Three years ago tomorrow, Hurricane Katrina steamed through the Gulf Coast and left a trail of human and environmental suffering that is still largely unhealed. As Gustav eyes the Big Easy this week, I can't help but think back on my time as a New Orleans resident. From 2001-2005, I maintained the naive idea that "the big one" would always miss the city. In 2004 I waited out Hurricane Ivan at Igor's on St. Charles Avenue, sipping Bloody Marys and playing pool.
Katrina was big enough to expose the shoddy engineering and poor planning that plagued southeastern Louisiana three years ago. It's easy to get mad when I think about everything that went wrong, but a book I'm reading now is helping put things into better perspective by acknowledging the countless heroes who helped save people's lives and sanity.
Historian Douglas Brinkley's The Great Deluge is a fantastic piece of non-fiction. I purchased the book when it was originally published in 2006 but only began reading it one month ago on a trip to New Orleans. It's an amazing collection of stories - both noble and nasty - woven together to allow the reader a more complete understanding of how events unfolded and how the important figures contributed (or didn't).
This weekend I plan on tracking Gustav and finishing the 600-page history -- I suggest anyone else interested in learning more about Katrina pick up a copy of their own. Whether or not you have a Bloody Mary while you read is up to you.
[Photo by David Grunfeld, The Times-Picayune]