Photo by Frank J. Methe, Clarion Herald
IN AUGUST 2005, various parts of the southern United States were hit by a total of five
hurricanes. One of those will live in infamy as the costliest and among the deadliest hurricanes
in U.S. history.
Hurricane Katrina made landfall for a second time on August 29, 2005, as a Category 3
hurricane. A week before, it had crossed southern Florida, killing 14 people, before regaining
strength in the Gulf of Mexico. Due to its size, it brought devastation to over 100 miles
of coastline from Alabama to Mississippi to Louisiana. Much of the destruction came from
flooding brought on by storm surges, some of which reached 30 feet high. In New Orleans
those surges overran and broke down the city’s levee system, leaving 80 percent of the
city under 12-15 feet of water.
Three weeks later, Hurricane Rita delivered a second blow to the region, hitting just
west of where Hurricane Katrina made landfall and compounding an already desperate situation.
The destruction was staggering—over 1,800 dead, hundreds of thousands more displaced and
at least $75 billion in damage. And even those numbers are a best-guess estimate and may
worsen over time. As of May 2006, 705 people still remain categorized as missing in Louisiana.
This past April, three assistant editors of this magazine—John Feister, Christopher Heffron
and I—traveled to New Orleans to witness the destruction firsthand and try to provide a
snapshot of life after Katrina. While there we remained aware, however, that this was just
one area affected. During our three days in the city, we witnessed and heard stories of
faith, hope and rebuilding. In this special section, we offer those stories.
Christopher Heffron has also written an editorial based
on his experiences in New Orleans.