Yes, I was one of those writers, relying on the work of others and government information to write a story
about the flood and the levees. After receiving mail from a citizen group about the issue, and getting another perspective, I began my journey to learn more about what happened before and after the flood, to determine fact from fiction. What I found was earnest writers who implied that victims were in part to blame for their losses, some of which was done unwittingly, but relied on records that may have had agendas to cover up inequities and half truths. What I also found was a more accurate appraisal from citizenry whose investigation has been ongoing out of a need to ensure that what happened to New Orleans doesn't happen again.
This investigative series relies upon records and accounts of citizens who experienced the flood, who lived near the levees and who have been hurt by misinformation. Misinformation led to the feeling that if people knew the levees were unsound, then why didn't they leave. That makes the people, not the government nor the Army Corps of Engineers, nor the planners, culpable. Instead the finger of blame has been pointed towards assumed ignorance of citizens who lived their lives in both faith and knowledge that floods might happen but the levees would hold. They were built, they believed, as a fortress of protection for a great city.
I now have received material from a group oriented to studying and producing information about the levees. The data within this material gives somewhat different information than that provided even by the Times Picayune
and major books on the subject of Hurricane Katrina because it relies on testimonies and information from those affected by the floods and from their investigations.
The people of New Orleans are grieved because they haven't been given a voice to declare their concern about the levees and the lies. So this series will examine what happened and then look at what has been and needs to be done about the levees for New Orleans to recover and for its citizens to receive some dignity from truth. These people call for relief that can come from getting out of the shame of blame to a national effort to get behind the reconstruction of what was once the crown jewel of the State of Louisiana economy and one of the nation's most unique, historical and interesting places.
I have been on a journey for some weeks to learn about the levees since I initially wrote about the money received from the Bush Administration's decisions and the agreement to finally fix things. I said that the levees broke, and the people knew. I was wrong about that, or incomplete at best, and now recognize that the people of New Orleans deserve better than I produced or the books that have appeared about the floods that have relied upon incorrect or incomplete information. I have carefully sifted through the maze of government information, misinformation and just plain nonsense to want to paint an honest picture, I hope, of who did what and where to whom to cause one of the greatest of the nation's disasters.
The levees, you see, broke through;
and that was a surprise to the people of New Orleans who instead considered that floods might occur through topping or through rain sweeping the countryside, but lived in anticipation that their homes and lives would be protected when in fact the city was destroyed because of levee construction problems unanticipated by those who lived there and believed they would be safe.
Thanks to Sandy Rosenthal, a New Orleans citizen, who in earnest has guided me through the maze of material to bring to readers some light on the subject of the levees and the consequences to the innocents of the city of New Orleans and who, in her concern and interest in the truth, brought new facts to my attention.
Part II deals with what was known about the levees before the flood and how people planned in response to what they were told that led to the devastation and continues on Tuesday, March 16.