Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans rather recently (three years ago this week), so I’m sure readers remember it well.
Nonetheless — as Hurricane Gustav closes in on Louisiana — I thought I would repost some Katrina photographs I culled from Yahoo.com at the time. My goal, when I first posted the photographs, was to put a human face on the tragedy.
The Todd family takes shelter in their laundry room
Meridian, Louisiana (AFP/Getty Images/Marianne Todd)
Bay St. Louis Emergency Management Agency volunteer crews rescue the Taylor family from the roof of their SUV, which became trapped on US 90 due to flooding.
Bay St. Louis, Mississippi (AP Photo/Ben Sklar)
Alex Curtis, 12
Biloxi, Mississippi (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Evelyn Turner cries alongside the body of her husband, Xavier Bowie, after he died in New Orleans, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2005. Bowie and Turner had decided to ride out Hurricane Katrina when they could not find a way to leave the city. Bowie, who had lung cancer, died when he ran out of oxygen.
(AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Sheila Dixon of New Orleans weeps as she clutches her 18-month-old daughter Emily as they sit on the side of Interstate-10 after being airlifted out of flood-besieged New Orleans on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2005. Dixon wept uncontrollably, saying that everything she had was lost and she had no idea where she was being taken.
(AP Photo/Dave Martin)
Milvertha Hendricks, 84, waits in the rain with other flood victims outside the convention center in New Orleans, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2005.
(AP Photo/Eric Gay)
I hope I’m not exploiting human suffering to make a political point here. But George W. Bush and John McCain are rushing down to Louisiana this week to show that they’re on the job. Americans shouldn’t let them off so lightly.
Newsweek recalls that McCain and Bush held a joint photo op on the day Katrina landed in 2005. They were marking McCain’s birthday:
As the deadly storm system moved ashore almost three years ago, sending fatal floods through New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, Bush was in Phoenix, on a tour aimed at boosting participation in what was then the administration’s new Medicare prescription-drug plan. McCain had opposed the bill, but showed up to meet Bush at the airport anyway, along with other Arizona lawmakers.
It was Aug. 29, McCain’s 69th birthday, and on the tarmac, Bush presented his old political rival with a cake. The two posed, holding the cake up for cameras, and within seconds, went their separate ways. The cake, melting in the 110-degree Arizona heat, was left behind, uneaten.
To briefly review the facts:
In 2005, the Federal Emergency Management Agency failed utterly in the discharge of its responsibilities, although the agency had received adequate notice to prepare for the calamity. Time reported that the head of FEMA, Michael Brown, had been appointed by President Bush even though Brown was woefully underqualified for the job.
Meanwhile, the President was reluctant to cut short his vacation:
- The levee broke late Monday morning;
- on Tuesday, President Bush remained on vacation (though he found time for another photo op, this time holding a guitar with country music artist Mark Willis) ;
- on Wednesday, the President flew over New Orleans, 2,500 feet above the devastation;
- later the same day, the President proceeded to give what the New York Times described as one of the worst speeches of his life,
… given the level of national distress and the need for words of consolation and wisdom. In what seems to be a ritual in this administration, the president appeared a day later than he was needed. He then read an address of a quality more appropriate for an Arbor Day celebration: a long laundry list of pounds of ice, generators and blankets delivered to the stricken Gulf Coast. He advised the public that anybody who wanted to help should send cash, grinned, and promised that everything would work out in the end.
Thus giving rise to this classic photo (photoshopped, of course).