Agonizing, in-the-trenches retelling of Hurricane Katrina and her catastrophic consequences.
With masterful precision, Horne, metro editor of New Orleans’ Times-Picayune, offers an insider’s tour through each phase of the August 2005 disaster, from the storm’s first churnings to the final casualty toll, estimated at 1,100 (hundreds still remain missing nine months later). The author’s exhaustively comprehensive account is studded with profiles of southeast Louisiana residents who survived the tempest (barely), despite an ambivalent city bureaucracy that failed to gel in time to prevent the “collapse of social order” after the levees broke. Sparing no detail, Horne’s exhaustive hour-by-hour account beholds a drowned city barren of electricity, potable water, edible food and outside aid, further traumatized by looters, shootings and the bumbling ineptitude of ill-prepared federal agencies like FEMA. Horne recounts the frustration of those healthy enough to undertake the mandated pilgrimage to higher ground, only to be met and shot at by armed policemen who turned them back. Thousands waded through water teeming with poisonous snakes, bacterial microbes and human and animal corpses floating face down. Tempering the pandemonium are the author’s powerful human-interest profiles: the heroic efforts of DSS workers within the stifling Superdome’s putrid conditions, corpse-hunting EMTs, sapped-out news media and Fats Domino, who, though wealthy, still resides in New Orleans’ working-class Lower 9th Ward. The author goes on to cite Katrina as a “man-made disaster” because of its careless handling. Most jarring of all, though, are the conspiracy theories held by the lower-river residents who believe the thunderous sounds heard during the hurricane was dynamite deliberately set to detonate the levee, thus protecting the wealthier white population up-river. Dense chapters of maddening political finger-pointing ensue, delivering an appropriate conclusion to “the multilateral and continuing fiasco that was Katrina.”
A heart-wrenching chronicle of nature’s wrath and the human condition.