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Moving forward

9/1/2017, 10:02 a.m.

Monday was Aug. 28, an innocuous date. But blurbs about its history and meaning have been circulating on the internet. On this day:

• In 1955, 14-year-old Chicagoan Emmett Till was murdered in Mississippi after allegedly whistling at a white woman in a grocery store. His mutilated body, with a bullet wound to the head, later was found tied to a heavy industrial fan in the Tallahatchie River. A photo of his open casket published in JET magazine and circulated around the world served as a flash point for the Civil Rights Movement.

• In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Peace.

• In 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana, causing widespread devastation and at least 1,500 deaths. The event shredded the American psyche and called into question the federal government’s commitment to aiding its own citizens in times of crisis.

• In 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama accepted the Democratic nomination for president, leading to his ultimate election as the first African-American president of the United States.

While these historical tidbits are interesting, the bigger question is what have we learned from each of these events? How have we progressed or advanced as a nation because of them? Or do we simply keep repeating some of the unfortunate circumstances surrounding each in slightly different circumstances today?

As Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas last Friday, we saw scenes of Katrina-like devastation playing out in Houston, Bayside, Rockport and Beaumont this week as thousands of people clinging to rooftops and sending out distress calls on social media were rescued by boats and helicopters from their homes. Shelters in stadiums, convention centers, churches and schools were filled beyond capacity. People pitched in to help overwhelmed first responders to rescue strangers from cars, homes and nursing homes.

Yet, President Trump in Tuesday’s visit to Corpus Christi and Austin to meet with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials had little to say about the lives lost or the thousands of people who have lost everything. Instead, he talked about the size of the storm.

“It’s the biggest ever,” he said. “It’s historic. It’s really like Texas, if you think about it. But it is a historic amount of water in particular. There’s never been anything like it.”

It was like his response to the catastrophic clashes in Charlottesville between neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan and white supremacists trying to protect the statue of a Confederate general and counterprotesters, and the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer, the latest martyr in the fight against racism and injustice. In that instance, President Trump said nothing about Ms. Heyer’s death and, instead, defended the bigots.

Like President George W. Bush during Hurricane Katrina, President Trump claims that help for the people of Texas is on the way. During a news conference on Monday, he said Texas would be “up and running very quickly” and that Congress would quickly approve whatever funds are necessary for recovery, beyond available funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.