Surviving Katrina

Frankie Gourrier's computer screen glowed bright blue and orange and white with satellite images of the largest hurricane the nineteen-year-old had ever seen. In his Snowden Multicultural Center room, the Kenyon sophomore surfed among news sites, seeking information on Hurricane Katrina. It was Sunday night, August 28, and the category four storm was barreling down on New Orleans, Frankie's hometown. His parents had evacuated to Dallas a few days earlier, but an aunt and uncle remained at a local hospital caring for patients who couldn't be evacuated.

Frankie's cousin, Josh Flood, was glued to television news channels at the Gambier Fire Department, where he is a paramedic. It was his parents who were working at the hospital, where his mother was a nurse and his father a lab technician. The Kenyon junior prayed the storm would prove all the forecasters wrong and come ashore east of the city rather than hit it dead on.

Late into the night the cousins listened for new reports. The winds howled into the microphones of TV reporters, the rain pelted city streets, and the storm's satellite image swirled and swirled. But when they finally went to sleep, Katrina was still off the coast, somewhere between Louisiana and Mississippi.

The nation held its breath alongside Frankie and Josh that night, weighted down with uncertainty and fear. Indeed, when asked to describe the days leading up to August 29 and the weeks and months afterward, those directly affected by Hurricane Katrina tell individually nuanced stories of a disaster familiar to the rest of us through extensive media coverage. What follows is a timeline of events as they unfolded for a few Kenyon alumni and students who call that part of Louisiana home, and for others who responded to calls for help during the crisis. Together, their stories offer insight into an ordeal the country is still working to understand.

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