Heather Cross's entire family lives in Louisiana, but she's called Baton Rouge home since 2002.
She's lived through Hurricane Katrina and now the historic flooding that has affected the state in the last two weeks. Cross tells Independent Journal Review that the two major weather events are similar, yet very “different”:
“Hurricane Katrina was also very devastating, but in a totally different way. Plus, the sheer geographic area affected in ways big and small is way broader [this time]. I think maybe 50 percent of the state has been affected by flooding and waters are rising in some places.”
To put things in perspective, Cross says she's from the Lafayette area and both of her hometowns, which are an hour-and-a-half drive from one another, have been devastated by the flooding.
After seeing the national news reports, or lack thereof, Cross took to Facebook to express her outrage over the media's coverage of the historic flooding.
The Baton Rouge-based attorney notes that she made the post before Donald Trump and President Obama announced they were coming, separately, to the area. She wrote:
"Dear CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC News, CBS News, Good Morning America, the Today Show and whatever other news organizations professing to employ people who refer to themselves as Journalists:
cc: all Facebook Friends (as promised)
FYI There is a flood in Louisiana.
You’ve met us before. You came and camped out over here during a very painful period in our existence about a month ago. You went into a neighborhood you’ve never been in, in a state it’s quite possible that you’ve never visited (despite that you are 'very well-travelled'). Although, I realize you are sophisticated, and accepting of 'other' cultures, you managed to pass judgment on an entire community in your own country, who were mourning and struggling to figure out – what the hell just happened – and where do we go from here – all of us (well most of us) – in good faith. You didn’t offer help, you didn’t offer support, you offered criticism – and then you left."
She continued, saying this is a community that has been in turmoil in recent months, all while under the scrutiny of the national media:
"Oh you came back, a few weeks later, a lunatic, who also had never been here, showed up and murdered three of our finest citizens. In broad daylight. In the middle of town. You came back. With more criticism. More speculation. More side taking. When in the community I live, we were basically all on the same side. We’re all in this together. I hate to pull a hashtag, but seriously #unBRoken.
Not one person I watched on the national news during the weeks following Alton Sterling’s death, or the murder of three police officers gave my friends, my family, my neighbors – any credit or the benefit of the doubt. Nope. The entire news media looked for someone to blame. Depending on what network you watched the target of blame was Sterling himself, the cops, the South, the guns, the whatever. Not one person I watched on the national news assumed that the whole city was by and large, and in good faith, just trying to wrap our brains around what happened, and trying to make our city whole again.
I think you people are stone cold silent about this flood, because really, there’s no agenda to push. There’s no side to take. There’s nobody to blame. So even though you don’t seem in the least bit curious, here’s what’s been happening around here since you left."
Cross went on to praise the Cajun Navy, as well as other citizens who've stepped up to help the community in their time of need, which should be the real focus of the story:
"While it was still raining, a spontaneous, private, and well-meaning navy of ordinary people assembled themselves. They were black, white, Asian and otherwise. They weren’t protesting anything. They got into their own boats, spent their own money, spent their own time, risked their own lives. Black people saved white people. White people saved black people.
Nobody asked what color you were before knocking on your door. These are not first responders on some list somewhere. These are a bunch of guys who like to hunt and fish and as a result own flat bottom boats and they assumed that the actual police and other first responders, not to mention their fellow citizens – could use a little help. So they just showed up. Nobody told them to. They wanted to."
She tells Independent Journal Review she wouldn't wish what happened in Baton Rouge to her “worst enemy.” Citing the school, road and office closures, Cross says life has totally changed for her and her neighbors:
"The neighborhoods that people live in are gutted. Mansions to simple, middle class homes — rich and poor — are all affected. It's not like you can live in a house which got inundated with water. It smells terrible, there's no sheetrock, it's literally dangerous.
Lots of them, and I mean lots, [of homeowners] did not have flood insurance. And these are RESPONSIBLE homeowners. They did everything right. They didn't have the insurance because they weren't in places that ever flooded."
According to ABC News, more than 60,000 homes were damaged in the historic flood.
Cross explains that the media's coverage of Baton Rouge, in general, tends to show Southerners as a “bunch of uneducated hicks,” which, especially in such a tragic time, is painful to see.
She has a few suggestions for journalists:
"What the media could do in the future, when covering any aspect of the South, would be to put their preconceived notions about it aside. To maybe not start with a hypothesis about what it's like to live here, but instead, to meet the people who live here, and give them the benefit of the doubt, and then develop the hypothesis.
There are definitely racial issues ongoing in the South that need attention, I'm not saying 'don't talk about it,' I'm just saying that we have come a long way and most Southerners are in good faith."
Roughly 102,000 survivors have registered to receive federal aid for everything from home repairs to cleanup work. Thirteen people died during what's now being called the “Great Flood.”
Cross says she has seen the most heartbreaking and heartwarming things in the past two weeks and her love for her city has only grown stronger.