Excerpt: "Katrina's Secrets"

C. Ray Nagin's memoir on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Posted: 05/11/2011 09:49 AM EDT
Filed Under Hurricane Katrina

Below is an excerpt from C. Ray Nagin's memoir, Katrina’s Secrets: Storms after the Storm., which aims to set the record straight on the former mayor of New Orleans' response to Hurricane Katrina. In this excerpt, Nagin writes about the "divine intervention" at the Superdome on Thursday after the storm.

“As we looked down I noticed the crowd on the ledge below was significantly larger than usual. I could see and feel their collective anger as they of one accord started to push hard against the barricades around the Superdome. They were fed up, hot and determined to be set free from their misery. The National Guards who were patrolling the barricades had called for reinforcements and most had a look of extreme alarm. They knew we were greatly outnumbered and if this crowd really wanted to they could easily overrun the barricades, which would start a new, much more dangerous riot type crisis.

The sun was at its zenith and the temperature was sweltering like an industrial oven on full blast. It was just another incredibly hot, humid, New Orleans summer day. The sun had beaten on the people for several days as most had been waiting outside fully exposed. They had reached the boiling point and were ready to explode. It was quite evident that whatever control we thought we had was about to be fully tested. My heart was beating so strong that it sounded like it was literally outside my body. I motioned to Wondell to quickly make sure Chief Compass and Deputy Chief Riley were aware of what was transpiring.

Just the day before we had gang members who were among this same crowd trying to figure out how to take guns away from the National Guard. The people around the Superdome had heard many times that buses were on their way and had been waiting patiently among the harshest of conditions. The difference this time was that instead of a small group trying to take matters into their own hands it now seemed like the entire Superdome, all 30,000 were united in a freedom push.

After fully comprehending what I was seeing outside this window I turned to Terry and said, “We could be in big trouble. This thing looks like it is going to blow and it will take a miracle for us to hold it together any longer.” To make matters worse most of our police force was already dispersed throughout the city trying to reclaim order in the dry areas. Other officers were sleeping in their cars, on the floor at the Hyatt, or anywhere else they could find a dry place to rest their heads. They were physically and mentally exhausted.

I remember thinking that things just couldn’t end this way. We needed a special blessing to stop this riot from happening. Thankfully within a few minutes, God answered our prayers. Miraculously, as if taking a heavenly cue, out of nowhere a dark cloud moved over the Superdome. Before I could close my mouth in amazement, cool rain started to fall lightly over the crowd. If Terry hadn’t been next to me to confirm what was happening I don’t think I would have believed what I was actually seeing. It was like something you’d read in the Bible, other holy books, or see in the Ten Commandments movie. It was unbelievable, but reassuring. It wasn’t a big thunderstorm with lighting and thunder but just a light, steady rain that was quietly saying, peace be still. This amazing cloud of grace only appeared over the Superdome area, nowhere else in the city. All I could do was look in amazement and say out loud, “Lord, have mercy.”

The rain shower lasted long enough to wet everything around the Dome, cool the people and their tempers off, and allow us to exhale again. We could now see steam coming off the pavement. It was a different kind of cleansing. It cleansed negativity for the moment. The people stopped pushing on the barricades and some even went back inside the Superdome. And once again we lived to fight another day for survival. Halleluiah!”

(Photo: Twitpic)

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