11/01/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Katrina 2.0

Last night I wrote a long piece, and as often happens, as I wrote I did more thinking and as it settled in overnight and through the morning, the story distilled and the conclusion became clearer.

Katrina was more than a hurricane, it was a disaster, that happened in three stages:

1. A category 3 hurricane, followed by relief. The city was still standing. A few broken windows, but nothing that couldn't quickly be repaired.

2. Everyone goes to sleep, wakes up the next morning to find the levees had broken and the city was flooded.

3. National paralysis. Some of the needed resources had been deployed elsewhere. We became a nation of Brownies all doing a heckuva job. People were killed in the flood and on the streets as the New Orleans was looted, while we watched in horror, unable to help, as an American city died, right there on CNN.

A picture named jazzfuneral.jpgKatrina never ended, three years later, it's still not over. New Orleans is still broken. Whole families were wiped out in the disaster, and while we don't spend much time on it in our national discourse, even as the election approaches, it's still there, reminding us of something. But we're not learning the lesson, and now our nation faces a Katrina-scale disaster, across the entire country, and like New Orleans on the first night of Katrina, it hasn't sunk in.

There will be no place to go if we wake up tomorrow to find the financial levees have broken and our nation is under water. People don't understand how much momentum there is to an economy, and when the wheels stop turning, they don't just start up again. It will take years if not decades to get them going again, as it will take that long to reboot New Orleans, if it ever happens.

A commenter asked what to do, which is a fair question -- and the answer is easy, as long as you accept that we're in a Katrina-scale disaster. Don't got to sleep, and if the levees break, and even if we act they're still pretty likely to break, don't accept Brownie-level incompetence. Require more of yourself (key point) and your leaders.

Imho, we are in another Katrina. It's easy to be fooled into believing that like New Orleans we may still dodge the bullet, the unthinkable is of course hard to think about. But after Katrina 1.0, it should not be hard to imagine the same thing happening to all of us, at one time. That's what's at stake.