Hurricane Katrina impacts anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks

By MEREDITH GRUNKE (Daily Nebraskan Online)

Sept. 11, 2001, and Aug. 28, 2005.

These two dates have weighed on the minds of many Americans over the past few weeks.

With the immediacy of the relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina, many say the recovery and political aftermath of the hurricane will overshadow observances of the Sept. 11 attacks this year.

Some speculate the hurricane has caused more devastation, while others wonder how the two relief efforts will compare and how they will continue to affect the country’s culture and politics.

Andrew Wedeman, an associate political science professor and director of International Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said coverage of Katrina is holding the media’s attention because of the need for relief.

He said the war in Iraq keeps Sept. 11 on people’s minds, and he doesn’t think the war will end anytime soon.

“I think this year, though, Sept. 11 will definitely be overshadowed,” he said.

Emily Getzschman, a representative from the Lincoln chapter of the American Red Cross, said the two disasters are very different _” almost too different to compare.

She said the terrorist attacks were concentrated in three specific areas, whereas the hurricane disaster area spans hundreds of miles.

But she said the Red Cross estimates it will spend $1 billion on hurricane relief efforts, similar to the amount spent for Sept. 11.

Getzschman said she doesn’t know that the hurricane will overshadow the terrorist attacks; she thinks people will commemorate the events in their own ways.

Both events helped Americans unite, she said.

Political science professor Kevin Smith said Sept. 11 was the Pearl Harbor of the current generation and had a great unifying effect on the country.

He doesn’t see the same effect with the hurricane, however.

“Katrina seems to have a huge polarizing effect on people,” he said. “People don’t seem to be pulling together.”

Wedeman said repeated exposure to disastrous events, such as last year’s tsunami, has an effect on the way people grieve. After hearing about enough horrific events, sympathy and sorrow give way to complacency.

“There is this numbness that is setting in,” he said.

Thomas Borstelmann, UNL history professor, said he too thinks Americans are getting used to tragedies.

The death of soldiers in Iraq was front-page news when the war first started, but is now more commonplace, he said.

Borstelmann said the two events _” Sept. 11 and the hurricane _” are difficult to compare because the hurricane was an act of nature while the terrorist attacks were an act of human choice.

He said a difference in the aftermath of the two events is the socioeconomic status of the people affected.

While many of the people who were directly affected by the Sept. 11 attacks were business people, much of the population displaced from the hurricane is underprivileged.

While four years have passed since Sept. 11 and the political and cultural aftermath of the terrorist attacks have become clearer, views on the aftermath of Katrina remain hazy.

“There’s a brewing political battle,” Wedeman said. “(It’ll get) messy in the next couple of days.”