Many Americans living along the Gulf Coast do not need an anniversary to reflect upon Hurricane Katrina. The natural disaster caused overwhelming hardship for thousands, irreparably damaging houses, businesses and entire cities. Katrina left a legacy that they will never forget.
Yet for some, the ten years since the hurricane has blunted Katrina’s gravity. While we may know that the hurricane was one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history, it is hard to put that into perspective. Memories of the event are largely a blurred hodgepodge of political criticism, stories of survival, and the ever-ongoing recovery effort.
The images of Katrina reflect the power of photography. A camera, whether manned by a government photographer or casual bystander, captures a moment in time. At the National Archives, our goal is to preserve these moments. We preserve photos so generations to come will be able to look back on events like Hurricane Katrina and understand its impact on American lives.
Ten years removed, the photos remind us of two things. First, is the unprecedented impact of the hurricane. Images of overturned boats, demolished houses, and shattered windows remind us (for those that need reminding) of the magnitude of the storm. Yet also, and perhaps more importantly, we are reminded of the way our nation came together in the aftermath of Katrina. In these photos, the bravery of rescue workers, volunteers, fire fighters, and ordinary people shines through. Faced with crisis, Americans united to help one another.
The photos below come from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). In the weeks following the hurricane, FEMA photographers documented the physical and social impact of the storm. These photos, and others related to Hurricane Katrina, can be found on our online catalog.
For more historical background on the levee system and flood control along the Gulf of Mexico check out our recent blog post, Taming the Mississippi.