Category Archives: Hurricane Katrina

“Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital” by Sheri Fink— The Quest for Truth and Justice

five days

Fink, Sheri. “Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital”, Crown, 2013.

The Quest for Truth and Justice

Amos Lassen

Having been in New Orleans and experiencing Hurricane Katrina has to have been a turning point in my life and in the lives of so many others. I have never understood why the book market was not flooded with after things calmed down and now eight years later, there are is still not a lot written about what went on as a major American city struggled to survive. Having been born and raised in New Orleans, I discovered that no matter where we may go, New Orleanians have something of the city that is always with them and still now, living in Boston after seven years in Arkansas, I still think of myself as a New Orleanian. I read everything I can about the city and I have been back twice to visit but I realize that I had to move on.
I had heard about Sheri Fink’s “Five Days at Memorial” and was very anxious to read it. What is strange, for me, at least, is that those of us who lived though the storm seem to know the least about it and it is impossible to describe the feelings I had as I stayed in my apartment, as the waters rose, for a full week after Katrina made land fall. I remember the fear but not the details and I really believe that had the National Guard not forced me out, I would have died there. We knew nothing of what was going on outside of us and it was not until I was taken to a shelter in Pine Bluff, Arkansas that the story began to be told to me.

Now Pulitzer Prize winner Sheri Fink has reconstructed some of what happened in New Orleans and it is an amazing read that kept me at home this past weekend. Fink writes about the deaths of patients at the Memorial Hospital and as she does, she (and the reader) searches for truth and justice. Using just five days, she pulls us into the lives of people who fought hard to live as craziness surrounded them. What so many find hard to understand about going through a storm like Katrina is that so many were forced to make choices and many of these were difficult because they involved life and death. We can only imagine what was going on in the hospitals as power was gone and the waters rose. It became a necessity for hospital staff to decide who to let go and who to try to save. Manpower was short and the hospitals were full. Just as some patients fought for life, so did the hospitals. Death was soon rationed challenging the belief that only God has the option of deciding between life and death. Sheri Fink looks at the situations that hospital staff members were thrown into and also shows how America was not prepared to deal with a disaster the size of Katrina. In doing so she changes the way that we think about people in crises.

Those who were sheltered in the New Orleans Memorial Hospital during Katrina soon realized that the crisis inside the hospital was worse than the storm. Since there was no power, there could be no evacuation and leadership was nil. Caring for the sick was chaos and the medical staff faced difficult decisions and some of the choices made were failures. Some of the patients who seemed to have no chance of survival were given lethal shots even as a form of evacuation began. Fink recreates the storm, what happened afterwards and the investigation and as she does, we are forced to consider questions of ethics, race, resources, history and the greater good. We need to read this just to understand human behavior during crisis. By using Katrina and the New Orleans hospital we see what can go wrong and we see the difficulties faced during a catastrophe. Even today, there are just a few hospitals with disaster plans or enough supplies to get through a storm. There are not enough back-up generators and when elevators go out floors of people are lost. Hospitals rely on scare tactics and greed becomes the way of the day. Rumors rum rampant and family input is neither available nor heeded when it is.

This is a very hard book to read especially for someone who was there but it is also a very important book. Modern American medicine did not know what to do when it was most needed. Things have not yet improved and there seems to be few lessons learned. We are therefore quick to believe that this could all happen again. There was no organization during Katrina and the result was a loss of life and total chaos.

The first half of the book is about the first five days but then it moves to the legal and political aspects of what happened and the homicide investigation brought on by the state of Louisiana. We see many people divided over whether crimes had indeed been committed or not and these people are depicted as decent and honest. Many of the narratives just end with no conclusions and no regard for the legal ethics of the medical profession. The research here is amazing and there are no claims without evidence. Most of us are very lucky that we will never have to deal with choices that were made here.

