Gaining a firm grasp on the highly complex, famously fraught aftermath of Hurricane Katrina can seem as tenuous as its victims’ shaky grasp on survival. One man, then Mayor C. Ray Nagin, was the metaphoric eye of the storm. Charged with assessing the forces that swirled around him, the city’s leader strove to maintain formidable calm in the face of the biggest natural and man-made disaster in America’s history. That is, until he simply could not.
Now, Nagin’s long-awaited account, Katrina’s Secrets: Storms after the Storm, lays out the days leading up to and following the storm. At once stirringly elegiac and disarmingly candid, this spellbinding reckoning delivers exacting detail, while boldly exposing secrets that, until now, have been glossed over or spun out. Each hour, Nagin navigated tumultuous political channels, all while survivors clung to rooftops and begged for drinking water. Nagin’s team confronted thousands of calls pleading for rescue; politicos more keen to pose for photos than to pose solutions; broken promises from FEMA; and the violent Superdome; and the controversial acts of some police. When he at last broke down in a radio interview, the world cried with him.
Clear and compassionate, the author illuminates the unparalleled complexity of the city’s immediate and far-reaching response. He charts the magnitude of the efforts undertaken in response to the lives that hung in the balance and the actions taken to restore New Orleans to its rightful luster. Katrina’s Secrets also provides crucial context of race and class to shed new and unnerving light on how the events played out.
Throughout the searing narrative, Nagin’s deep love of his native city shines through like a beacon in the treacherous, storm-tossed night. Any reader dumbfounded by the fallout of Katrina will cling to every graceful, gutsy page of this heartbreaking ode to a place like no other, and its breathtaking comeback. Katrina’s Secrets is certain to give ample pause for thought—and cause to act.