oral history

St. Bernard Fire Department via The Historic New Orleans Collection

This month, as part of WWNO's ongoing Katrina 10 coverage, we bring you The Katrina Files: Reflections from First Responders. This series is based on oral histories conducted by The Historic New Orleans Collection and hosted by Paul Maassen.

StoryCorps

In the immediate days after Hurricane Katrina, Ben Rongey’s father gave him a special pass which gave him full access to Jefferson Parish. At the time he was a high school senior and acted accordingly: he called his friend Wyatt Higgins so they could explore the city together.

They smooth-talked a National Guardsman, crossed into Orleans Parish, and headed for Wyatt’s house. Flood waters prevented them from driving into the Gentilly neighborhood, so they parked the car and walked the final trek.

Lisa Richardson, left, is the Director of Research & Evaluation at the Institute of Women & Ethnic Studies. Denese Shervington, right, is its President & CEO.
StoryCorps

For a couple of years after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans’ narrative belonged to the people who endured the storm and those who helped rebuild after it. But as time went on and the city recovered, things changed. New demographics emerged and people started talking about “the new New Orleans.”

These changes left many people, including psychiatrist Denese Shervington and urban anthropologist Lisa Richardson, wondering about the city’s new identity and their place in it.

DMAT-CA6, via the Historic New Orleans Collection

This month, as part of WWNO's ongoing Katrina 10 coverage, we bring you The Katrina Files: Reflections from First Responders. This series is based on oral histories conducted by The Historic New Orleans Collection and hosted by Paul Maassen.

Lillie Cotlon, left, encouraged her son, Burnell, to quit his job at Family Dollar and start his own business in their neighborhood.
StoryCorps

New Orleanians encountered one obstacle after another as they rebuilt their city after Katrina. Urban food access became a problem for many neighborhoods, especially those with low income.

Lower 9th Ward resident Burnell Cotlan saw this problem troubling his community, so he built The Lower 9th Ward Market. His mother, Lillie, helped him along the way. 

Robert McCoy, Captain, New Orleans Fire Department, recalls rescuing a man trapped in his flooded home.

Interview by Mark Cave for The Historic New Orleans Collection, December 29, 2005.

The Katrina Files feature the perspectives of first responders who worked in New Orleans in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Gordon Cagnolatti, District Chief, New Orleans Fire Department, discusses the creation of the West Bank compound — which came to be known as the “Katrina Hilton” — where the NOFD regrouped after the flood waters rose.

Interview by Mark Cave for The Historic New Orleans Collection, January 24, 2006.

LDWF, Via Historic New Orleans Collection

This month, as part of WWNO's ongoing Katrina+10 coverage, we bring you The Katrina Files: Reflections of First Responders — selections from oral histories conducted by The Historic New Orleans Collection and hosted by Paul Maassen.

Christian and Grace Wilson Birch began dating in the summer of 2008 and were married in the fall of 2013.
Grace Wilson Birch

After New Orleans flooded in 2005, documentary filmmakers flocked to the city to tell its story. The city was still getting back on its feet when a film crew spoke with Grace Wilson Birch, a communication associate for the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation.

When the movie was finally released, Grace was depicted as being in the dark about economic disparities in New Orleans. She remembers watching the film reluctantly with Christian Birch, her boyfriend at the time.

Thomas Howley, Captain, New Orleans Fire Department, on safety measures taken during search and rescue missions.

Interview by Mark Cave for The Historic New Orleans Collection, April 28, 2006.

The Katrina Files feature the perspectives of first responders who worked in New Orleans in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

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