I became a newspaper reporter because I wanted a job that few other people could do. Little did I know that three weeks into my journalism career, I would be thrust into one of the biggest stories of my generation. We all remember the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast, and how it took days to get aid to the evacuees. But I was just a spectator until four days after the storm when my boss at the Daily Mail turned to me and asked if I wanted to accompany the 130th West Virginia Airlift Wing to New Orleans. I never entered the city, but spent much of the time at Louis Armstrong International Airport. There, I saw things that I could barely describe in words, especially for a rookie reporter.
The response to Katrina was shameful. Each and every level of government failed us during this unimaginable disaster. And I think it impacted us as a nation just as much as the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Rather than blaming a foreign murderer, we had to look at ourselves on how we failed our fellow Americans. The West Virginia airmen whom I accompanied had been to Iraq and Afghanistan, but they could not shake the chilling feeling that a disaster such as this was happening in America. With the national press covering the disaster, it is the perspective of these airmen and their ordeal that I wrote about.
Five years after Katrina, I want to once again share their stories from the week I spent in Louisiana and Texas. Each day, a new story from that award-winning series of my trip to the Gulf Coast will appear on this blog.
Sept. 2, 2005 - C-130s from Yeager fly to flood zone
Sept. 3, 2005 - Air Guard in thick of Katrina rescues
Sept. 4, 2005 - 'It's hard to put into words'
Sept. 5, 2005 - Even hardened C-130 crews jarred
Sept. 6, 2005 - C-130 crew returning after hurricane duty
Sept. 9, 2005 - Witness to calamity
6 months ago