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Listeners React to Katrina

LIANE HANSEN, host:

NPR has received hundreds and hundreds of letters from listeners this week describing experiences with Hurricane Katrina or responding to the devastation and suffering caused by the storm. Catherine Cummins(ph) of St. Gabriel, Louisiana, wrote on Wednesday: `By this time, I expect many people are having disaster fatigue, or whatever the word is for being oversaturated by images of Hurricane Katrina. However, I am not one of those people. I have yet to see any TV images because I still do not have any power or phone. However, I do have a battery-operated radio, and what I hear sounds horrific.

`What I do have images of is quite amazing and even more humbling. As the last of the winds and rains were passing at dusk, I saw many ruby-throated hummingbirds coming to visit flowers in our garden; both had made it through the hurricane. I saw leaves suspended in exquisite webs woven by orb weaver spiders. The spiders were already back, mending and cleaning out the debris. Most miraculous of all, I saw black swallowtail and sulfur butterflies feeding on the flowers along our street.

`These things which seem so delicate are still alive and going about their business as though nothing has happened. I suspect that to them, nothing has happened. They are so well adapted to life here, which can go from lush subtropical to deadly in a day. They survive better by hiding in natural cavities than we do in our high-rise hotels.'

Ms. Cummins went on to write: `They are immune to our waterborne diseases and the wickedness of looters. As the university where I work fills with refugees from urban civilization, I have to wonder who is more civilized: we humans or these fragile beauties, who go along at peace with nature instead of trying to control it? We could learn a lot, I think, but we have to take the time to look.'

Ann Cooney(ph) of Blooms Mill, Virginia, had similar feelings. She writes: `I am sad, worn-out, overwhelmed. Senator Landrieu told fellow Louisianans who evacuated to get on their knees and thank God. That's good advice to the whole country. I hope we as a nation get off the materialism-dependent roller coaster we've been on and put life back in perspective. I'm more grateful than ever to be able to sit on my deck and listen to the quiet.'

You can write to us by going to npr.org and clicking on the `Contact us' link.

It's 22 minutes before the hour. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Liane Hansen
Liane Hansen has been the host of NPR's award-winning Weekend Edition Sunday for 20 years. She brings to her position an extensive background in broadcast journalism, including work as a radio producer, reporter, and on-air host at both the local and national level. The program has covered such breaking news stories as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the capture of Saddam Hussein, the deaths of Princess Diana and John F. Kennedy, Jr., and the Columbia shuttle tragedy. In 2004, Liane was granted an exclusive interview with former weapons inspector David Kay prior to his report on the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The show also won the James Beard award for best radio program on food for a report on SPAM.