Featured Oral Histories

This page contains our Featured Oral Histories. These oral histories cover the time interval between the first announcement that a hurricane was coming to the time the respondent was interviewed in January – March 2006. To listen to a file, click on the ID number and the audio will play in your default media player or in your web browser.

The listener may notice that sound quality, volume, and clarity vary from one recorded oral history to the next. These recordings have been collected from Hurricane Katrina Community Advisory Group members who were speaking on phone lines that varied in signal strength as well as in background noise. The digital recording system used to capture the oral histories was sensitive to sound level and automatically adjusted recording volume when voice signals were weak. This sometimes resulted in background noise coming through strongly on the recordings. No attempt was made to filter out noises or distortions, as we want listeners to hear the histories exactly as they were told during the interviews.

Click here to view our Oral History Archive where we have over 350 audio files.

Featured Oral Histories

000382: This respondent was staying with friends at the time of the hurricane. She decided not to evacuate. She feels fortunate because, in her opinion, she was was not too badly affected by the storm. At the time of the interview, she explained that one of her biggest frustrations is dealing with her insurance company. She states that “it will never be normal here again.”

400793: Another respondent explains that during the storm she lost family members and is continuing to have problems with her insurance company. However, she finds that she is much better off than many others and is assisting victims of the hurricane.

404506: Initially, this respondent's family was reluctant to evacuate but, along with several family members, he decided to go to his daughter’s home in Nashville. After several days without any news about his home, a friend called to let him know that his home had been severely damaged. When he finally was able to go home, he found that his house was still standing. He discusses why he is grateful for the assistance that the Red Cross provided. He also explains his frustrations with his insurance company and FEMA. He has been staying in a FEMA trailer and is still not sure if he and his family are going to stay where they are or move elsewhere. He still finds himself lucky when compared to what others went through.

404675: This respondent evacuated the Sunday before the storm arrived. He discusses the difficulties of evacuating, such as traffic, not being able to find a hotel room, and having a pet pass away. Several days after the hurricane, he was told that he could go back home. Due to the lack of availability of gas, he could not make the trip at that time. When he did make it home he found a lot of damage but now feels that his life is pretty much “back to normal.” He and his family are planning on moving from Louisiana.

406393: One respondent's town was not required to evacuate so she stayed at home. She lives near the interstate and describes what she was able to see from her home. Her house had some water damage but no flooding. She explains that tens of thousands of evacuees came to her town and she discusses the difficulties the town faced since they were not equipped to handle the influx of people.

414132: This elderly respondent was reluctant to evacuate, but did leave her home when evacuation became mandatory. She and her husband stayed in a Louisiana hotel for a few days. Before going back home, she called the Louisiana State Troopers who informed her that she could go back to her home. However, the freeway was blocked off so she could not get to her house. She then drove to her son's home where she applied for FEMA assistance. She soon went to her daughter's home in Houston and applied for food stamps. However, when she was able to go back home, she had trouble receiving assistance. She is very worried about her future, since she will not be able to pay bills. She asks, "What am I to do?"

6003932: On the Sunday before the hurricane arrived, this respondent evacuated to the hospital where her husband works. The day before leaving their home, they boarded up the house and made arrangements for her pets to evacuate with neighbors. She explains the difficulties that they encountered when trying to evacuate the patients and about how they had to send guards with the pharmacy technicians when they went on their runs. When the hospital administration told everyone to evacuate immediately due to the violence and the flooding, she saw looting, was fearful of being car-jacked, and lost the caravan that she was traveling with. She ended up going to Beaumont, Texas for a few days before going to Mississippi. In September, she came home and found $20,000 worth of damage. She continues to describe the destruction and the clean-up of her home, neighborhood, and surrounding towns.

600519: Another respondent evacuated to her daughter's home in Atlanta, where 19 hurricane evacuees were staying, before the storm arrived. She found out that her house was destroyed. At the time of the interview, she has not returned to Louisiana, is in the process of having her property demolished, and is applying for loans and looking into available assistance for rebuilding since her property was not insured. She currently is unemployed since the hospital where she worked is not going to be rebuilt. She is concerned about when the levees are going to be renovated. She also states that she feels as if the victims of Katrina are being treated disrespectfully by both the media and the government.

600616: This respondent worked at a hotel in downtown New Orleans. 800 people checked into the hotel the day before the storm. She volunteered to work and stay there in exchange for a room for her and her children and another room for her parents. She stayed at the hotel until the Wednesday after the storm and moved to a hotel in Lafayette. When she came back, she house- sat for friends and then stayed and worked at the Hilton. Her home received about a foot of water and lots of mold. At the time of interview, she was staying at another hotel where she works since she is still unable to live in her house.

600905: This respondent works at the sheriff's office where she stayed through the storm. Before Katrina arrived, her husband, children, and several other family members evacuated. Her office relocated to a court house and she describes the flooding as it was coming into the court house. She also briefly discusses the sheriff's department's rescue efforts. She explains that every day things are getting a bit better. At the time of the interview, her family was living in a FEMA trailer.


Click here to view our Oral History Archive where we have over 350 audio files.