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MIT staff blogger Ben Jones

Katrina by Ben Jones

I can't stop thinking about it.

Oh my god.

I can’t stop thinking about all of the people who have been affected by this – this tragedy has been on my mind every waking hour (and non-waking hour for that matter – I’ve been dreaming about it too). It’s a feeling of helplessness – other than donating money I don’t know what to do other than watch and hope.

And I keep thinking “did this really have to happen?” Those of you who plan to be engineers, perhaps you can answer this question: when New Orleans rebuilds, what can be done to prevent this from happening again? How would you design it?

To applicants from the affected areas: you’ve probably seen the message elsewhere on MyMIT, but to reiterate: we’ll be as accommodating and flexible as possible regarding your applications to MIT. If you have any questions or concerns whatsoever, do not hesitate to call or email anyone in our office.

As you may have noticed, we had to cancel our central meeting (info session) in Louisiana. Some of you may be willing/able to attend a different meeting; if not, please consider visiting campus via the Overnight Program. Let me know if you have any questions about either.

I found this link when searching for ways to help. Do any of you have other ideas to add?

Also – this blog, kept by a local New Orleans reporter, is a great primary source. If you’ve found other things like this, feel free to add them in the comments.

Most importantly – those of you from the areas that were hit – how are you doing? Where are you staying? What can we do to help?

You’re in our thoughts and prayers.


13 responses to “Katrina”

  1. Ajit Biswal says:

    “Those of you who plan to be engineers, perhaps you can answer this question: when New Orleans rebuilds, what can be done to prevent this from happening again? How would you design it?”

    I have an answer to it-few days earlier i came to know that GLOBAL WARMING is one of the major causes of to prevent the rest of the world from such hurricanes(in future) we have to work to stop this global warming -by planting more and more trees possible i.e. making the world more greener,stopping the rise in % of Co2 in air etc .remember it is better to stop hurricanes before originating than building a city with all strength which will be able to counter such hurricanes.precaution is better than cure.grin.sorry for any mistakes.

  2. Neha says:

    I can’t stop thinking about it either. I’m one of those people indirectly affected. I used to live in Mississippi, I sitll have friends there, I have family in New Orleans. It almost feels like sheer luck that my uncle and aunt who live in New Orleans went to Mississippi before Katrina came, but now they don’t have a house… Nothing at all. A lot of my friends have lost family too. I don’t know why but it doesn’t feel real.

    Also, stopping global warming sounds like a good idea, but it’s not something that can be stopped overnight, so while doing that we should make stronger buildings, like concrete. You saw? The prisons were still intact!(Wait, prisoners were moved because of flooding not because the structure was going to collapse right?) Ah, nevermind. Probably not a great idea.

    I miss Mardi Gras right now…

  3. Neha says:

    In terms of helping the people, what they should do is get food(obvious I know…), I mean babies were running out of formula! They should get the red cross from the closest area to help. Or are they doing that? I’ve stopped watching.

    I wish I could help.

  4. There’s more. You need to give them access to public transport. I read the comment by Rev. Jackson – 120,000 with less than $8000 a year in income? That’s ridiculous – how in the world are you going to evacuate if the public transport facilities aren’t open to you? Rope in the buses, get people to voluntarily drive buses to get people out of the devastated areas – *for free*.

    Aside from that, the mess that has to be cleared up right now just simply has to be the sewage. Think – in the Superdome, sewage has been clogged up. What more other areas? If the debris isn’t cleared first, you’ll have clogged sewage when people finally start to return, and then the rebuilding efforts would be hampered. If it were me coordinating the efforts, I’d hence make sewage clearance the top priority, in order to restore sanitation to the city, and thus help improve the quality of life for those still trapped inside, and also to lay the foundation for those who return. Upon this, then, the other rebuilding efforts could gather momentum from the sewage clearance.

    Still, send in bottled water and some crackers/cookies to them. There’s nothing more necessary now, for they, the victims, need fluids and carbohydrates to sustain themselves. Find any means to drop them in – helicopters especially, would be useful for those who are stranded.

    Ultimately, it’s a matter of political will. Does the state and federal government truly want to help them? Would there be another outpouring of charitable aid like there was for the Asian tsunamis crisis? Or will there be profiteering from all of this?

