updated 11/15/2005 6:56:03 AM ET 2005-11-15T11:56:03

Time magazine’s 2005 Person of the Year may not be a person after all. A panel of notables has made a strong case for awarding the distinction this year to Hurricane Katrina.

NBC anchor Brian Williams included Katrina in his larger nomination of Mother Nature, which he picked because of a host of environmental stories this year, from the tsunami to earthquakes in Pakistan. He said the hurricane and its aftermath led to other issues.

“Katrina gets you to Iraq. It gets you to petroleum. It gets you to presidential politics,” Williams said. “It has laid bare so many cracks and fissures in our system.”

Williams was part of a six-member panel invited to make suggestions to the magazine about who or what it should choose as its Person of the Year.

He was joined by CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, who like Williams traveled to the Gulf Coast to cover Katrina after it hit on Aug. 29.

Other members included Time reporter Matthew Cooper, Democratic political consultant Donna Brazile, conservative activist Grover Norquist and WorldCom whistleblower Cynthia Cooper, named a Person of the Year by the magazine in 2002.

The panelists offered suggestions to the magazine for how to capture the idea of Katrina. Cynthia Cooper suggested choosing Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, the military coordinator for the disaster, while Anderson Cooper suggested a focus on the emergency responders or the American people.

“To me, those are the heroes of the story,” Anderson Cooper said. “It was government that failed. It was people who stood up.”

Rice, al-Zarqawi also suggested
While Katrina, and by extension Mother Nature, got the most attention, panelists also suggested U2 lead singer and activist Bono, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the Iraqi people and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, as possibilities. Norquist suggested a cover with Rice and recently deceased civil rights activist Rosa Parks.

Time’s managing editor, Jim Kelly, said the magazine’s staff already was working on stories about a handful of possible choices but the final decision would be made in the days just before the issue comes out.

“It’s tricky because you want to look smart, but you also don’t want to look like you’re completely just of that moment,” Kelly said. “You don’t want to put someone on the cover and have people say, ’Huh?”’

The magazine’s Person of the Year issue will be on newsstands Dec. 19.

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