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Prevent greater catastrophe
I am privileged to have been able to give first-hand help. Now is the time to help "with great power, comes great responsibility."

Yousef Zarbalian
September 2, 2005

Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA: These are hard times for my home state of Louisiana. I live in Baton Rouge, one hour away from New Orleans, where the hurricane hit so hard that the levee on enormous Lake Pontchartrain broke allowing a rush of water into the city.  The needs of the people of New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast cannot be met by state and federal governments alone. It is a time for individual action!  

My parents have started by welcoming friends from New Orleans at our home. Because most people tried to beat the evacuation rush, they left before full information about the storm's trajectory was known and they were then unable to return to retrieve valuables before the storm hit. Our friends believe that their homes are flooded beyond repair and most of the city is like them.

Consider this: over a million people jobless and homeless. Thousands, mostly the poor who lacked transportation, are trapped in the city. Some blame them for not leaving and for causing the chaos in the city. The other side of the story is that the city government did not provide sufficient transportation to shelters and the mandatory evacuation was not issued soon enough.

My university, Louisiana State University, has canceled its classes until September 6th and has given its athletic facilities to the state . Our indoor stadium (Pete Maravich Assembly Center) has been converted into an Intensive Care Unit; our track has been converted to a launching pad for helicopters; our Field House has become a mini-hospital complete with dining unit. Hundreds of doctors, nurses, medical residents, students have come to give their time.

I am privileged to have been able to give first-hand help. I helped hand out lunches to the bedridden and listened to New Orleanians' recount their hurricane stories through tears. I drove two women, Mrs. Estelle and Mrs. Shirley, to a church-shelter in the pouring rain only to be turned back because they were full and not really a shelter to begin with.

Both of these women had been stranded at East Jefferson hospital in New Orleans which was shut down Tuesday and is being evacuated. It is clear that the resources of Louisiana are running low and are inadequate to provide for a million displaced people.

Now is the time to help: "with great power, comes great responsibility."

The ravages of this storm will be felt for years to come; people affected by this hurricane are in dire need of help. Although you may be hundreds of miles away, please know you can make a difference starting in your community. Forward this to your friends and family to prevent this catastrophe from becoming a greater tragedy. Contribute monetarily to FEMA, or to the American Red Cross,

Yousef Zarbalian is fourth-year student at Louisiana State University.

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