“Fink’s descriptions of the flooded hospital, her extensive interviews with those who were there, profiles of investigators and study of the history and ethics of triage and euthanasia come very close to a full airing of how a disaster can upset society’s usual ethical codes, and how that played out at New Orleans’ Memorial Medical Center….Fink has written a compelling and revealing account.”– Seattle Times

Five Days At Memorial unfolds in two parts—an impeccably researched reconstruction of the events inside the hospital during the disaster, and a gripping account of the investigation and trial that followed. Pulitzer-Prize-winning Sheri Fink, who is also a physician and a former relief worker in combat zones, lays out every shred of evidence, but leaves the final judgment to the reader. Five Days at Memorial treats the chain of events at the hospital as a microcosm that raises vital and increasingly relevant questions about end-of-life care, and the ethics of euthanasia in extraordinary circumstances.”– Macleans

This is a book that cries out to be read and we must all make ourselves aware of what happened. I would never have believed that I would live through something like this but I did and it could happen to any or to all of us.

rainbowolympics

“I’M CAROLYN PARKER: THE GOOD, THE MAD, AND THE BEAUTIFUL”— Rebuilding New Orleans

“I’m Carolyn Parker: The Good, the Mad, and the Beautiful”

 

Rebuilding New Orleans

 

Amos Lassen

 

On Thursday, September 20th on PBS, we will get a chance to see an amazing new documentary from Jonathan Demme about what has been happening in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. This is the story of Carolyn Parker who, along with other Ninth Ward residents, was told to “Look and Leave” but she decided to “Look and Stay”. What so many do not realize is that there is something about living in New Orleans that holds people to stay in the city and as a former New Orleanian (who did not go back), I totally understand what Parker feels.

 

“When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in August 2005, the hardest-hit neighborhoods were also the city’s poorest. But nowhere was devastation greater than in the Lower Ninth Ward, a neighborhood bordered by the Industrial Canal and the Mississippi River, home to a vibrant African-American community and one extraordinary woman. Several months later, Academy Award®-winning director Jonathan Demme set out to document the devastation and rebuilding of the Crescent City”.

 

When Demme met Parker and spoke to her about Katrina, he quickly saw that what was supposed to have been a political documentary was going to also be a very personal story and a character study of a woman who defied the odds. Parker is a highly opinionated woman and a community activist who was not going to let anyone take her city of New Orleans from her. During five years Demme shot his film and gives us a look at Parker as she worked her own crusade to save her home, her church, her community and her life. This is a true profile in courage.

 

When the levees broke and the floodwater came over them, Parker’s home (some eight blocks from where I lived) and neighborhood went underwater and the people there (like myself) had to be rescued by helicopters. When no trace of Parker could be found, she was pronounced dead in the local media but it later was discovered that she had gone to the Superdome with so many others who had to flee their homes. These people were to become the new homeless population of New Orleans. When Parker was reunited with her brother and her children, she became a voice of the displaced who were all over the United States (I was in Arkansas) and were waiting to go back home. What propelled Parker into the spotlight was her very public rebuttal to the mayor, Ray Nagin, and said that her house would be demolished only over her dead body. Suddenly the world noticed Carolyn Parker and even the president, George W. Bush, heard her words and replied with a simple “no comment”.

 

When the water began to retreat, Parker was one of the first to move back into the Lower Ninth Ward and as she waited for funds to rebuild her house, she lived in a FEMA trailer for four years. Her daughter, Kyrah, came home from college to help her and her son; Rahsaan began to live in the shell of the former family home. Parker immediately began her campaign for the rebuilding of her church which was the only Catholic Church that welcomes blacks when she was a girl. That same church had held the community together and the rebuilding was Parker’s primary concern.

 

Parker became involved in dealing with some get rich-quick tradesman as she was recovering from knee surgery. Her daughter picked out the colors for the remodeling and the family began the task of rebuilding their lives and their home. We get to go on a tour of the house and see the destruction and hear Parker’s memories of New Orleans during segregation; stories that I remember so well (but from the white perspective). Parker was raised poor but she was resourceful. We hear how she and her husband moved into her home, a home that was built on love. After her husband was murdered, Parker raised her family and made sure that they had a stable home life. After Katrina she says that she did not cry like everyone else because she realized that she was alive and her little house was still standing.

