A collection of searing images from photographers who came to New Orleans and the Mississippi coast from across the country to document the catastrophe and recovery of the stricken region.
They thought that they had dodged a bullet. As the winds died down on Monday, Aug. 29, the thousands of remaining New Orleanians who had weathered the storm in their homes and in shelters learned that the eye wall of Hurricane Katrina, one of the strongest storms ever to hit the United States, had shifted slightly east. While Katrina destroyed most properties on the Mississippi coast, New Orleans, at first, looked battered but safe.
Today, we know that the agony for the Crescent City was only just beginning. After the levees failed and Lake Pontchartrain slowly filled the city with fetid water, the tragedy was compounded by a slow and ineffective response from state and federal governments. As of Sept. 20, the official death toll from the storm had reached 973 and was expected to climb further as the flood waters were pumped out.
The repercussions from Katrina have been staggering. The total cost of the storm may exceed $200 billion. In one of the largest mass-migrations in American history, more than half a million people from the region — mostly poor and African-American — have been made homeless, and many may relocate permanently. President Bush, stung by criticism of his administration's handling of the crisis, saw his approval rating plummet to 40 percent, the lowest of his presidency.
Despite some attempts by FEMA and the military to restrict media access and to ban the photographing of dead bodies, photojournalists from around the country have risked life and health to come to the region and show the world what happened. PhotoMedia recognizes their efforts with this collection of images, provided by Polaris Images, World Picture News and ZUMA Press. PhotoMedia applauds the efforts of photojournalists who continue to document the suffering of the survivors, and we salute the courage of those determined to rebuild the Gulf Coast and the Big Easy to their former glory.