that if enough folks see the progress, word will spread that this really is an improvement over what came before. For everyone’s sake, I hope they are right. I hope it is stronger. I hope it all works. It certainly looks like it might.
Anyway, that’s what I was up to today. Terribly hot out there. So when you come down, bring some lightweight shirts. Hey, how about being the first president to hold a presser in shorts? That would be wild. Call if you can.
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