 

Starting a few months after Hurricane Katrina, Jonathan Demme follows the strong matriarch from the Lower Ninth Ward named Carolyn Parker as she struggles to rebuild her home over several years. Parker is a retired hotel chef with disabilities yet she makes the most of what she has— a bold sense of humor with a fierce activism and a pervasive spirituality. A few months after the flood waters receded, filmmaker Jonathan Demme met Parker outside her damaged home while he was interviewing locals. From their casual introduction grew this poignant documentary which was filmed over five years of one family’s struggle to rebuild from devastation.

Using the personal approach, Demme conducts conversations from behind the camera. We first meet Parker when her house is in shambles and needing new walls, electricity, windows, and more but Parker cannot consider living anywhere else. Over the next several years, Parker’s toiled to save her home and church and we see her as alternately good, mad and beautiful.

Demme takes pleasure in Parkers company, whether she is reminiscing about her early days in the civil rights struggle or just cooking dinner. “Parker is a friendly, welcoming and observational woman whose passion for her home and community in the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans led to an angry and powerful speech at a meeting about the recovery plan after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.

After being told about plans to buy out residents and knock down the Lower Ninth, one of the worst hit areas, Carolyn S. Parker is mad as hell, and she lets them know about it. “I don’t think it’s right that you try to take my property. “Over my dead body. I didn’t die with Katrina.”  And she did not die—she lived and lives just as New Orleans has returned.

Demme successfully shows the viewer an intimate portrayal of how Katrina impacted Carolyn’s family and the reasons why her home is so important to her. Carolyn Parker is a force to be reckoned with and watching her in action is an inspirational and emotional journey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast” by Douglas Brinkley— Having Been There

Brinkley, Douglas. “The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast”, Harper Perennial, 2006.

 Having Been There

 Amos Lassen

 Six and a half years ago at this time we knew the name Katrina as a beautiful feminine name. Suddenly on August 27, that changed and Katrina became known as one of the great disasters of the world. I know that to be true—I was there—and so was Douglas Brinkley who wrote Katrina’s biography. I have put off reviewing this book because I thought it might be too painful but now that I am sitting down and writing, I realize that this review could become the catharsis I have needed. It is hard for me to believe that it is already two years ago and that I am in Little Rock, Arkansas and not back in New Orleans. Be that as it may, reading about Katrina is not easy but I did notice today at Barnes and Noble that I may be reading about her for a while—it seems there are a slew of new books out about the storm and this is just the beginning.

       Douglas Brinkley wrote one of the first books about the storm and what a book it is. It captures the human aspect of Katrina and gives a close up view of what really went on. Looking back now, I realize that in five hours on August 29, 2005, America changed completely. 150 miles of coastline and one major American city as well as some smaller ones were hit by a powerful storm and it changed the way we look at weather, government, tragedy and each other. Two years later and not much has been done. A half-million homes went underwater, the government mismanaged the entire business and many Southerners lost not only their homes but everything.

       It is still too soon to have the definitive book on Katrina. The scope of the storm was so large—there was such chaos, denial and misinformation that it will take a long time to sort the entire affair. Brinkley’s book was the first and will probably emerge as the best as it brings us the narrative and gives the big picture. Reading “The Great Deluge” forced me to remember a lot of what I had chosen to forget. As I read the book I became literally numb but hopeful. Brinkley writes of the heroes and the good guys. This shows me exactly what Anne Frank said that people are basically good.

       There is a great deal of background in the book and it thereby provides ways to achieve a greater understanding of what happened. It was hard for me to know what really went on as I had no access to the outside world as I looked out of my fourth floor window and watched the waters rise as New Orleans sunk beneath them.

