Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Times-Picayune: "Next time, we won't leave"

Posted By on Wed, Sep 3, 2008 at 2:45 PM

As bloggers and Twitters have noted, James O'Byrne's signed editorial in The Times-Picayune, "Next time, we won't leave," ain't where it used to be on the paper's Web site, for whatever reason.

For the moment, it can be read here, or on page B-7 on the dead-tree edition. (If it disappears again, we saved a copy.)

A sample of O'Byrne:

News flash: We know it's dangerous to live here. We accept the possibility of no gas, no power, no readily available food. We're Katrina survivors. We'll figure it out.

But if the enduring image of Gustav is a U.S. soldier with an M-16 denying a citizen the right to return to his home, then you can pretty much write off the next "mandatory" evacuation. Leaving your home in advance of a storm is an extraordinarily stressful, difficult, traumatic and expensive proposition. The one thing that must be honored is that people must be allowed to return to their homes as soon as humanly possible.

As a journalist, I spent the past two days driving around reporting on the storm. And by Tuesday afternoon, this city was as safe as it needed to be. Indeed, all those tree branches and debris would be picked up and stacked neatly on the curb by lunchtime on Wednesday if people had been allowed to come home.

I fully appreciate the risks of letting my family stay. But I have to weigh that risk against the alternate risks, of getting trapped in an endless evacuation traffic jam, of being stranded on a highway far from help, of not being able to return in a timely manner, to secure our property and come back to as much of a normal life as possible.

New Orleans is my home. I love it, and I choose to keep living here. But if you are a public official who wants me to leave for the next storm, then you have to hear what I am telling you. It's time to rewrite the contract.

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