Katrina and The Flood, We Watched Everything Float Away

NEW ORLEANS (Aug. 29, 2005) - Flooded roadways can be seen as the Coast Guard conducts initial Hurricane Katrina damage assessment overflights here today.  U.S. Coast Guard photograph by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kyle Niemi Podcast memories of Katrina and the flood, from Louisiana State University’s Oral History Program. This is the second in the Katrina retrospective, using oral histories.

The MP3 audio podcast (playable right in the browser window) contains numerous clips from interviewees.

It was through listening to this podcast that I learned of the Floodwall exhibit and oral history that I wrote about in the previous post.

NOAA photo of New Orleans. Taken September 11, 2005 (Stick through the first minute of audio of the recording—unfortunately, the first 50 seconds of the 27-minute recording is boomy with that icky metallic note of excessive audio compression. It seriously gets much, much better after that. I nearly clicked away a few seconds in, thinking the entire recording would be like the first part, but I was very glad I stuck out the first minute.)

Some highlights from the podcast, with recollections of Katrina:

How memories of Hurricane Betsy (1965) helped one person decide what, exactly, to take to the attic once the flood entered her house.

NEW ORLEANS - (Sept. 4, 2005)--A Coast Guard search and rescue crew from a St. Louis, Mo., based Disaster Area Response Team drags their skiff to a launching point on South Carrollton Avenue in New Oreans to look for people in distress.   USCG photo by PA3 L.F. Chambers

A New Orleans coroner describes the work of examing all of the bodies of those who died in the floods.

“People had been laying in the water—most of them—for two weeks. And in hot houses, in the attics, on the roofs. You know, the deterioration was tremendous. …I did see one of my dearest friends. I didn’t plan to see him—he just popped up. That was hard.”

NOAA photo of flooded New Orleans Two accounts of professional caregivers—a nurse and a geriatric home attendant—How people who worked in hospital and eldercare managed through the flood and evacuation from the city. These two stories contain people pulling a thousand dollars in cash out of their backpacks, and the miraculous appearance of ice.

I never though ice would be such a thrill. But we were so happy to get ice. And they had propane, because we needed propane to run the things for the kitchen, you know. And they showed up with all of that.  Don’t ever think that one person can’t make a difference in this world.

LSU’s T Harry Williams Center for Oral History, which administers this project, is casting an extremely wide net to collect peoples stories about the storm, the flood, and the aftermath.

With so many people impacted by the storm and so many perspectives on the disaster and its aftermath, Jennifer Abraham, the center’s director, is taking a community-based strategy to create the central point for first-hand accounts of Hurricane Katrina.

Abraham is collaborating with community groups in parishes across Southeast Louisiana to go into the field and collect personal perspectives from those affected by the storm. The arrangement is simple: the T. Harry Williams Center provides training and equipment for interviewers, and in return, receives the stories collected for inclusion in the main project.

“The advantage of collaborating with community groups is they are often driven by their own ideas and their own motivations to document,” said Abraham, “They have a personal stake in documenting the lives of people who were affected, the neighborhoods that were affected, and in not only showing them to Louisianans, but showing them to the world.” [Read More]

NOAA Photo. Views of inundated areas in New Orleans following breaking of the levees surrounding the city as the result of Hurricane Katrina. September 11, 2005

Photos from NOAA and US Coast Guard. The Coast Guard did an astonishing job rescuing people. Next time, oral histories of that rescue effort.

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Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on September 02, 2010 in • HistoryOral History Projects
1 CommentsPermalink

« Previous Katrina and The Flood, 5 years later: Floodwall | Preparing Mama to be an Interviewer Next »


Such an important time to document.  Thanks for sharing.

Liz  on 09/15  at  02:46 PM

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