The devastation left by Hurricane Katrina is unprecedented and nearly impossible to describe. Stabilizing, repairing and rebuilding New Orleans, southeast Louisiana and the Gulf Coast region is not only a paramount concern for the thousands left heartbroken and homeless; it is also the largest economic challenge our country has ever faced from a natural disaster.
With the impact of Katrina's devastation being felt in some way in every community across the nation, our long-term recovery from this tragedy will require leadership, courage, patience and the prayers of all Americans. The administration and Congress must be committed to providing the resources necessary to rebuild the Gulf Coast and strengthen it for the future.
But while disasters like this one strike quickly, recovery is long and painful. In these first days, we are staying hopeful and confident while our immediate priority remains rescuing survivors and assisting the thousands of people that Katrina left homeless and jobless. Having toured Sri Lanka with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist after the Indian Ocean tsunami in December, it saddens me to report that the devastation I've seen here at home is equal to that which I witnessed half a world away.
Our nation came to the aid of the tsunami victims then, and to hurricane victims in Central America before. I am deeply moved to see us come together with the same love and fellowship today, as millions of Americans have rallied to support their brothers and sisters on the Gulf Coast.
I thank all Americans for their prayers and support in this difficult time and encourage those who can donate to the relief effort to do so. The American Red Cross is coordinating the outpouring of individual support from across the country, and may be reached at www.redcross.org or 1-800-HELP-NOW.
The writer, a Democrat, is a U.S. senator from Louisiana.