       Brinkley gives a far and unbiased look at what went wrong and it is harrowing to read. His book is well researched and his tales of heroism are amazing. The book s based primarily on first person accounts and media reports. He also conducted intensive interviews with many survivors. There are tales of terror and stories of valor. There is also the author’s analysis of what happened but I am not sure that this is accurate as the book was written very early after the storm. Brinkley lets us know where his own sympathies lie. There are mistakes as we would expect there to be but by and large, this is one of those books that I could simply not put down. Here is a great book that should be read by every American. The writing is fluid and rich in detail and Brinkley breathes life into New Orleans. Here is a story of struggle, redemption, survival and struggle.

“Murder in the Rue Chartes” by Greg Herren— Gay New Orleans, Post Katrina

Herren, Greg. “Murder in the Rue Chartres”, Alyson, 2007.

 Gay New Orleans, Post Katrina

 Amos Lassen

 As a New Orleanian by birth and having experiences Hurricane Katrina first-hand, I was anxious to read Greg Herren’s “Murder in the Rue Chartres”. I have always enjoyed Herren work and I did once again. It just hurts to read about my hometown while I am located somewhere else. Herren gives us a view of New Orleans that is amazing, deep and sensuous and this novel is fast moving as it shows the French Quarter in all of its gay glory. It’s good to have Greg Herren back writing about the Big Easy.

       Herren has introduced us to his gay detective, Chanse MacLeod, in other books—“Murder in the Rue Dauphine” and “Murder in the Rue St. Ann. After Katrina, MacLeod returns to a different New Orleans. The city and the man have both been shattered and in need of rebuilding. Chanse has come home to rebuild himself but he soon discovers that Iris Verlaine who had been his last client before the hurricane was murdered the same night that she had hired him to locate her father who had been missing for quite a long time. Chanse feels both compelled and obligated to solve the murder and he soon finds himself completely taken in by the Verlaine family and a web of intrigue and secrets. It seems everything in the family is tainted with blood.

       With the city of New Orleans as a backdrop to the story the book gives us a wonderful mystery as well as an in-depth look at one of America’s most famous cities. We see a different New Orleans than most of us have known and it is a sad but vibrant picture that Herren provides. He tells it like it is in the way we like to read. Here is another wonderful mystery that will keep you guessing as well as providing an inside look at the damage that occurs because of a natural disaster.

“No Ordinary Heroes: 8 Doctors, 30 Nurses, 7,000 Prisoners and a Category 5 Hurricane” by Demaree Inglese with Diane Gallagher— Jailhouse Drama

Inglese, Demaree,M.D. with Diana G. Gallagher. “No Ordinary Heroes: 8 Doctors, 30 Nurses, 7,000 Prisoners and a Category 5 Hurricane”,  Citadel Press, 2007.

 Jailhouse Drama

 Amos Lassen

 It has been six years since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf south and the books are rapidly hitting the shelves. I have read most of them but I must say that “No Ordinary Heroes” is one of the most compelling stories about the killer storm. It is also the story of an event that I do not recall having heard much about. Here is the sage of true heroes—ordinary people—who put others above themselves and their own safety and exhibited a courage we do not hear about often.

       We learn early on that the author. Demaree Inglese was one of the many New Orleanians who did not believe that New Orleans would be actually affected by Katrina and that it would pass with little effect. He soon learned just how wrong he was. He should have been a little more concerned, not that it would have done much good. He, in his position as medical director of New Orleans city jail, found that he would be forced to lead his staff through a major crisis which would have a deadly aftermath,

       Inglese tells his story with much detail and compelling prose. Between August 26 and September 2, 2005, the city of New Orleans and the doctor went through an experience that no one expected. The prison officials had refused to evacuate the inmates and a disaster followed. The jail soon flooded and it became an island in a city that Katrina had crippled. There was neither water nor power, little food and the conditions became worse minute by minute. The temperature constantly rose and the conditions became unbearable. No help could come in, people became ill, the deputies who were marooned there became irritable and order was soon lost. Inmates were eager to escape and riots began, buildings were burned and decal emergencies all combined so that the storm within the prison began to rival the storm outside the walls. It was a few people who managed to attempt to keep order. Dr. Inglese struggled to keep his wards alive for a week after the levees broke. He had determination and organizational strengths and he did manage to get his staff to rally and it was their professionalism that saved many lives.

