Remembering Hurricane Katrina: Portraits of Tragic Loss

Remembering Hurricane Katrina: Portraits of Tragic Loss

Photography by: Chris Jordan

Today, the mayors and governors along the Gulf Coast issued dire warnings about Hurricane Isaac. Seven years ago, Katrina slammed into New Orleans on Aug. 29, 2005, as a strong Category 3 hurricane with sustained winds of 125 mph. More than 1,800 people were killed, most of them in Louisiana. On Tuesday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Isaac had become a Category 1 hurricane with winds of 75 mph, which could get stronger by the time it’s expected to reach the swampy coast of southeast Louisiana. The latest projections showed Isaac making landfall at or near New Orleans late Tuesday or early Wednesday.

This week marks the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s ravages of New Orleans, a city that not long ago appeared to be completely lost. Only seven years have passed since rotting corpses were floating through the city’s streets, since hundreds of thousands of survivors sat in hotel rooms and shelters and the homes of relatives, finding out from news coverage that they had been forced to join the ranks of the homeless. The unbelievable devastation of New Orleans is almost beyond human comprehension. The virtually complete destruction of the entire city by Hurricane Katrina, the loss of huge numbers of lives, the ruination of the property and lives of so many, especially the poor and disadvantaged, is a tragedy of historically monumental proportions.

Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast with devastating force at daybreak on Aug. 29, 2005, pounding an area that included the fabled city of New Orleans and wreaking large-scale damages on neighboring Mississippi. In all, more than 1,700 people were killed and hundreds of thousands of others were displaced. Packing a terrifying punch of 145-mile-an-hour winds when it made landfall, the category-4 storm left more than a million people in three states without power and submerged highways even hundreds of miles from its center. The hurricane’s storm surge pushed a 29-foot wall of water ashore when the hurricane struck the Gulf Coast, which was the highest level ever measured in the United States. Levees failed in New Orleans, resulting in political and social upheavals that continue a half decade later.

Damage, costing billions of dollars, has made Katrina one of the costliest storms on record. In New Orleans, floodwaters from the breached levee rose to rooftops in the poorest neighborhoods, and in many areas residents were rescued from roofs of homes that had become uninhabitable. The hurricane’s roaring winds stripped 15-foot sections off the roof of the Superdome, where as many as 10,000 city residents had been forced to take shelter. An exodus of hundreds of thousands left the city, many becoming refugees, finding shelter with nearby relatives or restarting their lives in states as far away as Massachusetts and Utah.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper is maintaining detailed Hurricane Katrina Anniversary coverage, as well as an extensive archive of historical news coverage and photographs about Katrina, which can be accessed here.

After Hurricane Katrina: The Ghost Town

A Photographic Essay: In the Wake of Katrina

Slide Show: A Remembrance of Katrina’s Wake/Portraits of Tragic Loss

(Please Click Image to View Slide Show)

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Remembering the Heroes: The Flight 93 National Memorial

Remembering the Heroes: The Flight 93 National Memorial

On Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, the U.S. came under attack when four commercial airliners were hijacked and used to strike targets on the ground. Three of the planes hijacked by al-Qaeda on that day hit their high-profile targets: the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Nearly 3,000 people tragically lost their lives. Because of the actions of the 40 passengers and crew aboard Flight 93, who fought back against their hijackers, an intended attack on the U.S. Capitol was thwarted.

Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Vice-President Biden, state officials, bereaved relatives, artists and members of the public gathered Saturday to open a 1,500-acre national park on the outskirts of Shanksville (PA) that includes the partially completed Flight 93 National Memorial, in honor of the 40 passengers and crew members who died on United Airlines Flight 93.

The dedication of the memorial on Saturday, provided an opportunity for the two former presidents to appeal for unity. Neither George W. Bush nor Bill Clinton specifically mentioned the fractured state of relations in Washington. But their sharing of a stage and their comments here in the field where Flight 93 slammed into the ground stood in sharp contrast to the current state of divisive political discord.

Dedication of the New Shanksville Memorial

Former President Bill Clinton: Dedication of The Flight 93 National Memorial

The Flight 93 National Memorial in The Making

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Yellow Cake: A Modern Parable of Terrorism and Devastating War

Yellow Cake: A Modern Parable of Terrorism and Devastating War

Yellow Cake is a short animated film by the award-winning Canadian animator Nick Cross.  Cross explains that he got the idea for the film in 2003, in light of speculation during the Bush administration that Iraq was buying uranium powder called “Yellow Cake.”  Yellow Cake Uranium was one of the Weapons of Mass Destruction that Iraq allegedly possessed.  Cross’s fantastic animated epic becomes a modern parable of terrorism and catastrophic war, a lamentable tragedy featuring geopolitical bullying, social unrest and worker revolt. In the end, as with most revolutions, the revolt is both crushed by foreign intervention and corrupted from the inside until it becomes as evil as the regime the workers had originally fought.

