Guests: Haley Barbour, Doug Brinkley
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST: One year ago tonight, Katrina crashed on shore, barreling through Gulf Coast cities and towns, crushing homes, hopes and dreams.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got to be strong, man. You know, you break down and everybody around you starts to break down. But it‘s tough to see people like this.
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SCARBOROUGH: The mighty storm left behind a region in desperate need of America‘s help.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are valiant people in this part of the world.
We will endure. The important thing is that we‘re still alive.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We all need help. We appreciate anything anybody can do to help us.
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SCARBOROUGH: One year later, much has changed along the Gulf Coast, but too much remains the same.
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GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So I come back to say that we will stand with the people of southern Louisiana and southern Mississippi until the job is done!
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SCARBOROUGH: Tonight, the long road back for scores of communities still picking up the pieces one year later.
ANNOUNCER: Live from Biloxi, Mississippi, here‘s Joe Scarborough.
SCARBOROUGH: Good evening. And we are live from Biloxi, Mississippi, a community that‘s filled with valiant people. You know, tonight is the night one year later that Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, causing death and destruction of biblical proportions. The storm drove thousands to the rooftops, devastated New Orleans‘s levee system, drowning 80 percent of the city in toxic sludge.
Now, last year, politicians were AWOL, but today it was hard to walk a mile along the Gulf Coast without tripping over one. Tonight, I‘m going to tell you why, despite the speeches and photo ops, too many in Washington still haven‘t learned Katrina‘s tragic lessons.
Now, “NBC Nightly News” anchor and managing editor Brian Williams spoke exclusively with President Bush today. This is what the president had to tell him in an interview that at times was simply remarkable.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, ANCHOR, “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS”: The government at all levels fell short of its responsibilities. You have apologized for the damage, but what about the damage to your presidency? And Mr. President, here‘s what I mean. Most of the analysts call it your low point. A lot of Americans are always going to believe that weekend, that week, you were watching something on television other than what they were seeing. And Professor Dyson from the University of Pennsylvania said on our broadcast last night it was because of your patrician upbringing, that it‘s a—it‘s a class issue.
GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Dyson doesn‘t know—I don‘t know Dyson, and Dyson doesn‘t know me. But I will tell you this. When it‘s all said and done, the people will down—know here—down here know that I stood in Jackson Square and I said, We‘re going to help you, and we delivered. And that‘s—what matters, Brian, is that we help the good people here rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, and we‘re going to do that.
You know, commitments in politics sometimes mean nothing. I made a commitment that means something. And that‘s what‘s going to happen. And look, I understand people are second-guessing decisions, and the Professor Dysons of the world say things. My heart and my soul is to help these people, and they know it. And they understand that when the federal government makes a commitment, it‘s part of a renewal process. And that‘s what—that‘s what—that‘s what we need to be focused on. How do we help people rebuild? It‘s an important part of our country. And I‘m confident we will rebuild this part of our country.
WILLIAMS: What about what happened here would you like to have back, in retrospect?
BUSH: You know, I think we should have had better coordination with the state and local government. There was a—the enormity of the storm just overwhelmed all aspects of government. And I believe, had we been better coordinated, communicated better, moved equipment better, coordinated better on who‘s responsible for the troops, we could have done a better job.
WILLIAMS: When you take a tour of the world, a lot of Americans e-mail me with their fears that—you know, some days, they wake up and it just feels to them like the end of the world is near. And you go from North Korea to Iran to Iraq to Afghanistan, and you look at how things have changed, how Americans are viewed overseas, if that is important to you. Do you have any moments of doubt that we fought the wrong war, that there‘s something wrong with the perception of America overseas?
BUSH: Well, those are two different questions. Did we fight the wrong war? Naturally, I have no doubt. The war came to our shores. Remember that. We were—we had a foreign policy that basically said, Let‘s hope calm works, and we were attacked.
WILLIAMS: But those weren‘t Iraqis.
BUSH: No—no, they were—they—they weren‘t—no, I agree, they weren‘t Iraqis, nor did I ever say that Iraq ordered that attack, but they‘re a part of—Iraq is part of the struggle against the terrorists. In other words, these terrorists have made it clear they want us leave Iraq. Prematurely. And why is it? Because they want a safe haven? They‘d love to get ahold of oil? They have territorial ambitions. And no, I think fighting this war is the absolute right thing to do.
