Historian Douglas Brinkley, author of the John Kerry biography Tour of Duty, was on NPR’s Fresh Air on Friday morning talking about his experiences in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. Brinkley teaches at Tulane University and was displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
After Katrina, Brinkley got his family out and relocated them to Houston, TX and then returned to New Orleans to chronicle the history of the aftermath of Katrina. He is in the process of documenting “the catastrophe by gathering oral histories — he hopes to collect as many as 20,000 — for a book, tentatively titled The Great Deluge.”
Brinkley said in the interview that he was determined to document everything that he could, “because if our government can turn their backs on these people in need, they will try to whitewash what happened… make it seem like it was God’s storm and there was not much that could be done. I think it’s…. the story is much bigger than that.”
“I was in New Orleans for Katrina and then got out of town afterwards and I came back. I was… I constantly encountered people on dry land, mainly FEMA people trying to stop rescue attempts of people who were desperate for help and that startled me that this could happen in our country.”
During the interview Doug Brinkley also talked about taking part in rescue efforts in New Orleans, his frustrations with the how things have been handled there since and witnessing the Mississippi running backwards during the hurricane. Brinkley plans to donate all proceeds to the Historic New Orleans Collection, a museum and research center in the city’s French Quarter.
“I’m very disappointed in my country… I write American history for a living, I love America”, Brinkley said.
A Personal Note: I had the pleasure of meeting Douglas Brinkley in NH during the primary. I was standing in the press area of Kerry campaign holding a copy of Tour of Duty in my arms on top of my coat. Suddenly this smiling man appeared next to me and said, ” I wrote that book!” He seemed to be thrilled to run across someone in the crowded press area holding his book. I was thrilled to meet him and have him autograph my copy of Tour of Duty.
Thank you, Doug Brinkley for all you do… It’s people like you who give us hope.