I am forever grateful that my shower works, that my toilet flushes, that the garbage gets picked up and that I can sleep comfortably at night knowing that law and order prevails on the outside as our police and fire departments keep watch.

All of these things that we take for granted are so important, and never more called to our attention than when we are faced with the possibility of their curtailment, as is currently the case in poor New Orleans, Biloxi and Gulfport and all the little towns and villages in between. We can only count our blessings, and then try to share our good fortune with those in the Southland who are wiped out.

Any of us who have ever been to any of these locations can only recall them as memories. Yes, they will rebuild, as it is the nature of man to do so. However, whether they will be located in the same spots or look the same or act the same … well, the chances are that much like Chicago after the Great Chicago Fire, things will be different.

I was last in New Orleans about two years ago, about a week after Mardi Gras. No matter how much the city had steam-cleaned Bourbon Street and its environs, the smell of the remains of overindulged revelers still wafted over it. The Mardi Gras bead shops were in full force, and the tawdry clubs were going strong. Had I not had a male staffer with me so that we could attend a convention there, I doubt that I would have wanted to have hung around too long by myself.

It was a far cry from the GOP convention there which nominated the first George Bush for president. The convention was at the Superdome?”all air-conditioned and spiffy, a far cry from what the refugees of Hurricane Katrina had experienced.

As was the custom, people took drinks with them to the streets, often enjoying a drink called a “Hurricane” which allowed them to keep the glass it came in as a souvenir.

I recalled the levees?”large mounds of dirt which kept the Mississippi River from pouring into the city. Now that I thought about it, I recalled that in order to see barges moving along, I had to look up from ground level rather than across. But, when one is on a vacation, one does not think about a city which is sinking and turning into a great bowl as a city that, one day, would fill up from three sides of water.

One has to think of what it must be like to have to evacuate one’s home and everything one holds dear.

It reminded me of the floods of the Mississippi River we experience in Illinois about 15 years ago. Now when one goes to former flooded areas around the river, one sees long expanses of land which have been returned to their original floodplain.

The houses and towns that were formerly there are gone but for an occasional house on tall stilts. All were moved so that they would not be affected by any future flooding. Flooding will reoccur, to be sure, just as hurricanes will come and go. Floodplains are called floodplains for good reason, since they are to carry the overflow of rivers and streams. They cannot do their jobs when covered by buildings and asphalt.

The Gulf cities will rebuild as they are too important to national and international trade, to business, industry and agriculture, to the tourist trade. But they will never be the same.

That old commercial comes to mind, that one cannot fool around with Mother Nature.

Maybe we all ought to pay attention as New Orleans might be a wake up call for all us, and government in particular, that we are not as invincible as we might think.