Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Look Back on Anderson Cooper's Reporting on Hurricane Katrina, Circa 2005, Part 1

Anderson Cooper circa 2005 -- A Katrina Retrospective -- Part 1


With John Berman in the AC360 anchor chair and CNN once again delaying the airing of Anderson's Special Report for the 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, we decided this post from 2010 was worth repeating.  Enjoy ~

Tonight we take a look back. The year is 2005 and Hurricane Katrina has just slammed into the Gulf Coast. Anderson Cooper is on the scene and filing reports ~ The quotes used in this post are from Anderson's book Dispatches from the Edge - A Memoir of War, Disasters and Survival. If you haven't read AC's book, I suggest you do and if it's been a while, it may be time to read it again.

Sunday, August 28th, Baton Rogue, Louisiana

After covering several hurricanes, you start to know what to expect. At first the winds pick up gently. Then it starts to rain. Your fancy Gore-Tex clothing keeps you dry for about thirty minutes; then the water starts to seep in. Within an hour you're completely wet. Your feet slosh around in your boots, and your hands are wrinkled and white. If you've ever wondered what your skin will look like when you're eighty-five, try standing in a hurricane for a few hours. ... Katrina comes ashore at 6:10a.m., on Monday...

In the end, the real power of a hurricane isn't found in its wind speed. It's in what it leaves behind-- the lives lost, the lives changed, the memories obliterated in a gust of wind. Anyone who does hurricane reporting for any length of time knows all too well that standing in the aftermath of a storm is much more difficult than standing in the storm itself, no matter how hard the wind blows.

Tuesday, August 30th, Gulfport, Mississippi

When we get to Gulfport, the motion stops and reality sets in. It's worse than I imagined. The worst I've ever seen in America. ... Downtown Gulfport is in shambles. People stagger about with no shoes, licking at their tears. Tractor trailer trucks that have been flung about, lie in a pile like abandon children's toys. ... Next to the waterfront, a casino barge, a block long, sits on dry land. Through a gash in the side, silver slot machines sparkle. An urban search-and-rescue team walks by in the dying light in steel-tow boots, with lamps on their helmets, looking for anyone who may be alive.
Nancy Grace interviewed Anderson about what he was experiencing in Gulfport, MS
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Wednesday, August 31st, Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

Anderson was live from Bay St. Louis on Wednesday night. He gave us an update on the desperate situation there and asked the question he had heard over and over again that day -- Where is the help?

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On the same program, he brought us a report from his day in Waveland, Mississippi, with an urban search-and-rescue task force from Virginia

...a woman named Sally Slaughterstops by to report a missing person. ... Slaughter knew that Christina Bane and her family didn't evacuate. ... Later, I learn the real reason they'd stayed: Bane's two sons were disabled, and she didn't want to go to a shelter where people would stare. .... Christina Bane is inside. So are Edgar and their two sons, Carl and Edgar Junior. All four are dead. Drowned. Sally Slaughter is crying. She's the only one. One of the searchers takes out a camera -- digital, downloadable -- and shoots pictures of the Banes. Click. Click. Click. Click. Another searcher takes out a Magic Marker. On the Bane's front door he writes V for victims. 4 DEAD. ... I never thought I'd see this here, in America -- the dead left out like trash. None of us speaks. There's nothing you can say.

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When you're working, you're focused on getting the shot, writing the story. You sometimes don't notice how upset you are. In Waveland, I certainly don't. Late Wednesday night, I'm talking to someone back in the office about the woman we left on the street, and I find myself crying. I can't speak. I have to call that person back. At first I don't realize what is happening to me. It's been years since a story made me cry. Sarajevo was probably the last time. I've never been on this kind of story, though, in my own country. It's something I never expected to see.