       Bringing the human side of the tragedy to life is what this book does even if it is written in the common tongue. Reading of swimming through sewerage and facing desperate prisoners makes one realize how lucky we were to get out when we did. Deadly snakes and psychotic inmates, rioting prisoners, no medication or food are enough to make one give up but the doctor did not. We read of inspiration and heroism in a time when most were afraid.

       The book reads like a thriller and what happened in those seven days is the stuff that legends are made off. You not only read this story, you live it as you read and I know that I, for one, will never be the same.

“Heart Like Water: Surviving Katrina and Life in the Disaster Zone: A Memoir” by Joshua Clark— An Eyewitness Account

Clark, Joshua. “Heart Like Water: Surviving Katrina and Life in the Disaster Zone: A Memoir”. Free Press, 2007.

 

An Eyewitness Account

 

Amos Lassen

 

If you try to imagine what Hurricane Katrina was like, you cannot possibly come anywhere close to the horror and the anguish that we went through. I lived through it and find it hard to bring those images back into mind. I often think that it is a period of my life that I do not want to remember.

On the other hand, it was Katrina that caused me to land in Little Rock, Arkansas and my life to take an entirely new path.

       Joshua Clark did not leave New Orleans during the storm. Instead he stayed and got together with several others and pooled resources and used their energy in an attempt to save the city. At the time that Katrina hit, Clark was working as a correspondent for NPR and began a project of recording the voices of victims of the storm in the Gulf South. It is these voices that are the spine of this memoir which does not dwell on the horror and devastation of Katrina but shows the compassion, the anguish and the kindness, the madness and the mercy of the people of America.

       Written in journalistic style but displaying raw emotion and innocence, Clark tells us of loss and renewal and the ability to bounce back with hope.

       There are and there surely will be more Katrina stories. Clark’s book is unique in that it is a love story—a paean to the city he loves. The city was destroyed and lives were torn asunder. Yet Katrina also caused an inner impact that Clark so beautifully gives us in this book. What he writes will wrench your heart but it is all true—it all happened. Not an easy book to read, “Heart Like Water” is poignant and evocative and larger than life. Written in the first person, it is the story of one of the most terrible periods of American history and is entertaining but important as well as a look at how people face change, adjust to it and survive.

       There were times as I was reading that I felt like I had a pill in my throat that I could not swallow—the emotional experience was that strong. The book is raw and reveals a look at the people affected by the storm from an angle we have not yet had. Clark relates the happenings of the storm as they happened and we get the truth without sermonizing.

       Clark moves from an observer to an active rebel to a mystical madman, a victim of trauma and a political activist. He saw the pain and suffering and he lets us see it. We feel for the people who lost everything (I know how it feels because I lost all except what I was wearing) but we also see a new approach to loss-that which is not lost—the love for a place and its people.

       Everyone asks what it was like when the levees broke. Look no further, it is all here in this wonderful memoir of a terrible time.

“Dispatches from the Edge” by Anderson Cooper— On the Front

Cooper, Anderson. “Dispatches from the Edge”, Harper, 2006.

On the Front

Amos Lassen

Anderson Cooper is one of the most respected and watched journalists who works today. His careful and insightful coverage of two major tragedies—the Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina caused him to become a celebrity in the world of media. In “Dispatches from the Edge”, his powerful written record, he tells us how he got to where he is and his struggle with his own personal tragedies—the death of his father when Anderson was ten and his brother’s suicide. He was born into wealth and societal status; his mother is a Vanderbilt. He had always wanted to be a reporter and he left home to pursue that career. He learned early to deal with major tragedy and how to show it to others. He is direct and he is unsentimental but his coverage of Katrina and his personal involvement is what made him a household name. None of us will ever forget how he broke down while covering the storm. He is a man of vast emotion who is not afraid to share it with the world. As his publisher says he is “the prototype for a twenty-first century newsman”. He no longer just covers a story; he is part of the story. He is distinctive and pleasant to watch, his voice is clearly recognizable, he is handsome. He is also a very talented writer who supplies with images and phrases that allow us to get a grasp of the larger picture. He is very good looking and very serious about his work. Cooper writes straightforward prose which is filled with passion.

