Irishcoda's Reviews > The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast

The Great Deluge by Douglas Brinkley
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's review
Aug 22, 2007

really liked it
Read in August, 2007

Douglas Brinkley is a historian who happened to be living in the area when Hurricane Katrina came to visit and wreak terror and death and destruction on the Gulf States the last week of August 2005. He may not have checked all his facts (that's a criticism I read elsewhere of the book) but I have to say that The Great Deluge seemed pretty spot on from everything I can remember of the horrifying media coverage.

Some points struck me as being particularly horrible:

1. Worst of all, they knew it could happen. By "they" I mean everyone who whined they had no idea the levees in New Orleans could be breached. All along there have been reports that the levees were inadequate and crumbling and needed fixing. The money that could have been spent on repairing or upgrading the levees went to shipping interests--i.e. dredging and other projects to make more profit. There was even a simulation presented at least a year before Katrina. In the hurricane Pam simulation, New Orleans was flooded out -- basically it was the Katrina scenario. Did anyone pay attention? No!

2. Here's one more worst of all: it could happen again! You'd think we'd have learned from this but nooooooo , New Orleans is in the same situation it was in before! Well, duh! And duh! And duh duh duh!

3. There was never a plan to evacuate the poor and the elderly. There was a "looks good" plan on the internet talking about using buses to get the people out but no one ever intended it should happen. Huh??? And even if they had, by the time Nagin called a mandatory evacuation, it was too late to get all those people out of New Orleans--and there were a LOT of elderly, disabled and/or poor people trapped in New Orleans.

4. There was no food or water or medical supplies at the stadium for the people who had to evacuate there. Why? It's explained but not to my satisfaction!

5. Some hospitals were abandoned and left to fend for themselves! The stories of the courageous doctors and nurses and other personnel who tried to care for their sick and dying patients under the worst dire circumstances made me want to cry. I know that recently a doctor was acquitted of mercy-killing a patient...welll, if you read this book you'll agree with me when I say had I been one of those patients I would have been begging the doctors to end it for me then and there.

6. Nagin "fiddled" while New Orleans drowned. The man just seemed to come totally unglued. This isn't pick-on-Nagin day because President Bush and Governor Blanco made some very serious errors but Nagin hid in a high rise hotel, avoided the evacuees because he was afraid of them, took a week long "vacation" to Houston a week after Katrina and otherwise exhibited some pretty strange behavior.

7. Most of the New Orleans police department left their posts and some of them even stole cars! The rest, heroes all, were treated abominably by citizens and officials alike because the bad apples gave them all a bad name

8. I also had no idea about "the big dump" which just turns my stomach. I don't think there's an excuse for this kind of behavior no matter how bad things get. "The big dump" means that vandals and looters took the time to move their bowels on whatever or where ever they pleased--on desks, in deep fry cookers, in freezers, on equipment, clothes, and so on. Basically the message was supposed to be: "Shit on you." They were even dumping in public in the stadium and in the convention center. What ignorance!

In ten years, a different history will be written. That always happens--a new spin is given to a historic event. I'm sure what happened will be "cleaned up" considerably and all the mistakes will be glossed over. Maybe that's why we don't learn from the past. We are doomed to keep going 'round and 'round.

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