Thursday & Friday, September 1st & 2nd, Waveland, Mississippi

I'm about to interview Senator Mary Landrieu. She's a Democrat from Louisiana. I'm unaware she's going to be on the program until a few minutes before she appears. Much of what we're doing on the air each night is impromptu. I like working that way best. No scripts, no TelePrompTer, just talking with the viewers-- no separation between me and the camera. Before I go on air each night, I have a rough idea what will be in the program: where our reporters are located and what they've been working on. During the broadcast, however, much of that changes, so I have to be quick on my feet, ready for anything.

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Just as we come back from commercial break, a pickup truck drives by. In the back a young man with a trucker hat holds up a tattered American flag. He salvaged it from the wreckage. He's tired and worn, but proud of that flag, proud that he and his family are still standing. We don't speak -- he is too far away -- but I look him in the eye and we nod to each other. In his face I think I detect betrayal and anger, but also strength and resolve. I'm on the air, but I find my self tearing up. My throat tightens;I'm almost unable to speak. I quickly try to move on to another story, and hope no one has noticed.

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Walking through the rubble it feels like Sri Lanka, Sarajevo, somewhere else, not here, not home, not America. I've covered a lot of disasters, natural and manmade and each one is different, each one the same.... At a certain point it feels like all the words have already been spoken, devastation, destruction, disaster, sadness and pain. Again and again it's always the same, the heat, the humidity, the sweat, the tears. This time does feel different. This time it's our home.

And a harsh homecoming it is for some of the residents of Waveland. Anderson met up with a few and filed the following report.

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And it's been a privilege to be in Waveland the last two nights here, the people just remarkable, some looting here, yes, but people have just been helping one another, neighbor helping neighbor. The federal government is here. FEMA, these Virginia urban search and rescue personnel have just been doing extraordinary work and continue to. As the sun goes down, they'll continue to work. As the sun comes up, they'll be working again.

Saturday, September 3rd, New Orleans, Louisiana

Saturday, I leave for New Orleans. It's only about fifty miles from Waveland, but the drive takes several hours because of roadblocks and traffic. ... CNN has sent trucks from Atlanta with food and gas so we can operate independently for weeks. They've also sent two RV's so we'll have a place to sleep.

.... When we enter the city, it feels like we're crossing a frontier. the farther we go the more we find stripped away. ... We head toward the Lower Ninth Ward.


... A few blocks from Bourbon Street, we stop at a police station to borrow a boat. A cowboy crew of cops has been holed up there for days. A hand-drawn sign on a sheet of cardboard hangs over the entrance. FORT APACHE, it says. That's what they've renamed the station. "We call it Fort Apache 'cause we're surrounded by water and Indians," says a cop with a cowboy hat ....

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We wake each day unsure what lies ahead. Early in the morning, we gather in the lobby of the hotel. Few words are spoken before we head out. We climb into our SUV, a small platoon searching the city. The water recedes, new streets emerge, the map is redrawn every day.

Some residents sill refuse to leave. On the street outside her two-room rental, I spot an elderly lady, overweight, overtired. She sits on a rusty metal chair and leans on a cane with the words LOVE MINISTRIES crudely carved into the wood. She stares straight ahead, but her eyes are clouded and seem to be focused somewhere just above the horizon. Her name is Terry Davis, but she says around here everyone calls her Miss Connie. "I'm legally blind," she tells me, "and they won't let me take my service dog with me."


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After a month, I reluctantly leave New Orleans. I head back to Mississippi for several days. John Grisham and his wife have begun raising money for rebuilding the Gulf, and they agree to meet me in Biloxi so I can report on their efforts. He suggests we meet at a restaurant called Mary Mahoney's. It's a Biloxi landmark that Grisham has included in several of his most popular books. Mary Mahoney's was badly flooded during the storm, and workmen are busy trying to get it reopened. I arrive before the Grishams and when I walk into the restaurant, the owner, Bob Mahoney, smiles and says, "Welcome Back."

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I sign off from Waveland, Mississippi. Tomorrow I'll return home. My office is insisting I come back, "at least for a little while." That's what they say, but I know it means it's over. They'll let me return, visit from time to time, do updates, but soon there will be other headlines, other dramas, and those who weren't here will want to move on.

