This is the chronicle of an unfolding catastrophe, as told by the victims of Hurricane Katrina, the bureaucrats, the rescuers and, of course, the politicians.
“It appears that the money has been moved in the president’s budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that’s the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can’t be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us.” –Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, quoted in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, June 8, 2004.
“I want the folks there on our Gulf Coast to know that the federal government is prepared to help you when the storm passes.” –President Bush, Monday, August 29
“It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed.” –House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Wednesday, August 31
“Flood control has been a priority of this Administration from day one.” –White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, Thursday, September 1
“I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees.” –President Bush, Thursday, September 1
“The good news is…that out of this chaos is going to come a fantastic Gulf Coast…. Out of the rubble of Trent Lott’s house–he’s lost his entire house–there’s going to be a fantastic house. And I’m looking forward to sitting on the porch.” –President Bush, Friday, September 2
“CATASTROPHIC: Storm Surge Swamps 9th Ward, St. Bernard; Lakeview Levee Breach Threatens to Inundate City” –Banner headline, New Orleans Times-Picayune, Tuesday, August 30
“I remember on Tuesday morning picking up newspapers and I saw headlines, ‘New Orleans Dodged the Bullet.'” –Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, Sunday, September 4
“The guy who runs this building I’m in, emergency management…his mother was trapped in St. Bernard nursing home. And every day she called him and said, ‘Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, Mama. Somebody’s coming to get you. Somebody’s coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Friday.’ And she drowned Friday night. [Crying] And she drowned Friday night.” –Aaron Broussard, president of Jefferson Parish, Sunday, September 4
“Some people chose not to obey that [mandatory evacuation] order. That was a mistake on their part.” –Michael Chertoff, Friday, September 2
“The federal government did not even know about the convention center people until today…. Now is not the time to be blaming.” –FEMA director Michael Brown, Thursday, September 1, twenty-four hours after news reports that 20,000 people were stranded at the convention center