Tuesday, September 06, 2005
MY SO-CALLED LIFE: KATRINA HITS THE BOARDROOMS
There has been plenty of coverage over the last two weeks about Katrina and the devastation she left in her wake. I wanted to just share my narrow, but enlightening experience with you.
As I mentioned, I was away on business. In fact, I was in Washington D.C. meeting with the top executives of a large corporation. On my first night there, we all had dinner together as an informal way to kick off the meeting. Katrina was on everyone's mind. None of the people I was with were actually from the affected areas, but many of these executives had offices there and knew folks who had their lives and livelihoods washed away when the hurricane hit the Gulf Coast.
I was surprised by how much the tragedy seemed to affect them. As an official part of the program we all observed a moment of silence before we sat down to enjoy our meals, but the discussion around the plight of the hurricane victims dominated the dinner conversation.
We here in Canada have been blessed by the fact that many of the recent tragedies and major events in the last few years -- 9/11, the Iraq War, the Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina as examples -- have not really impacted us in any substantial way. Amercians, on the other hand, have been front and centre during most of these events. This was my first time to talk directly with my southern neighbours and to be honest, I was surprised by what I heard.
These were older businessmen and women, pretty well-heeled from what I could tell. Some of them were from the southern areas (Tennessee, northern Louisiana, South Carolina, etc), others were from the Washington area. But all of them were pretty broken up. We had very sombre conversations about the horrible toll Katrina took on these affected area and the massive effort that will be needed to get these folks back on their feet.
There was real compasion for these people, and the folks I was with that night felt a deep sadness and concern for the hurricane victims. Many had already donated money, food and supplies to the relief effort. They seemed very much distraught at the situation and were adamant that the federal government do more to help.
Americans, especially those at the executive level in the corporate world, often get a real rep for being cold and only caring about their stock price. But I saw first hand a very different image. At a dinner where the only real agenda was to talk business, the only thing the American businesspeople wanted to talk about was the best and fastest way to help their fellow citizens.
Something you don't hear about often, especially in the media.
My wife and I have already donated to the Canadian Red Cross. I encourage every CH reader to do the same.
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