Yesterday as I sat in the "relaxation room" I looked through a book of pics documenting the pre and post Katrina realities for life here on the "Mi'sippi" coast. One thing it noted was that 225 died because of the storm. My first, and admittedly hard-hearted response was "oh, that's not too many, I thought it might have been more." I should be ashamed at how callous that is, but hopefully to my redemption, I was later struck by the thought "one too many". The reality is that the number is 225 too many, and "one too many" refers to how each family, friend, co-worker, neighbor must see each death. To the people affected, each person is one too many. If only it hadn't been their loved one.
I think that my statistical apathy is symptomatic of the larger reality concerning this devastating tragedy--for those of us two steps removed from the everyday realities of what happened here on the gulf coast--the destruction is "just numbers"--5,000 houses severely damaged, 11,000 completely destroyed, and 8 people who died--in this county alone. It's relatively simple to shrug off 5,000 houses--"at least it wasn't 25,000"--or some other such thing that is equally simplistic and naive. But again, for those people who have lost their homes, all their possessions, their life savings, and more--it was one house too many.
And let me tell you, as someone sanding and mudding drywall for hours on end--it's X walls too many, Y sheets of drywall too many, Z sore shoulders too many....etc, etc, etc. Hopefully you get the idea--rebuilding a house is not as simple as dropping one from the sky like it was manna from heaven. It is a step by step process---slow and steady, hammer, hammer, hammer, saw, hammer, hammer, level, hammer, measure,---on and on for days, weeks, months, and, if doing your own home (as many who have been neglected by mythical government grants, or who have spent their monies on soil testing (mandatory before you can build), clearing their lots, etc. are), even years. It is not simple. It is not easy. Even in the best of conditions.
And most of all, it most certainly cannot and should not be reduced to a simply numbers game.