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Second Line Rescue

Improvised Responses to Katrina and Rita

Barry Jean Ancelet

Publication Year: 2013

Second Line Rescue: Improvised Responses to Katrina and Rita chronicles the brave and creative acts through which Gulf Coast people rescued their neighbors during the chaotic aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Ordinary citizens joined in with whatever resources they had. Unlike many of the official responders, vernacular rescuers found ways around paralysis produced by a breakdown in communications and infrastructure. They were able to dispel unfounded fears produced by erroneous or questionable reporting. The essays, personal narratives, media reports, and field studies presented here all have to do with effective and often ingenious answers that emerged from the people themselves. Their solutions are remarkably different from the hamstrung government response, and their perspectives are a tonic to sensationalized media coverage.

The first part of the collection deals with Gulf Coast rescuers from outside stricken communities: those who, safe in their own homes and neighborhoods, marshaled their resources to help their fellow citizens. It includes some analysis and scholarly approaches, but it also includes direct responses and first-hand field reports. The second part features the words of hurricane survivors displaced from New Orleans and other Gulf Coast communities to Houston, Texas. In many cases, the "victims" themselves were the first responders, rescuing family, friends, and strangers. All of the stories, whether from the "outside" or "inside" responders, reveal a shared history of close-knit community bonds and survival skills sharpened by hard times. This book is about what went right in the aftermath of Katrina and Rita--in spite of all that went so wrong.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi


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pp. 1-7


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pp. vii-ix

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Preface: Where Have You Gone, New Orleans?

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pp. xi-xiii

Yes, New Orleans will bounce back. Taxis and buses and limousines will leave hotels and casinos, cutting in and out of traffic to deliver passengers to Louis Armstrong International Airport. They will pass by homes and...

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Introduction: Second Line Rescue: Improvised Responses to Katrina and Rita

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pp. xv-xviii

This is not another book about what went wrong in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Rather, it is a book about what went right in spite of it all. It is a book about improvised solutions in the spirit of the New Orleans African American tradition of second lining. Traditionally,...

PART ONE: Vernacular Responders: In the Eye of the Storms and Afterward

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pp. 1-21

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Storm Stories: The Social and Cultural Implications of Katrina and Rita

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pp. 3-29

Monday morning as Hurricane Katrina made landfall in St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes, my family and I watched the grim reports on television. Storm-chasing reporters gave us a direct view of nature’s wrath, making the barely balmy weather we saw from our own windows from our...

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My Hurricane Story: The Positive Stories Must Get Out

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pp. 30-33

Editors’ Note: This message was e-mailed to friends by Robert LeBlanc, who was involved in the rescue effort in New Orleans. It quickly went locally viral and was eventually posted on a NOLA Web site. It was forwarded to coauthor Barry Jean Ancelet by Amanda LaFleur, with the comment:...

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Dear Lynda: Man Helping Man

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pp. 34-36

Editors’ Note: Jacques François Ancelet, son of coauthor Barry Jean Ancelet, was a first-year student at the Louisiana State University Medical School in New Orleans when Katrina hit the coast. He and his brother Jean, also a first-year medical school student, evacuated to the home of...

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An Interview with Glen Miguez

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pp. 37-43

Glen Miguez lives in Delcambre, a small town 20 miles south of Lafayette and 115 miles west of New Orleans. As Rita approached, he had hitched his sixteen-foot flat-bottom boat to his truck and was evacuating Delcambre with his family. When he encountered the tidal surge pouring over...

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Hurricane Gumbo

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pp. 44-52

Nothing is moving in Evangeline Parish except for the sky. Black rain bands, the precursors of Hurricane Rita’s fury, scud by at disconcerting velocity. Wind gusts uproot ancient oaks and topple a decrepit billboard advertising an extinct brand of chewing tobacco. The rice fields are flooding...

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Government Gives Tradition the Go-Ahead: The Atchafalaya Welcome Center’s Role in Hurricane Katrina Recovery

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pp. 53-61

The assault of Katrina and Rita—if not the biggest, longest, or most deadly catastrophic event in world history—is undeniably the catastrophic event of our lifetime—one which we will spend the rest of our lives trying to understand and recover from. There is no need to catalog the numerous...

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"Don’t Get Stuck on Stupid": General Honoré as Culture Hero

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pp. 62-72

A major concern expressed by people in the first few days after Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast was the perceived lack of competent leadership, the absence of someone in control. On the third day, Lieutenant General Russel Honoré arrived in...

