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Lessons learned from Katrina help Haiti

I think we’ve learned. At least, I hope we have. After Katrina decimiated New Orleans in 2005, it took far too long for aid to become available.

Granted, some of that related to the fact that waters had yet to recede and getting into the city was a virtual impossibility. But still, there were not a lot of options out there for onlookers and concerned citizens who wanted to find a way to lend a hand.

And by the time those options finally began to materialize, one of the darker chapters in American history had already taken its share of unpleasant turns.

Now, organizations and private citizens are showing more initiative in the wake of the 7.0 earthquake that leveled Haiti. Fewer people have been sitting around awaiting direction. Almost immediately, methods of contribution became available. And what’s more impressive is the convenience with which some of these donations can be made.

For instance, George Clooney’s Hope for Haiti Telethon aired on Jan. 22 and raised more than $57 million. The minds behind the effort wasted little time parlaying the all-star event into an album whose proceeds will also go to benefit Haiti relief efforts. Stars like Coldplay, Alicia Keys, Shakira, Taylor Swift, Haitian native Wyclef Jean, John Legend, Stevie Wonder, Jay-Z and Sting contributed their vocal talents to the 20-track album, which iTunes made available at $7.99 Tuesday, just four days after the telethon initially aired.

Then there is the text messaging option. A brilliant way to utilize the convenience of modern technology, individuals can text “HAITI” to 90999 from their wireless phone to donate $10 to the Hatian relief effort. The charges will be collected via each individual’s wireless bill.

Those are just two of any number of ways that have been devised to help people help the people who need it most.

The methods aren’t yet perfected, but they show incredible progress. And the unfortunate truth is that nothing will ever make up for the failures and shortcomings that cost so much aide to so many in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

But at least we can take solace in the fact that we are learning, we are enhancing our methods of caring for our fellow man and maybe, just maybe, if something like this ever happens again, we will be prepared to make the best of it as quickly as we can.

Jeremy D. Smith is the sports editor of the Demopolis Times.