Eleven Years After Katrina, What Lessons Can We Learn Before the Next Disaster Strikes?
Soon after the levees collapsed and Lake Pontchartrain spilled out over 80 percent of New Orleans—with thousands still stranded on their rooftops or trapped in their attics—author and playwright John Biguenet penned an essay that would lead to a series of columns on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in the New York Times. He’d evacuated the city before Katrina hit and would return again just weeks later. In the meantime, however, he watched from afar as his hometown rotted in the catastrophic floodwaters.
“For someone whose family has lived in New Orleans since the 18th century, who grew up there speaking the patois into which locals still fall among themselves, who takes his coffee with chicory and his jambalaya with cayenne, only one word encompasses my sense of displacement, loss, and homesickness as we made our way through America this past month,” he wrote in September 2005. “Exile.”
Currently chair of the English Department at Loyola University in New Orleans, Biguenet is the author of ten books including The Torturer’s Apprentice, a collection of short stories, and Oyster, a novel set in Plaquemines Parish in 1957, as well as numerous plays, including his most recent collection, The Rising Water Trilogy, a direct response to the flood and its aftermath. Upon this 11th anniversary of the levee breaches, Biguenet reflects on the lingering effects, how the city’s creative community battled against the onslaught of misinformation, and the country’s response to his defense of New Orleans.