We all know what happened—well, we knew what the news media was able to report, given that for some time virtually all methods of communication went down. More than 100,000 residents of New Orleans, without personal means of evacuation, struggled to catch buses out of town, and many were left in the Superdome and the Convention Center without sufficient food or water.
The problems were predictable—in fact, in 2004, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) had developed a “Hurricane Pam Exercise” to prepare for the event that became Katrina. But on every level—federal, state, and local—the leaders failed to respond with a proper sense of urgency, and as a result, more than a thousand people died and many, many more lost their homes. Many of us who lived at a distance watched TV in disbelief. Days were passing, and still people were stranded. How could this happen in America in the 21st century?
Gary Rivlin’s compelling account, subtitled After the Flood, sheds more light on what happened in those early days and for years afterward, as residents attempted to not just survive but recover.
It is a national shame that this story ever transpired, but Rivlin tells it well.