Yellow Cake initially lures the viewer into a tale of pleasant mirth, filled with adorable blue creatures who spend all day baking and then eating their own  exquisitely delicious yellow cakes.  However, by the end of the film the small town of happy little bakers has been driven to terrorism by the greed of their leader and cake-hungry fat cats, resulting in the town’s ultimate catastrophic destruction.  It seems that no matter what they do, the oppressed have no hope left.

Yellow Cake: A Modern Parable of Terrorism and Devastating War

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Bush’s Farewell Address: Delusional From Beginning To End

Bush’s Farewell Address: Delusional From Beginning To End

Arianna Huffington Talks With Rachel Maddow About Bush’s Farewell Address: “Bush Was Delusional From The Beginning To The Very End!!

Arianna Huffington appeared on MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow” show Thursday night to discuss President Bush’s farewell address to the nation, which took place earlier last evening. When asked by Maddow what the big headline from the speech was, Arianna suggested paraphrasing Paul Simon’s: “Still Delusional After All These Years!

President Bush: Delusional From Beginning To End

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Photos of the Day: The Art of the Grotesque

Kris Kuksi in His Kansas Art Studio

Kris Kuksi: The Art of the Grotesque

Kris Kuksi is a Kansas artist who quite obviously has an extremely strong distaste for the stereotypical images of American life and pop culture, feeling that he has instead always belonged to the “Old World.” His “grotesque” works of art are about a new wilderness, refined and elevated, visualized as a cultivation emerging from the corrupt and demoralized fall of modern-day society. Kuksi’s art conjures up places where new beginnings, new wars, new philosophies, and new endings exist.

Kuksi feels that in the world today, much of mankind is too often comprised of merely frivolous and fragile beings driven primarily by greed and materialism. His twisted and distorted art is aimed at exposing the fallacies of contemporary man, which he hopes might suggest a new order of awareness to the viewer. Kuksi’s work has received several awards and prizes and has been featured in over 100 exhibitions in galleries and museums worldwide, including at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. His art can also be seen in a number of international art magazines, book covers and theatrical posters. Kris’ art is featured in both public and private collections in the United States, Europe and Australia.

Photos of the Day: The Art of the Grotesque

Artistic Works by: Kris Kuksi

Kris Kuski: The Art of the Grotesque

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President-elect Obama Arrives at the White House

President-elect Obama and Michelle Obama arrived at the White House for their first visit since Obama’s landslide election victory.  President Bush and first lady Laura Bush were at the South Portico of the White House to greet the Obamas on a sunny fall day with moderate temperatures and colorful autumn leaves.

The Obamas’ arrival had the look of a foreign head-of-state state visit.  The Obamas were driven up to the South Portico, where they were welcomed by the Bushes and escorted into the Executive Mansion that they’ll call home in a little more than two months.  Just a couple moments later, Bush and Obama were seen walking along the White House Collonade to the Oval Office.

President-elect Obama Arrives at the White House

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Standard Operating Procedure: People Behind the Abu Ghraib Abuse

Standard Operating Procedure: The People Behind the Abu Ghraib Abuse

Academy Award winner and documentary filmmaker Errol Morris’s Standard Operating Procedure is an inquiry into the prisoner torture and abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib prison. It is, predictably, a very bleak and depressing movie. But the very scale of Standard Operating Procedure, which in its expensive-looking production values, special effects and elaborately choreographed re-enactments, shows that Errol Morris has grown weary of working in the dimly lit outer fringes of motion picture productions, to which documentary filmmakers are still too often relegated.

Standard Operating Procedure is a big, provocative and disturbing work, although what makes it most provocative is that its greatest ambitions are for its own visual style. In sweeping strokes, the documentary addresses many of the issues that abound when government-authorized torture is accompanied by that very government’s public denial of responsibility, leaving young male and female soldiers bereft of anything except their own poorly-informed tactics.

Morris explains that a major force driving the project was the profusion of photographs that were taken by the American soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison that document, in horrifyingly graphic detail, the prisoner abuse that those very soldiers helped to perpetuate. Morris and his documentary crew “set out to examine the context of these photographs,” attempting to uncover what had happened within the accepted narrative about the torture. For him the photographs functioned as both an exposé and a cover-up because while they revealed the horror, they also “convinced journalists and readers they had seen everything.”

Morris wasn’t convinced that he had seen everything. He made this movie, which at its finest and most focussed, tries to investigate how seeing both does and does not evolve into understanding. To that end, Morris employed two familiar documentary strategies: direct-address interviews and re-enactments in which actors re-enact actual historical events. As a tactic, the interviews with some of the soldiers who actually carried out the torture and abuse at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison could have enabled the documentary’s subjects to speak for themselves, to raise their own voices.

Unfortunately, as the film progresses, it becomes clear that even when those subjects are able to speak from the vantage point of looking back in retrospect, they are only capable of providing, or willing to provide, anything more than defensive testimonies on their own behalves.

It is testimony to a government’s pervasive moral vacuum.

Standard Operating Procedure: The People Behind the Abuse

Abu Ghraib Iraq Prison Abuses, 2003

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