Now, in terms of image, of course I worry about American image. We‘re great at TV, and yet we‘re getting crushed in the PR front. And so we work hard and try to work smart about how we get a message out that says, We respect Islam, we just reject the ideology of extremists who kill innocent people to achieve political objectives. And we‘ve got to do a harder job.
I—but somehow, people—if what you‘re saying is, if we retreat
for the sake of popularity, is that the smart thing to do? And my answer
is absolutely not. It‘d be a huge mistake to give the battlefield to these
extremists. We retreat, they follow us. And I see this clearly as—as -
as day. I mean, I—and I understand the challenge and I understand—
I also understand the frustrations of our citizens.
WILLIAMS: Let‘s, if we might, get back to 9/11 for one second. Has there ever been an effort to link the two? How far have you gone...
BUSH: No, I really haven‘t because I‘m very careful. I understand what happens when you lay something out that people can tear apart. It hurts credibility. And you know, I—I personally do not believe Saddam Hussein picked up the phone and said to al Qaeda, Attack America.
WILLIAMS: Folks say you should have asked for some sort of sacrifice from all of us out after 9/11. Do they have a case, looking back on it?
BUSH: Americans are sacrificing. I mean, we are—we are—you know, we pay a lot of taxes. The—Americans sacrificed when the—you know, when the economy went in the tank. Americans sacrificed when, you know, air travel was disrupted. American taxpayers have paid a lot to help this nation recover.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, after his interview with the president, I had a chance to speak with Brian Williams himself and ask if George W. Bush understood one year later why so many along the Gulf Coast thought he may have let them down.
WILLIAMS: Now it is clear. The “Newsweek” story hurt terribly that the president had to have a DVD burned for him of the television coverage that he had not seen, so he could read himself into the situation during that first crucial trip to see the situation on the ground here. I think that hurt them deeply, to read that in a magazine, just the sense, as I asked him today, that we were all watching that split-screen America, you‘ll recall, Joe. We were part of it on the lefthand side.
We were watching this right in front of us. And on the right, we had that parade of government officials saying, We‘re satisfied with the response. We have thus-and-so assets en route. I think now it has become very, very clear to the president.
SCARBOROUGH: Brian, was the president you spoke with today a man who appeared changed from the confident, cocky George Bush that he even admitted walked with a swagger, to a guy that has been humbled by Katrina, by Iraq, by all the problems that he‘s been having over the past 12 to 24 months?
WILLIAMS: Could there have ever been a predictor that, of all things, it would be a hurricane and the response to it? Remember his dad‘s experience with Andrew, which you, of course, had reason to remember all too well. I think, judging by all indicators, not a matter of personal opinion, he is very much a changed man. Still, though, never a cauldron of self-doubt, not a lot of reflective time, makes decisions, disposes of them, moves on to the next.
SCARBOROUGH: Finally, I was fascinated by your questions regarding the relationship between 41 and 43. Obviously, Todd Purdom‘s article in “Vanity Fair”—fascinating about that relationship. I‘m just curious, as a reporter, why did you ask that question tonight? And why are so many people focusing so intensely on that right now, especially with what‘s going on in Iraq?
WILLIAMS: Well, the president‘s answers to that question in the past have left, I think, some fascinating gaps for reporters like us to jump in and ask about it. Then you learn about the members of the old guard, the men, mostly men, who served his father, who is so generationally different, world view, mindset, his military experience, getting shot down by the Japanese in the South Pacific, rescued on the decks of the USS Finback (ph), all of that—that‘s part of who George Herbert Walker Bush is.
I just find the dynamic fascinating—Tony Snow‘s statement recently that had to do with how the dad chose to end the first Gulf war, and the fact that, as I pointed out fairly blatantly today, Bill Clinton has been a house guest more often in the last two years than the current president of the United States, in of all places, Walker Point in Kennebunkport, Maine.
SCARBOROUGH: That was a stunning observation and a remarkable interview tonight. Thank you so much, Brian, for sharing your time with us. We appreciate it.
WILLIAMS: Joe, thanks, as always, for having me.
SCARBOROUGH: And coming up on this special edition of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY: Mississippi is getting back on its feet. I asked the state‘s governor, Haley Barbour, why Mississippi‘s done so much better than Ray Nagin‘s New Orleans. We‘ll have that answer coming up. And also, where did your money go when you gave that money to the Red Cross and other charities? We‘ll tell you when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY special edition, “Katrina: The Long Road Back,” returns.