Tomorrow night or Friday night, depending on when CNN airs Anderson's Special Report on Katrina, we will look at interviews Anderson did with Charlie Rose and Bill Maher while reporting from the Gulf. We'll also look at a couple of those follow up visits, updates and reporter's notebooks from previous anniversary visits.. Stay tuned....


AC360 Transcript
AC360 Podcast

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6 comments:

Jaanza said...

Thanks for excerpts from Anderson's book and all the videos. It's especially awesome to see the one with Sen. Mary Landrieu again.
During the 'Situation Room' there was a commercial for Anderson's 10th anniversary Katrina special... "tomorrow night". Not sure if I believe that. Another tragedy might happen somewhere or Trump will say something really bizarre so who knows?

Berman's 360 on Wednesday was mostly about the fatal shooting in Virginia of TV reporter Allison Parker and her cameraman Andy Ward by a disturbed former colleague. It happened during a live report and the woman Parker was interviewing was also injured. Berman had a variety of reports and interviews covering various angles of this story.
The one segment not about the Virginia TV shooting was about Trump. I didn't watch it. Instead there was football on the NFL network. The game wasn't new, it wasn't live but most importantly, it wasn't Trump.

CWM84 said...

I miss this AC. He was hungry, he was right in the story, he traveled. He was not a partisan t.v. personality and did stories on real people. The direction of 360 has soured the legacy of the show and AC may deep down want to continue to do this type of work. But he has really changed since 2011 I noticed. It was doing the daytime show seasons thought he seemed to lost focus or got to caught up on more less important stories and hardcore journalism. I think I speak for a lot of people who became fans of AC for his honest reporting and way with words in some serious, heartbreaking stuff. Now I see AC and see partisan crap, no pushback against gop talking points. Trump is being pushed like he is a King... toast to the AC who used to love and mourn his journalistic death circa 2011. Sighs.

Phebe said...

Back in the day we all thought Anderson was so much better than Jon Klein was letting him be on AC360. We bitched when Kline forced him to come home from NOLA before he was ready, we bitched about Dave Doss as the executive producer, we just bitched and bitched. So now we have Zucker instead of Kline and Charlie instead of Doss and everything has gone to hell in a hand basket. Guess it just goes to show there is truth in the adage 'be careful what you wish for'.

Anonymous said...

BILL MAHER TOUCHED ON THE GUN ISSUE TONIGHT IN REFERENCE TO THE VIRGINIA KILLER AND HIS VICTIMS
WHO HAPPENED TO BE REPORTERS. THE PANEL DISCUSSED WHETHER THIS WAS A WORK RELATED ISSUE OR AN ACT
OF BIAS AND HATRED AND WHAT'S TO BE DONE ABOUT GUN VIOLENCE....IF ANYTHING.
THE PANEL WAS UNDECIDED AND SAID PERHAPS IT WAS ALL THREE AND THAT NO POLITICIAN WOULD EVER TOUCH
THE 2'ND AMENDMENT OUT OF FEAR OF REPRISAL, WHICH IN ESSENCE IS A CATCH 22.
TRUMP CAMPAIGNING SOMEWHERE, ENERGETICALLY REFERRED TO THE LATEST TRAGEDY AS A "DISGRUNTLED WORKER," AND
SOUGHT MENTAL HEALTH INTERVENTION, WHICH IS JUST ANOTHER WAY OF SAYING 'I'M NOT GETTING INVOLVED WITH THE
NRA EITHER'...BIG OF HIM. DON'T WORRY DONALD. YOU ALREADY HAVE BODY GUARDS.

April Oostwal said...

Please put someone else in the AC360 anchor chair while Anderson's away. It's cool that John Berman is opinionated, but I think he injects too much of himself into his reporting. Respectfully submitted...

April Oostwal said...

Agreed!