BOOK REVIEW: THE GREAT DELUGE
Appearing on the market a scant eight months after the disastrous hurricane dubbed Katrina hit the Gulf Coast of the US, THe GREAT DELUGE is a masterful achievment. Written by a history professor at Tulane who himself is a resident of New Orleans, the book features nearly 50 pages of footnotes detailing dozens and dozens of interviews. While research assistants combed TV and radio transcripts and studied newspaper accounts, Brinkley himself conducted all the interviews. When the reader stops to consider that he and his family lived as evacuees for much of the research and writing time, the incredible accomplishment of this book becomes apparent.
Tellingly, Brinkley begins his account with the story of the Louisiana SPCA, which four days before the storm hit the city safely evacuated all abandoned animals in its care to safety in Texas. He moves on to interviews with governmental officials and law enforcement personnel of several small parishes near New Orleans which accomplished the same for their residents.
These short summaries at the beginning of the book stand in stark and terrible contrast to what follows for the residents of New Orleans. With interviews with those who were on the scene both in positions of authority and as ordinary residents, Brinkley fleshes out what many of us have already read in newspapers and absorbed from the broadcast media. The number of New Orleans and Louisiana authority figures who survive his scrutiny to apear worthy of respect is very small indeed. Federal agencies don't fare well either (now there's an understatement!), with the exception of the US Coast Guard which was on the scene within hours assisting in evacuations city wide.
The showdown near the end of that terrible week between Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco and President George W Bush is in the classic tradition of a Frank Capra movie. Eventually Bush must give way to Blanco's determination to retain her authority.
THE GREAT DELUGE is not a pleasant read by any stretch of the imagination. Horrendous insults to body, mind and spirit were suffered by thousands whose only contribution to their plight was to be poor. We can only hope that specific changes with be made to US disaster relief policy so that an outrage of this magnitude will never happen again.
REVIEWED BY WOODSTOCK
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