Tonight on HBO there will be a premier of the first two chapters of Spike Lee’s special four-part documentary about Hurricane Katrina called “When the Levee Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts.” You will find me glued to the TV set and hopefully many viewers will be, too. August 29th is the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall into Louisiana and no doubt Spike Lee will examine the horrific social impacts on New Orleans residents and the slowness of the government’s disaster response. Who wasn’t moved by the chaos, human tragedy and miracles as New Orleans was submerged?
I will remember the who, what, where and when of Hurricane Katrina just as vividly as I have recalled other significant historical landmarks in my life such as when Kennedy got shot, the first Iraq War and 9/11.
One of my Hurricane Katrina stories happened many hundreds of miles away from the disaster. My sister and I were in San Diego for our nephew’s wedding between August 27-29th. As avid followers of The Weather Channel, we would rush back to our hotel room in between family gatherings to catch up on Hurricane Katrina’s current position.
We even left the TV on through the night so we could wake up to catch a glimpse of its impending northern movement towards land. It was a huge, huge storm covering almost the whole gulf and it was obviously headed towards New Orleans.
My sister and I are no disaster relief experts, but it was very plain to us that Hurricane Katrina was going to leave a devastating wake. Looking back, it is hard to believe that all the U.S. government agencies and officials, like FEMA head, Michael Brown, were in a “wait and see” mode.
As I waited for my plane on August 29 in the San Diego airport for the return trip home to Colorado, I pleaded with a cocktail lounge bartender to put on The Weather Channel to get an update on the storm’s landing. He refused saying, “What’s the big deal?” I hope he’ll be tuning into HBO this evening and reliving those words.
Open for comment: What is your Hurricane Katrina story?