Hurricane Ike is here.
By "here" I mean Texas. Galveston and Houston have been pummeled. All we're getting so far in the Austin area is cloudy skies, wind, and evacuees. Thousands of evacuees.
I am proud of the Austin area. Just as we did for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita three years ago, schools around the city have opened their gyms for evacuees. Relief organizations like the Red Cross are donating food. I'm so glad that those who had to flee their homes in fear have free food and shelter available.
And that's the key word--free. Of course, it's not really free; it's funded by donations, and there are many, many volunteers keeping the shelters going--over 450 volunteers according to local radio station KLBJ.
And yet as I watched local news last night, I was bothered by the negative coverage. While I heard one evacuee saying she was thankful for the shelter, much of the rest of the coverage was focused on the complaints--possible slight overcrowding, hard floors for sleeping on, and a rumor of food running out before all evacuees were fed. Of course I hope any food shortages are taken care of quickly, and I sure wouldn't be comfortable sleeping on a gym floor with strangers either.
But let's be honest--When thousands of people are fed and sheltered for free, without a whole lot of notice, accommodations will not be five-star. One thing that is clear from watching the coverage is that this has been a very well-organized rescue effort, as organizations and volunteers attempt to anticipate and meet genuine needs.
I bet there are many evacuees who are thankful to have a roof over their heads, and grateful not to have to spend money on food while gone from home. I'd appreciate more news stories focused on the hundreds of volunteers and the thousands of thankful evacuees. The positive aspects of the effort far outweigh any problems, but that positive stuff is just too boring to be the focus of the 5:00 news.