Images from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita: A Photo Essay

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pp. 73-87

PART TWO: Vernacular Self-Rescue: “Victims” Save One Another and Themselves

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pp. 89-109

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Transforming Endurance

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pp. 91-106

In the wake of Katrina, through a series of rare chances, Houstonians experienced more dimensions of heroism than most of us had previously conceived of. As the storm surge and the collapsing levees drove hundreds of thousands of Gulf Coast residents far from their homes and into our...

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Survivor to Survivor: Two Duets

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pp. 107-109

Katrina stories were being told by those in its path before the storm hit and retold among survivors long before rescuers arrived. In New Orleans’s Lower Ninth Ward on the eve of the hurricane, neighbors congregated in bars to verbalize a plot of betrayal: the rich and powerful would once more...

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A New Orleans Life: Sharing Marie Barney’s Story

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pp. 110-126

I came to Houston with my family on August 29, 2005, fleeing New Orleans because of Hurricane Katrina. Houston was our destination because we have relatives here. We caravanned in three cars. The exodus spanned nineteen hours. To give you an idea of the snail’s pace at which we crept,...

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Bridges of Katrina: Three Survivors, One Interview

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pp. 127-152

I moved there the week before Mayor Ray Nagin called for everyone in the Crescent City to evacuate. I left reluctantly. I had only been there for a week. I wanted desperately to stop moving around, to stop living out of a bag and to finally stand still long enough to get an honest accent. I had yet...

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pp. 153-163

The following survivor interviews are arranged roughly by order of the narrator’s age. The Surviving Katrina and Rita in Houston project was restricted from interviewing children under the age of fifteen. Thus, Josef Brown, fifteen years old when survivor interviewer Phylicia Bradley...

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pp. 164-176

Chantell Jones recorded her story for her friend and fellow survivor, Phylicia Bradley, on February 27, 2007, nearly eighteen months after Katrina’s landfall. Chantell and Phylicia were both from New Orleans East, and they had gone to middle school and high school together. The last time that they...

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pp. 177-189

On January 23, 2006, less than five months after Katrina’s landfall, Surviving Katrina and Rita in Houston held its first training session. On the first morning of that five-day session, the sixteen trainees paired off and began sharing storm stories. Each person told her or his story to a fellow survivor,...

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pp. 190-204

If a contest were held to name the worst possible job for a New Orleanian trapped in the city by Katrina, there would be many serious contenders, but few would outscore prison deputy. Even before the hurricane, the Orleans Parish Prison was a rough place to work. Perpetual overcrowding lowered...

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pp. 205-217

Vincent Trotter was born in New Orleans’s Charity Hospital in September 1973. Though he has nine half-siblings, he was the only child between his father, who held a variety of jobs, and his mother, a truck driver. He spent his childhood in the Mid-City and Uptown neighborhoods of New Orleans...

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pp. 218-234

Glenda Harris’s life revolved around the Lower Ninth Ward, one of the neighborhoods most ravished by Hurricane Katrina. The “Lower Nine,” as it is known to insiders, is one of the newer sections of one of America’s oldest cities. Although a poor neighborhood when measured in terms of residents’...

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pp. 235-247

Almost to a person, the older survivors of Hurricane Katrina tend to center their stories on the times and events that transpired before, rather than during, the disaster. No matter how much they may have suffered in the midst of the storm and flooding, their greatest sense of loss surrounds the homes...

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Epilogue: A Street Named Desire

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pp. 248-259

The common heroic response of these eleven Katrina survivors was, simply, to save each other and thereby themselves. Among the many acts of rescue recited by Marie Barney, Josef Brown, Charles Darensbourg, Nicole Eugene, Dorothy Griffin, Glenda Harris, Sidney Harris, Chantell...

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pp. 261-262

Part 2 of this book is dedicated, with gratitude, to the spirits of the more than four hundred narrators and interviewers, living and dead, who shared their stories and good will with the Surviving Katrina and Rita in Houston project. Special thanks go to the eleven survivors whose narratives...

Notes on the Surviving Katrina and Rita in Houston Interviews

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pp. 263-266


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pp. 267-269

Notes on Contributors

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pp. 271-272


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pp. 273-278

E-ISBN-13: 9781621039518
E-ISBN-10: 162103951x
Print-ISBN-13: 9781617037962

Page Count: 228
Publication Year: 2013

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Hurricane Katrina, 2005.
  • Hurricane Rita, 2005.
  • Disaster relief -- Gulf Coast (U.S.).
  • Disaster victims -- Gulf Coast (U.S.).
  • Hurricanes -- Gulf Coast (U.S.) -- Social aspects .
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