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SCARBOROUGH: If an NBC News reporter can roll up to this disaster zone, to this killing field, then why can‘t our federal government? Why can‘t our state officials? Why can‘t law enforcement officers? This is a sad, sad day in this country, and it‘s now the responsibility of President Bush and local leaders in these affected areas to make sure that things turn around very quickly.
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SCARBOROUGH: When it crashed on shore last year, Katrina destroyed most of the Mississippi Gulf coast, including the casinos, which were blown from the water onto land. The Beau Rivage (ph) managed to remain standing, but sustained massive damage that took a full year to repair. When it reopened today, employees celebrated and rushed back in, excited to return to their jobs.
While we were at the casino, I had a chance to catch up with Mississippi Governor Haley Barber. Take a look.
SCARBOROUGH: Did you ever imagine that you would be governor when a storm came through your state that was more deadly than Camille?
GOV. HALEY BARBOUR ®, MISSISSIPPI: No, we all thought Camille was the gold standard.
BARBOUR: We didn‘t think anything could be bigger than Camille. I mean, I remember Camille. I was a college (INAUDIBLE) We never imagined this could happen. Of course, this was the worst in history. The storm surge was the worst ever recorded in North America. And so the devastation was just unbelievable. It is—no, we couldn‘t imagine it. And as it turned out, we had all sorts of problems at the beginning. But I‘ll tell you what, Joe. People that look back with 20/20 hindsight and think (INAUDIBLE) worst disaster in American history didn‘t have a perfect response, they just don‘t know what they‘re talking about.
Our people didn‘t look for somebody to blame. They weren‘t whining. Mississippi‘s not into victimhood. We got hit by the worst natural disaster of our history and got knocked flat. But our people that day got up, they hitched up their britches and went to work. They went to work helping themselves and helping their neighbors. And that‘s the way it‘s been every since, and that spirit is all the difference in the world. They‘re the kind of people that are just not going to quit.
SCARBOROUGH: Anybody that knows about hurricanes knows this was ground zero for Hurricane Katrina. Why were you forgotten?
BARBOUR: We bore the brunt of the storm, you‘re right. I‘ll tell you why we were forgotten. The news media doesn‘t like to cover airplanes that land safely. You know, they want to go where somebody is complaining and whining and saying, Give me something. People down here were saying, Let me help my neighbor.
SCARBOROUGH: You‘re concerned, and obviously, a lot of people are concerned, that a year later, we still have how many people living in FEMA trailers? When are those people going to finally be able to make the transition and get back into some affordable housing? Because you know, cynics will say, Oh, yes, they built the Beau Rivage back quickly, but you got all these poor people that are still living in trailers.
BARBOUR: Well, we have 100,000 Mississippians living in travel trailers, and housing is the biggest issue for us. But our issue‘s not really money. The federal government‘s been very generous. We‘ve had nearly $15 billion of insurance proceeds and (INAUDIBLE) It‘s labor. We got a problem here, Joe, where McDonald‘s can‘t find people. I mean, there‘s just a labor shortage, and it has an enormous impact on housing.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. Governor, thanks so much, and congratulations. This is a great day for you.
BARBOUR: Great to see you.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. Great to see you, too.
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SCARBOROUGH: It‘s now a great honor to bring in Stan Tiner. He‘s a Pulitzer Prize-winning executive editor of “The Mississippi Sun-Herald.” We also have presidential historian Doug Brinkley. He‘s the author of “The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.”
I‘ll start with you, Doug, and ask you the tough question. Why did Mississippi—why did specifically politicians and community leaders in Mississippi fare so much better than those in New Orleans?
DOUG BRINKLEY, AUTHOR, “THE GREAT DELUGE”: Well, I noticed it when I was writing my book. I was looking at mayors, for starters. And you know, a year ago, all of the mayors of virtually every Mississippi coast town, whether it‘s Waveland or Bay St. Louis, Ocean Springs, Biloxi, Gulfport—they were all first responders themselves. You can see their leadership in the crisis when people were trapped in houses, they were out there helping them, and they did an extraordinary job. There was no FEMA, as you know, Joe. They were waiting for help. But as the governor just said, there wasn‘t a lot of complaining. People picked themselves up from the bootstraps. That‘s a big thing, that attitude that Governor Barbour mentioned, but also the casino industries helped a great deal, too.