    Sitting here in Singapore, I can only hope for the best, and wish that I could have done something for these people this time, like I did for the tsunami victims, such as packing up supplies like bottles after bottles of drinking water, instant noodles and cookies, as well as clothing and blankets.

    To the victims (if they ever get to see it): Keep your spirits up! Things can only get better from now on, right? After all, when things hit rock bottom, they can only go back upwards! =) So keep optimistic, pray to your god (or deity or supreme being, whichever applies to you), and you’ll be able to tide over this crisis!

  5. Lipei says:

    This is why it is important for government officials to be educated in the science for which they make policy. Global warming and stem cell research are key issues for which the Bush administration does not give the public (the average-American a.k.a. non-USNWR top 50 college graduates) enough comprehensive information. The public then is unwilling and unmotivated to discover more on their own. However, when they do, they tend to make judgements and decisions based off of one point-of-view.

    That folks, is the problem with the American public today. If every one of us can make the effort to educate our friends, then we can hope to expect a much more globally-aware American public in the years to come. As a result, we will have a country that is more fair and justified in its actions.

    About the hurricane, it has been reported on NBC Nightly News (for podcast, stream this url: that the government and FEMA had executed a emergency routine covering massive flooding and armed chaos that is happening in New Orleans. The government never treated the incident with much seriousness and never came back to check on how the protocol and simulation went. This was one of the only non-terrorism related drills on FEMA entire list.

    It’s sad and I don’t want to say this, but this disaster zone is equivalent to the destruction resulting from a massive terrorist attack that the President has been working so hard on preventing. This situation has become, sadly, a test of how our nation will respond to a disaster or attack of equivalent proportions.

    Ben, sorry for the long post but I felt it was important.

  6. Ajymurat says:

    our condolences for people who had lost their relatives. we will pray for them.

    we couldn’t do anything against…

    we aren’t strong enough.

    we are only as wizards call us MUGGLES.

  7. Brian Burg says:

    Here’s some links, I don’t know if you read slashdot or not but this was posted yesterday.

    Main story:

  8. dave says:

    Ben, you should show them my flickr images lol. smile

  9. Nicole R says:

    I’m constantly thinking about this. I wish I could help more, but living five thousand miles away is a pretty big obsticle.

  10. Alan Hogan says:


    A lot of universities’ applications ask the applicant if he or she would like to waive his/her right to review that college’s application records for that applicant.

    I don’t understand why anyone would like to wave that right. Does it increase the applicant’s chance of admittance?

    On a related note, what about specifically waiving the right to see teachers’ recommendations–is that decision entirely between the applicant and the teacher, or does it affect the applicant’s chances?

    Thanks a bunch.


  11. Amy Perez says:

    Hi Ben, I’m glad you addressed this. I am on travel right now for MIT Admissions, but I can’t help thinking about those people affected in New Orleans, a city I used to call home. Aside from worrying and trying to tally where my friends who were affected have landed, I have been overwhelmed at the support I see from Texans (I’m in Dallas right now). I’m extremely proud to see so many people helping around here. One of the ECs I spoke to mentioned that Dallas may have unofficially around 100,000 people from the affected areas.

    On another note, I have a good friend who’s actually living on the Westbank, very close to New Orleans (he’s sort of a refugee there right now). He insists that, despite uncoordinated efforts, he has only positive things to report. He has walked through several New Orleans neighborhoods (probably unsafe, but he likes risks) and many parts are ok. He is normally a realist, not a person who sugar-coats the truth, so talking to him actually gave me some hope and helped me to feel better. So keep in mind that the news stations portray the city in absolute peril, but the truth is the worst IS over! Ever hopeful, Amy

  12. Alan,

    I remember reading somewhere that if you’re giving your teacher the form to fill in, it’s advised that you check the box, for then your teacher will know that you’ll never get a chance to read the letter, and hence, will be able to write a more candid and frank response for the admissions officers.

    Whether it works in or not in favor if you, I can’t tell, but I know that the admissions officers would probably want to see a more candid response from your teachers. In any case, I think I’d forget about the form and the recommendation letter by the time I get notified of my university enrollment, so even if I don’t sign it, it wouldn’t have much of a bearing on me.

    Nonetheless, I’m still gonna sign my own waiver, coz I’d rather that my two teachers be truthful about me rather than paint a rosy picture of me for the admissions officers to read.

  13. Alan says:

    Thanks, Eric.