Welcome to the KatrinaList Blog site. This new feature of the Katrinalist site allows everyone interested in the project to contribute ideas and it allows me to update you on the progress we are making. I wanted to give you some background on the reason it we created this and the project it involves.
Soon after Hurricane Katrina made its deadly landfall in 2005 it was clear that the term “natural disaster” hardly described what had happened in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Catastrophe is a better word. But how large a catastrophe was it?. How many people died? There are several estimates and they come out around 1000 to 1400 — a very large number compared to other hurricanes in the US. It is even large in comparison to other disasters in the US such as earthquakes.
The number of deaths may be larger still. There is no agreed upon definition of who constitutes a disaster victim. Certainly all those who drowned or were crushed when the storm made landfall and soon after when the levees broke. Others died in the trauma of the event from existing conditions such as heart decease. These are the ones who make up the 1000-1400. But many people died in the weeks and months that followed and there is no agreement on whether they should be counted as disaster victims. Should we count those who committed soon suicide after the storm? Would you count the elderly people dealing with the normal ailments of their age but lost continuity of health care, suffered the stress of dislocation and declined rapidly. Do you count the infants who now die at birth in greater numbers than before the storm because health care for pregnant women has been reduced so much? How many people had their lives shortened because of Katrina?
Currently there is no estimate of the total deaths and so there is no sense of the total impact of Katrina. So I started the Katrinalist web site . One reason was to create an accounting and a type of memorial for those who died as a consequence of Katrina; not just in the awful hours of the storm and the flooding, but in the long and continuing aftermath. People can contribute the names of those who they believe were victims, directly or indirectly and they can describe the person’s life as well. No name is rejected unless there is obvious spam.
The list is important but it tells only a small part of the story of Katrina’s full impact. Over the last year, with Stacy Parker Aab who conducted many oral history interviews after Katrina (http://www.thekatrinaexperience.org) we have been visiting people in New Orleans, Atlanta and Houston to try to learn about the full consequences of the storm, not just in the number who have died, but on the lives of those who survived and continue to try to recover from one of the worst events in national history. Some of those we have had conversations with include:
Joe Cull (Chaplain, New Orleans Police Dept), Mark Cave (oral historian, New Orleans Historic Society), Dr Frank Minyard (Coroner, Orleans Parish), Dr Lawrence Giambelluca (Coroner Plaquemines Parish), Raoult Ratard (Louisiana State Epidemiologist), Sandy Rosenthal (Levees.org), Gary Hargrove (Coroner Harrison county, MS), Joan Brunkard (Center for Disease Control, Atlanta), Marilyn Self (Manager of Disaster Readiness, The Red Cross, Atlanta), Dr Nancy Mock (Tulane), Dr Peter Scharf (Lyola), Michael Moore and colleagues (Houston Mayor’s Office), President and Staff of Kenyon International (body recovery professionals), Sam Howell (Director of the Crime Labs, MS State Medical Examiner).
We have learnt a tremendous amount from these conversations but every one seems to lead to the need for more conversations. It was through one of these conversations recently that we met Joe Cull and found a true ally in our efforts. Joe has started a Facebook Group for the Katrina deceased victims project and it would be wonderful if people could sign on to that group as well.
And I am asking you to contribute names of those you believed to have died as a consequence, direct or indirect of Katrina or to contact people who might have knowledge of deceased victims. If you have already contributed a name it would be appreciated if you could review the information you provided and add any further thoughts you might have about the life of the victims. We know for instance that elderly people are particularly vulnerable but if there were others factors in the person’s life that you think might have caused them to be at particular risk or anything you know of the circumstances surrounding their death that is very important information for us to learn about. Could you also suggest people who we might have further conversations with about the extended impacts of the storm. Please ask those you know who are concerned about the effects of Katrina catastrophe to be part of Katrinalist and let them know what we are doing. We will only succeed if many, many people help.
Best regards, John Mutter
For the Katrinalist project