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Hurricane Katrina: From One Journalist's Perspective

I was working in the newsroom when the Katrina disaster happened. It was hard not to be effected by what I saw and heard. I kept a journal of Hurricane Katrina and its impact on me professionally and personally. Parts of what is written here is from my journal.....

"Oh my God!" "Unbelievable!" "This can't be happening!" were some of the reactions from my colleagues in our television newsroom as we watched, in horror, the events unfolding in New Orleans and Mississippi a year ago. Our eyes were glued to CNN and MSNBC. Some of us shed tears, while others said silent prayers for the victims.

Although we were hundreds of miles away from the disaster, it was still considered BREAKING NEWS for us and we scrambled to find any kind of tie-in to bring the story home to our viewers in the Raleigh-Durham-Fayetteville, NC area. We didn't have to look very far. Three of our colleagues had family members who were impacted by the devastation. They were busy trying to make contact---trying to make sure their loved ones were safe and out of harm's way. But soon the conditions worsened and then it became impossible to establish contact because phone lines were down. Although the majority of us didn't know anyone there, we wanted to help, but felt helpless.

As an Assignment Editor, it was my role to find story ideas and people to bring those stories to life. I knew people in New Orleans. I had telephone numbers that could reach them when others couldn't but on this occasion, I couldn't reach them either. I remember being totally glued to the TV to get information, see the pictures, hear the commentaries and share in the sorrows. I was saddened by the fact that many of the folks who lost everything they owned in life were black and poor. I can't even begin to imagine losing EVERYTHING. Some kids were separated from their parents---modern day slavery.

I had several discussions with my colleagues about the race factor being one of the reasons the government took so long to respond. Some of them countered saying it was more about "class status". So be it, I thought, but the bottom line is black and poor go hand in hand. We also had intense discussions as to why we were calling the residents "refugees." My news director said we were following the national media but I argued we shouldn't be calling them that because they aren't from third world countries. Eventually, I won that argument.

North Carolina received around 400 residents from New Orleans (what we were told initially). I remember the urgent need to help so I went to volunteer at the Evacuee Shelter in Raleigh. The drive was about 30 minutes from my home. I didn't care that gas was running around $3.00/gallon. That was a small price to pay in my opinion. I really felt compelled in my spirit to help out. Journalists weren't permitted past a certain point so I had to pretend to be a volunteer from a charitable agency. No one checked my credentials, which I thought was interesting, so I was free to walk in a find a place to assist.

I walked in and acted like I belonged there. A woman took me to an area where they were sorting used clothing. I separated the children’s clothes. I met a survivor named Rene Gibson---and his wife who was in a wheelchair. He told me he had been in the water for seven days. I can't even imagine being in that nasty, filthy, feces ridden, dead bodies floating water! I shared a bit of God's Word with him. I told him God never said we wouldn't go through trials and tribulations but He tells us He will be with us and protect us when we're going through. I also wandered into a children’s area where I gave them hugs and listened to them tell me Whatever! they wanted say. One little girl told me she just wanted to go home so she could go back to school and be with her friends.

When I walked away, I found a little corner where I broke down and cried. It was such a humbling experience. I spent the rest of the day thanking and praising God to put it in my heart to serve---not as a journalist trying to get a story--but as a member of the human race who feels and cares about his fellow man.


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