 

       There is obviously more to Anderson Cooper than we see. Harboring his memories of his own suffering, he shows us that he also has a life outside of his profession and it is this life that allows him to relate to the pain he reports about.

The only pretty thing about this book is the writing. It is otherwise a very raw picture as it deals with national and international tragedies. Cooper describes them with brutal honest, sometimes even sounding vulgar but vulgarity s what is needed when looking at the American government’s response to Katrina (I was there and believe me I know).

Anderson Cooper manages to paint portraits of the world tragedies he has covered. He allows us to feel his sufferings and makes us realizes just how lucky we are to have him and all else that we have when so many people in the rest of the world are without so much.

 When I was living n a shelter after Katrina forced me to leave New Orleans, it was Anderson Cooper that told me what was happening in my native town. I was shocked and outraged but I knew what he said was true. It hurt me to hear him tell of the corruption of the city officials and the national government and I wept with him when he showed the world the devastation wrought by the storm. His honesty helped me to come to terms with what I was feeling and it also made me realize that I would not go home again. My feelings of emotion and loss seem to come out of Cooper’s mouth. He showed us what we ordinarily do not see on the news and Cooper is an amazing man.

 

 

 

“I Dead in Attic: After Katrina” by Chris Rose— Feeling the Pain

Rose, Chris. “1 Dead in Attic: After Katrina”, CR Books, 2006.

 Feeling the Pain

 Amos Lassen

 I am very surprised that more books were not published about Hurricane Katrina given the literary heritage of New Orleans. There have been a few but there have not been many personal accounts. Chris Rose, a newspaper correspondent in New Orleans, put some of his newspaper columns together and gives a picture of what New Orleans was like after the storm. Reading it is painful and shocking and shows how much that we as Americans take for granted. (Believe me, I know. I was stranded in New Orleans for a little more than a week after Katrina hit).

       He writes of what was once my city and the journey many of us took—from living comfortably to roaming around looking for somewhere to live. He brilliantly describes what day-to-day life was like for the citizens of New Orleans after the storm. I am sure many of you have never known what it is like to have to depend upon the kindness of others or to live on a cot in a convention center in a strange place with over 200 roommates who you do not know.

       Rose gives us the anger and frustration and the sadness and the joy that we experienced and the beautiful way we were treated by people we did not know,

       This is the book to read about Katrina because it is so honest and so well written. Rose accurately describes the sights and sounds of New Orleans and how it feels to see a city almost disappear. I cried and I laughed as I read.

       This book is not about the levees that failed or the building that were destroyed or the ineffectiveness of the state and federal government. It is about the people who had to deal with losses which are beyond human comprehension, about loneliness and heartbreak and despair and above all, fear. But it also is compassionate and hopeful and has wicked humor.

“THE BIG UNEASY”— What Went Wrong in New Orleans

“The Big Uneasy”

What Went Wrong in New Orleans

Amos Lassen

Six years ago today Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and nothing was ever the same again. How fitting that Harry Shearer’s first documentary is released on the anniversary. Following three people, two leaders of scientific investigation teams and one whistle blower tell us what really caused the city to flood and that it is possible that it can happen again. We also learn that there are other cities at risk for the same. This is what the mainstream media did not know and therefore could not report. What happened during Katrina could have been prevented.

All of us gasped in awe when footage of Katrina hitting New Orleans was aired but to have really seen what went on, one would have had to be there. I remember what we saw as we were being evacuated by the National Guard and the only comparison I could think of back then was the story of Noah and the flood in the Bible. We now know that what went wrong was caused by the fact that the Army Corps of Engineers was unable and not ready or prepared to deal with Katrina. Now six years later we are learning the truth and that some who have told it have been punished and penalized for daring to criticize and tell the truth of what went wrong. If any of you really believe that the government of this story is not at fault for being ineffective, then you need to see this film.

