Thursday, September 01, 2005

Katrina and the Damage it's Done

Hurricane Katrina struck Monday and I haven’t known what to write since then. This is a lit blog, focused on books and authors, a world I care passionately about, but one that seems tangential right now.

I have been walking around in a state of repressed grief for days, and I’m sure most people in this country feel the same way. It’s hard enough to lose a home – I lost mine in the 1991 Oakland Hills fire – but I can’t imagine the stress of feeling abandoned.

After the fire, the entire Bay Area rallied to help those who had lost their houses. Survivors got discounts at stores, smiles and favors from strangers, bags of clothing from friends and offers of help from everywhere.

The scale of the devastation in the south is so much larger, and I know that explains why help is so much slower in arriving. Still, I am infuriated to hear about the people holed up in the New Orleans Convention Center, waiting days for food and water that have never come. There is a line of buses parked a few blocks away, yet they sit idle. They have not yet rescued a soul.

I can’t imagine being forced to flee to your attic and to have to punch a hole in your roof to get air, and then to have to sit there for days to be rescued. I have to ask – does the race of the survivors and their position at the bottom of the economic spectrum have anything to do with the rapidity of the federal response?

In other sad news, albeit on another scale, Kepler’s Bookstore in Menlo Park, one of the best bookstores in the Bay Area, abruptly shut its door Wednesday. The bookstore celebrated its 50th anniversary in May, but apparently could not compete in the era of mega-bookstores. This bookstore was a main stop for major and less-well known authors on tour. It had a great kids section and was a wonderful asset to the community.

Clark Kepler, the owner, left a message on the store's website:

I want to share my sorrow with this ending. Kepler’s has enjoyed the support of this community from our inception in the 1950s, through both turbulent and joyful times. I feel blessed to have personally served as this community’s bookseller for 26 of those years.

In today’s political and social climate I would like to be there with you and for you, providing books and writers with varied ideas and provocative opinions, but the constancy of change will not allow it. So, I want to express my heart felt gratitude and appreciation for your support over the years. It has been wonderful.


Clark Kepler