Other disasters over the years since Hurricane Katrina have served as unpleasant reminders of that horrible time, but this year has brought more than its share. And while no two situations are the same, the comparisons between those first days in 2005 and the last week in Puerto Rico after the island was ravaged by Hurricane Maria are both eerie and infuriating.
There's the slow initial response and logistical shortcomings, all against a backdrop of presidential distraction. Last time it was George W. Bush's infamous flyover of New Orleans as his top aides went about business as usual. This time it was Donald Trump spending his time and energy picking fights with NFL players protesting racial injustice.
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rico's nonvoting representative in the U.S. Congress sai…
There's the administration's need to pat itself on the back once it finally did focus: Then, Bush's assertion that FEMA director Michael Brown was doing a heck of a job as people suffered, and now acting Homeland Security Director Elaine Duke's comments about how the current relief mission is going.
"I am very satisfied," she said. "I know it's a hard storm to recover from but the amount of progress that's been made...I know it is really a good news story in terms of our ability to reach people and the limited number of deaths that have taken place in such a devastating hurricane."
And there was the emotional plea for help from a desperate mayor. Ray Nagin's call to send in the cavalry aired on WWL radio. San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz's furious response to Duke's comments played on CNN.
"Well maybe from where she's standing it's a good news story," Yulín Cruz said after hearing Duke's upbeat assessment. "When you're drinking from a creek, it's not a good news story. When you don't have food for a baby, it's not a good news story. When you have to pull people down from buildings — I'm sorry, that really upsets me and frustrates me."
She continued: "I would ask you (Duke) to come down here and visit the towns and then make a statement like that, because frankly, it is an irresponsible statement in contrast with the statements of support that I have been getting yesterday when I got that call from the White House. Dammit, this is not a good news story. This is a 'people are dying' story. It's a life-or-death story."
There's the backdrop of race, raised this time not by Kanye West but by no less a figure than retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, commander of the military response after Katrina, who told CNN that he doesn't think Trump gives a damn about people of color. Honoré was talking about Trump's initial refusal to waive the Jones Act, which raises the cost of getting supplies to the island. Trump later temporarily waived the act under widespread pressure, including from U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
There's the prospect of a place with even less political stroke than Louisiana had back in 2005 fighting for the tools to rebuild, amid skepticism from on high over whether it even should. Back then, House Speaker Dennis Hastert was the culprit. Friday morning it was the president himself, tweeting out that "Puerto Rico has been destroyed by two hurricanes. Big decisions will have to be made as to the cost of its rebuilding!"
Not exactly the sensitive thing to say to people still fighting for their very survival.
Like Watergate, Katrina analogies have been overused. To those who lived through the storm and its aftermath, there's really not much that can compare. And of course there are vast differences between what happened here and what's happening in Puerto Rico, starting with the role played in our area by the failed federal levees.
Given the similarities, though, Puerto Rico's tragedy might just one case where the comparison does fit. And that's something nobody in Louisiana would wish on anyone else.