As Hurricane Sally made landfall, I remembered on August 30, fifteen years ago, when I realized I needed to actually put together an emergency kit for my family and me. What made me finally do this is seeing New Orleans underwater after Hurricane Katrina and the levees breaking. What a devastating part of our history which just seems to be repeating itself today with COVID-19.
I remember being glued to the TV at the time and thinking how could something like this happen in the United States of America? The President of the United States was turning away help from other nations, but not doing enough to help the people that were stuck. He actually said in an interview on Sept 2, 2005, five days after the hurricane hit, to ABC News: “I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees. There’s a lot of food on its way, a lot of water on the way and there’s a lot of boats and choppers headed that way. It just takes a while to float them.”
Recently I listened to the podcast Floodlines from The Atlantic. Writer Vann R. Newkirk goes into the deep history of hurricanes in New Orleans, interviewing people that were in New Orleans when the storm hit, people who were able to make it out, and various government officials.
A year after Hurricane Katrina hit, Spike Lee made a documentary, When the Levees Broke, for HBO. It is a four-part documentary that interviews the residents, including celebrities that were in New Orleans, state and local politicians, and rescuers including Sean Penn. The first part covers when the hurricane hit and the immediate days following. It concludes with the final part looking at it was like going back to your home.
Several nonfiction books have been written about people’s experiences during the hurricane. The most recent one, The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom, won the 2019 National Book Award. The hurricane is not the main focus of the story, but it is part of the story of the house that she grew up in.
When I first read Dave Eggers’ book Zeitoun, I thought it was fiction. Nobody should have to go through the trauma of Katrina, spend days helping fellow survivors, and then be arrested and detained for unknown reasons. This is exactly what happened to this Muslim American.
Health care rationing has been a part of our current pandemic, hence the need to flatten the curve. Back in 2005, Memorial Hospital in New Orleans also decided who lived and who died. Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital tells the stories of the caregivers at the hospital where there is no power, the temperature is rising, and they are all exhausted. After reading this book, you might wonder if we have learned anything from our past.
Way before Black Lives Matter became a movement, there was a killing of a disabled black man and a black male teenager by New Orleans Police, and they injured four other black people. All of them were unarmed. It happened on the Danziger Bridge and Shots on the Bridge: Police Violence and Cover-Up in the Wake of Katrina tells the story of what happened that day.
I hope that I will never need that emergency kit that I started putting together on August 30, 2005. But I know I have it and I know that history will continue to repeat itself until we learn from our past. You can also be ready for any upcoming disaster by visiting Prepare Yourself on the City of Seattle’s website where it tells you what you need for your emergency kit.
~posted by Pam H.