Katrina in Words

“Everyone is soaked. This is going to get ugly real fast.”

—FEMA regional director Marty Bahamonde, the only FEMA official in New Orleans when Katrina hit on August 28, in an e-mail to FEMA response specialist Deborah Wing, who arrived in Baton Rouge two days later

“. . . the situation is past critical . . . thousands gathering in the street with no food or water . . . the dying patients at the DMAT tent being medivac[ed]. Estimates are many will die within hours . . . We are running out of water at the dome . . .”

—Bahamonde to Brown on August 31

“Thanks for the update. Anything specific I need to do or tweak?”

—Brown’s response

“My eyes must be deceiving me. You look fabulous — and I’m not talking the makeup.”

—Cindy Taylor, FEMA deputy director of public affairs, to Brown on August 29

“I got it at Nordstrom’s. E-mail McBride and make sure she knows! Are you proud of me? Can I quit now? Can I go home?”

—Michael Brown back to Cindy Taylor

“I’m trapped now, please rescue me.”

—One of Brown’s later e-mail messages

“Restaurants are getting busy . . . We now have traffic to encounter to get to and from a location of his choice, followed by wait service from the restaurant staff, eating, etc. Thank you.”

—Sharon Worthy, press secretary to Brown, complaining that Brown needed more time to eat in a Baton Rouge restaurant as the crisis in New Orleans unfolded

“OH MY GOD!!!!! I just ate an MRE and crapped in the hallway of the Superdome along with 30,000 other close friends so I understand her concern about busy restaurants.”

—Bahamonde’s outrage response to Worthy, text-messaged to a co-worker

“Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.”

—President Bush, to Michael Brown, five days after the hurricane’s landfall

“Please roll up the sleeves of your shirt . . . all shirts. Even the president rolled up his sleeves to just below the elbow. In this crisis and on TV you just need to look more hard-working . . . ROLL UP THE SLEEVES.”

—Sharon Worthy advising Michael Brown in Katrina’s aftermath

“Go fuck yourself, Mr. Cheney!”

—A Cheney heckler in Gulfport, Mississipi, after Katrina

“If you wanted to reduce crime, you could, if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down.”

—Former Education Secretary Bill Bennett, ?during his syndicated radio talk show, a few weeks after Hurricane Katrina.

“I hate the way they portray us in the media. You see a black family, it says, ‘They’re looting.’ You see a white family, it says, ‘They’re looking for food.’ And, you know, it’s been five days [waiting for federal help] because most of the people are black . . . George Bush doesn’t care about black people!”

—Grammy-nominated rapper Kanye West, going off-script during NBC’s live concert fundraiser for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

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