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Hurricane Katrina, One Year Later: Democracy Now! Looks Back to the Days After the Disaster

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Today marks the first anniversary of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. The storm was the most powerful and expensive natural disaster to hit the United States and one of the deadliest hurricanes recorded in the country. We play a medley of Democracy Now!’s coverage of the disaster. [includes rush transcript]

Today marks the first anniversary of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. The storm was the most powerful and expensive natural disaster to hit the United States and one of the deadliest hurricanes recorded in the country. Katrina ravaged the Gulf coast of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, displacing some 770,000 residents and destroying over 300,000 homes. More than 1,500 people were killed in New Orleans alone.

In the early morning of August 29th, 2005 Katrina’s storm surge caused several breaches in levees around New Orleans. Eighty percent of the city was subsequently submerged. Images of New Orleans residents piling into the city’s Superdome stadium and convention center pleading for food, water and aid were broadcast around the world.

Today we spend the hour on Hurricane Katrina. We look at issues ranging from race and class to the media’s coverage of the disaster and ongoing struggles in public housing and the criminal justice system.

But first, we go back to a medley of Democracy Now’s coverage of Hurricane Katrina.

  • Excerpts of Democracy Now!’s coverage of Hurricane Katrina.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Today, we spend the hour on Hurricane Katrina. We’ll look at issues ranging from race and class to the media’s coverage of the disaster and ongoing struggles in public housing and the criminal justice system. We’ll be speaking with the editor of the Times-Picayune, author of a new book called Breach of Faith, but first we remember some of Democracy Now!'s coverage of Katrina. Let's go back one year ago to New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.

MAYOR RAY NAGIN: Ladies and gentlemen, I wish I had better news for you, but we are facing a storm that most of us have feared. Every person is hereby ordered to immediately evacuate the city of New Orleans, or if no other alternative is available, to immediately move to one of the facilities within the city that will be designated as a refuge of last resort.

AMY GOODMAN: New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region remain in a state of catastrophe following the devastating Hurricane Katrina. At least 80 percent of New Orleans is underwater. The city has no electricity and little drinkable water. Officials say New Orleans will be uninhabitable for weeks. On Tuesday, two levees broke, flooding areas of the city that had appeared to survive the storm.

MAYOR RAY NAGIN: This is a national disaster. Get every doggone Greyhound bus line in the country and get their asses moving to New Orleans. That’s — they’re thinking small, man, and this is a major, major, major deal.

BILL QUIGLEY: You are talking about tens of thousands of people who are left behind, and those are the sickest, the oldest, poorest, the youngest, the people with disabilities and the like, and the plan was that everybody should leave. Well, you can’t leave if you’re in a hospital. You can’t leave if you’re a nurse. You can’t leave if you are a patient. You can’t leave if you’re in a nursing home. You can’t leave if you don’t have a car.

CROWD: Help! Help! Help! Help!

TAMER EL-GHOBASHY: There are throngs of people, easily in the tens of thousands, maybe forty to fifty thousand people, in my estimation, standing on this plaza trying to get to a very narrow area where they’re being escorted to the buses. I haven’t seen one bus leave yet.

HURRICANE KATRINA SURVIVOR: These babies. Six and eight months. There are people just walking past us.

HURRICANE KATRINA SURVIVOR: No food, no water, no nothing. Whatever we have, we’ve been taking it. That’s the only way we can survive.

HURRICANE KATRINA SURVIVOR: We got the food right here. Let me show you right here! All of it! Look! Right here, look! They won’t give us nothing! Nothing! Look! Look! They won’t give us none. We ain’t drinking no ice water! Nothing!

HURRICANE KATRINA SURVIVOR: This is not about low income, it’s not about rich people, poor people. It’s about people. Nobody wants to hurt anybody in this city. Nobody wants to hurt these people who have these businesses. We need a little air and a little food and water, for God’s sake. That’s it.

HURRICANE KATRINA SURVIVOR: There is nobody in charge. The National Guard, the police, there is nobody. Somebody needs to come take charge and put organization and get these people to safety, to get them clothes, the basic things that they need to live from day to day.

OLIVIA JOHNSON McQUEEN: We heard about people being killed down here. People were saying that bodies were just lying out in the street. They were shooting each other. The military was shooting. One of my neighbors said the military guy shot at him. So that’s what made me not want to come down.

AMY GOODMAN: Federal relief officials have played almost no role. The head of FEMA, Michael Brown, admitted on CNN last night his agency didn’t even know that thousands of hungry refugees were inside the Convention Center. Residents continue to break into stores in search of everything from food and water to guns to luxury items.

HENRY ALEXANDER: Nobody here but us. And we just have to look out for one another. All your politicians, they want to get on TV and talking about feeding this person and feeding that person. We ain’t seen nothing over here yet.

AMY GOODMAN: The White House announced it would have zero tolerance for looters, even for those taking essential items needed to stay alive.

DAMU SMITH: Well, I want zero tolerance for that kind of language being used by leaders of our government to discuss poor people, poor Black people, who are trying to survive under the most desperate, insane circumstances. I want zero tolerance for thousands of our troops being sent to Iraq when we need them here.

KANYE WEST: I hate the way they portray us in the media. If you see a Black family, it says they’re looting. See a white family, it says they’re looking for food… George Bush doesn’t care about Black people.

AMY GOODMAN: In Biloxi, Mississippi, the first federal aid arrived only yesterday, three full days after the storm wiped out entire sections of the city. In smaller towns in Mississippi, help has still not arrived.

TUTI SHEIBAN: We left for the hurricane and came back Monday night, hoping that we could help some people because, I don’t know, looking at the response to this storm, particularly initially, there wasn’t a lot of outside help. So we decided that really it was up to the people of Jefferson Parish to take the parish back.

JOHN HAMILTON: What I saw from the federal government was a grand total of three boats, border patrol agents on three boats: two airboats and one flat-bottom boat. And I saw far more of a response from citizens who had just taken it upon themselves to go and pluck people out of their homes. And they plucked about a dozen out on Saturday.

FLOYD SIMEON: We don’t have any government response here. Everything that’s taken place has taken place by volunteers and citizens in the area. Why aren’t there 50 inflatable boats in the water working a grid making sure all these people are out of here? Why is it just volunteers? That’s the only people you see around.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: FEMA Director Mike Brown is in charge of all federal response and recovery efforts in the field.

Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job!

REPORTER: Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has called for your resignation, and I’m wondering if you have a response to that.

MICHAEL BROWN: The President’s in charge of that, not me.

JUDD LEGUM: Well, right at the top you have Michael Brown, and as you mentioned, he was the Commissioner of Judges at the International Arabian Horse Association. To give you an idea of what he did there, he spent a year investigating whether a breeder performed liposuction on a horse’s rear end.

SCOTT McCLELLAN: This is an attempt by some in this room to engage in finger pointing and blame game, and I’m just not going to do that. I have made it very clear — I have made it very clear, and the President spoke about him last week. And his comments stand in terms of what he said about the great work that they have been doing around the clock, 24 hours a day, to help people on the ground.

AMY GOODMAN: Katrina and its aftermath, one year ago.

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Next story from this daily show

Breach of Faith: Times-Picayune Editor Jed Horne on “Neoconservative” Ray Nagin and “Federal Oppression” in the South

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