Hurricane Katrina — perhaps the two most infamous words in Louisiana’s infamous history. The storm rained down so much devastation and sorrow on the Bayou State, yet somehow seemed to bring out the best in us. Now a decade after the fierce hurricane came ashore, the recovery process is far from over. Parts of New Orleans are thriving, rejuvenated by the unwavering optimism carefully guarded by its residents, while other parts of the city and region look and feel no different from the moment storm surge began creeping up to their doorsteps.
Throughout our history, the ‘joie de vivre’ seems to have sustained Louisianians through the most unimaginable hardships. Though for some, no amount of help or hope can restore broken lives. Other problems are far less complex — there simply isn’t the money or resources to rebuild after this record-shattering storm. No matter where they currently reside, those affected by Katrina in 2005 witnessed the best in each other when Mother Nature showed us her worst.
Covering the devastation in New Orleans remains one of my most memorable assignments. Just two weeks after the storm subsided, legendary Louisiana photographer Syndey Byrd and I were able to secure special clearance to enter the city, which was still under military control.
Covering Byrd’s personal mission to rescue decades of irreplaceable photographs and slides was incredible. We knew her Mid-City neighborhood was under water just days before, so we were expecting the worst. The waters came within inches of her front door, but receded before reaching her precious archives.
For hours, we sat in Syndey’s living room pouring over thousands of photos and slides of Jazz legends, Carnival, and life in the Big Easy. It was bittersweet joy. Her home had been spared the worst, but the devastation surrounding Syndey left her drowning in despair. She had spent decades of her life documenting one of the most unique cities in the world, which in a matter of days had been left in ruins.
Byrd’s tens of thousand of photos are a historical treasure. Thankfully, they were spared by the storm.
Some of her favorite images can be found on her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SyndeyByrdPhotographer/
I’ll never forget Syndey’s return to New Orleans and the journey made possible by our friends Lanie and Mark Adkins in their RV. I learned so much about the strength of the human spirit in those few days. Covering one of the country’s worst natural disasters through one person’s perspective is an experience I’ll always carry with me.
The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of KLTV/KTRE-TV or Raycom Media. They are solely the opinion of the author. All content © Copyright 2015 Lane Luckie