It is difficult for me to be objective because I was there but I have continually tried to find a way to explain everything. Now I no longer have to as Harry Shearer does it for me in this film.

There are links between Congress, the Army Corps of Engineers, subcontractors and those with special interests. What they considered important was not human life but in building projects that pay back contributors and friends and can be completed with relative speed. Cutting corners is no problem and now that we know this and there is no accountability for these projects, the entire Katrina affair looks much different.

Of course there are many stories about Katrina and what happened as a result. The sad thing is that many Americans actually believe that Katrina was to blame for the destruction and devastation. We now know that the disaster was the result of the failure of the Army Corps of Engineers that was unable to deal with a category 3 hurricane as well as the fact that FEMA was slow to react.

What we really see here is that American politics are controlled by cash and upon realizing this, everything falls into place. The Corps made some very serious mistakes and turned Katrina into a tremendous tragedy. Its resources were used to protect itself rather than the area and then attacked those who dared criticize and call its integrity and honesty into question. Shearer probes the causes of the flooding after the storm as he does so through interviews with those who blew the whistle and pointed out that the floods were due to the fact that the Corps had done sloppy work long before the storm. He levees failed and now we know why. Shearer cuts through the lies and half-truths to show us where the blame goes. He states emphatically that a federal agency made up the rules as it went along. We see a fantastic video representation of what happened and we see exactly where the floods began in New Orleans.

For the first fifteen minutes of the film show the devastation of the storm and from here, Shearer builds his case. If you remember how FEMA was taken to task after the storm, this is what Shearer does to the Corps. The explanation is clear and we see hour by hour that the floodwall was breached due to structural inadequacies and incompetence.

Shearer shows us what many of us have felt all along and that is that even though Katrina was a natural disaster, the major problems were those created by man who was eager to line his pockets. It is not only the Corps that gets blamed as Shearer goes on to show that corporate greed and shortsightedness led to the monumental losses of the Louisiana wetlands, nature’s defense against storms. Shearer’s arguments are all supported and it seems to me that Shearer’s case is solid and airtight.

“A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge”– Katrina, the Storm, Graphically Illustrated

Neufield, Josh. “A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge”, Pantheon Books, 2009.

Katrina, the Storm, Graphically Illustrated

Amos Lassen

 

The lives of seven New Orleans residents who survived Hurricane Katrina are the subject of this book. The first chapter has no dialog shows the hurricane picking up speed and the cities that it crippled when it hit Louisiana, August 29, 2005. We then meet seven totally different New Orleans residents. There is Denise, her mother Louise, her niece, Cydney and Cydney’s daughter, R’nae as they evacuate their home after their apartment has been lost to the storm. There is Leo who is a local publisher of a magazine about music and Michelle, a waitress who do not want to leave but finally go to Houston after their apartment flooded. This is the story of so many who lost so much and the story of the devastation on America’s Gulf Coast.
Graphically depicted in really low key art, everything seems all too human and what we see is the resilience of the people who (unlike me) returned to their homes after the storm. The book is personal and how many of us expected the tragedy to be as large as it was. I am not a fan if graphic novels but I must say that this book definitely had me change my mind a bit. To relive the nightmare of Katrina was something for me. Neufield draws with great detail. It is a quick read that combines anthropology with nonfiction storytelling. The dialog is the language of New Orleans; the characters are like so many that I knew. Here is a portrait of New Orleans that is full of emotion and it is wonderful. Here are comics united with social consciousness that relay to us the tragedy of Katrina. As an artist Neufield has captured the storm deftly and gives us a chapter in our history that we cannot ignore and that must always be remembered and talked about. Neufield brings Katrina to earth and makes it real and intimate for those who were not part of it. For those who were, it is a painful book and I can recall wiping the tears several times from my eyes.