The Great Deluge, by Douglas Brinkley

Book 29

I have read several first person narratives of the Hurricane Katrina experience.  The Great Deluge is the closest thing to a definitive history.

Really.  Well. Done.

Many of the stories I had heard before – Fats Domino, the SPCA, the retirement home.  There were tons more.  While the focus is primarily on New Orleans, Brinkley does not ignore the rest of the Gulf Coast.

The most shocking thing to me was the politics.  We have all heard the debates about whether the government failures were carelessness linked to racism (I prefer to think it was carelessness linked to socioeconomic prejudices).  What I hadn’t understood was how very much of it was playing politics.  People who didn’t help other people unless they could take credit for it.  People who didn’t follow advice because it came from the wrong side of the aisle.

Quick note:  Apparently, the entire Bush Administration was on vacation that week. The one that willingly cut it short was Condi Rice, and that was only after she attended a Broadway show and was booed by the audience.

I don’t even want to talk about police.

There was an interesting illustration of the “looting” – both the people taking necessary supplies and those taking electronics and other luxuries.  (OK, one thing about the cops – apparently they were taking Cadillacs.)  The worst part of this was the people that were not only stealing, but trashing the stores.  A common phenomenon was taking a dump in conspicuous places.

There wasn’t much follow up on The Aftermath, as it took 700+ pages to cover that one week.  Of course, there is some question about when the history book can be closed on this one.  But Brinkley (a New Orleans resident who evacuated with his family when there was time to evacuate) came as close to an objective view as one possibly could.  This is worth the effort.

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