More than 4 million people, several oil refineries and many businesses around Houston remained without power. Government agencies will distribute ice, water and packaged meals from tractor-trailers.
Long lines snaked around the few gas stations that were operating in and around Houston, where the car is king, but officials said tankers were rolling in with fuel. Even with gas, many stations remained without power.
"Tanker trucks are coming in to make sure service stations are given fuel," Ed Emmett, chief executive for Harris County, which includes Houston, told reporters.
The relief roll-out appeared to defuse tensions that had flared between the Federal Emergency Management Agency and local officials after Houston Mayor Bill White vowed to hold FEMA accountable for delivering on its commitments. [...]
In Galveston, shocked and bewildered residents staggered through the streets as food and water grew scarce. There was little sign of any federal relief efforts.
"FEMA ain't been by, nobody," said disabled retiree Vivian Matthews, who was stranded at her flooded apartment for two days. "They don't give a damn if we live or die."
When so many people have been affected by this kind of damage and destruction, it's easy to get frustrated with the slow pace of help. But unfortunately the sheer size of Ike, the widespread path of destruction it left behind, and the difficulty for rescue workers, volunteers, and others to deliver aid and supplies to the suffering people means that the misery will go on for quite a while.
A storm of a completely different sort is looming on the horizon, as Wall Street is shaken by the winds of a kind of change nobody wants to believe in. The political parties were quick to offer their conclusions about the looming financial crisis: it's the other guy's fault:
"Unfortunately, what we are seeing on Wall Street is the legacy of the Bush-McCain economic policies that have failed this nation," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said in a statement, adding: "These events are a stark reminder that America needs a fresh and improved approach to governing, not one led by a leader who insists that the fundamentals of the economy are still strong, as Sen. McCain insisted today."
But House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) took a different tack, blaming the current congressional majority for the mess. "All across America, families are struggling with the fallout from the turmoil in the housing and financial markets -- another sign that the destructive tax-and-spend economic policies promoted by this Democratic Congress are failing to meet the needs of workers, seniors, and small businesses," Boehner said.
America is a nation of many blessings, gifts of health and peace and prosperity. But it's humbling to realize how easy it is for us to behave like various people in the Bible, as we come to believe that this is all of our doing, that we can provide for the needs of all people, continue to be financially secure, stockpile our grain and plan to build new storage for the abundance, all without remembering that our gifts come from God, and that we should be thankful for them. In time we can start to think that we're owed good things, that we're owed abundant food and clean water even in the nightmare after a monster hurricane, that we're owed that secure retirement that just got wiped out in the worst day on Wall Street in years. We've spent so much time thinking it's all in our hands, believing that we could control our own destinies, enrich ourselves, even turn back the rising flood waters (yes, we can!) that it's more than a little shocking to be confronted with the reality that, no, we can't, and never could.
Like Job, we are reminded that we weren't around when the Earth was called into being, when the sun first played its rays across a newborn planet, when creation exploded in color and joy and fell into sin, when kings and empires rose to glory, glittered in brief triumph, and then crumbled into unremembered dust. We can no more order our existence than we can order the sea to stop rising in advance of a tempest, or reclaim money that has been scattered to the wind in a moment's display of capitalism's weakness (for, heresy though it may be to say it, capitalism has weaknesses as well as strengths).
None of this is meant to diminish the pain of those who suffer loss, whether that loss occurs as a result of nature's violence or of man's greed. It's an expression of solidarity with them, for we too know that we do not control our days or hours, that we exist in peace and tranquility only by the grace of God, and that whatever suffering He has in store for us will come in its time, just as the joys and graces have come in theirs. But seeing the reactions to the hurricane, or to the Wall Street shakiness, I find myself hoping that when the day of tribulation does come I won't first start looking for someone to blame, but be able to hold on to that tranquility, that peace that passes all understanding, and is able to say to Lady Sorrow what it does to Lady Joy: His Will be done.