And then the New Orleans situation is just bizarre. I mean, you have these breached levees. You have a major metropolitan area that was—already had a murder rate 10 times the national average. You had schools that were barely functioning. We were—already had an infrastructure collapsing. So that water hitting 80 percent of the city of New Orleans, it‘s just been really hard to get a city back on track that wasn‘t really on track on the eve of Katrina.
SCARBOROUGH: And Stan Tiner, let‘s talk about just the character of the Mississippi people. You can start with the people that you work for, the people that helped bring the Pulitzer Prize to your paper, despite the fact they were wiped out of their own homes. You guys produced papers every day, but let‘s talk about law enforcement. Unlike in New Orleans, they didn‘t scatter. They stuck, didn‘t they.
STAN TINER, EXECUTIVE EDITOR “MISSISSIPPI SUN HERALD”: Joe, we don‘t
we‘ve made a point of not talking about Louisiana. We really have had our nose to the grindstone here, and we had enough to keep us busy without looking at somebody else. I do think that the storyline has turned to a comparison between the two. And Doug Brinkley in wonderful his book, which I think is the gold standard for the immediate history of the storm, has done a good job of identifying all that.
But you‘re right about the Mississippi way. There‘s a character to the people here, and particularly on the coast. They‘re accustomed to getting knocked down and standing back up again. It‘s in their DNA. If it were not, there wouldn‘t be any human footprint on the sands of this beautiful coast.
So I think everybody, in their own way, they got whacked real hard, they stood up. But I also want to pay homage to the leadership. I think books will be written for many years about leadership that was characterized by people like Governor Barbour because we have a lot of small communities along this coast, and each one of them, as Professor Brinkley indicated, did wonderful jobs of standing up in their place and doing what they could. But it required leadership at a high level to come in and bring the resources together and help them be put into place for everybody.
SCARBOROUGH: And coordinated them all together. Doug Brinkley, of course, you talked about how these local leaders in Mississippi understood they needed to be first responders. But when there were failures in New Orleans and in some parts of Mississippi, then of course, it turns to FEMA to help manage that situation. You heard the president talk today to Brian Williams. You think he still gets it? Do you think he—do you think, a year later, he understands why people felt let down that his own aides had to go with to him with a DVD 72 hours afterwards of the news coverage and explain just how bad things had gotten while he was on vacation in Crawford?
BRINKLEY: Well, you mentioned “Newsweek” with Brian Williams, and remember that “Newsweek” started talking about the “bubble presidency” right after Katrina. And hearing that interview with Brian Williams, the president still seems to me a little bit removed from the reality on the Gulf Coast. He came to Mississippi, but there weren‘t a lot of time spent with the people, going door to door. He went into a single house, not dozens of house. He was constantly scripting himself again, without showing the compassion which we saw on 9/11, when he stood on the rubble. He‘s never had that golden moment down here in Katrina. Even—he quoted the Jackson Square speech, and on paper, it was a pretty good speech, but many people feel he didn‘t live up to the promise of the Jackson Square speech. And it wasn‘t an emotional speech. It‘s not one of those moments like Bill Clinton at Oklahoma City or Ronald Reagan at the, you know, Challenger disaster, speeches that will live on...
BRINKLEY: ... in presidential history. Challenger, yes. There‘s not a single moment. It‘s, Brownie, you‘ve done a heck of a job, is the sound bite that people remember. Nothing he‘s done here the last two days in the Gulf south (ph) is in the big picture of president history very memorable. Basically, he got out of—he did what he needed to do to get Katrina behind him this trip.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, certainly, there wasn‘t a moment when he was like he was when he was on the rubble at ground zero.
Finally, Stan, quickly, what‘s is like to see something like a Beau Rivage open up and see all these workers stream back in, again, one year later?
TINER: Well, the casino industry is going to be the engine that‘s going to fuel a lot of the comeback. Something on the order of 12,000 jobs are up and running, 3,800 new employees walked into those doors today. And that‘s creating a lot of tax revenue and opportunities for people here across the coast. And I think it‘s astonishing what has happened, really, in a short period of time.
But I‘d like to say quickly, a great day today because it was a moment of solemn reflection. It wasn‘t so much about the politicians, though, as you said in the lead, you could find a lot of them here, and we appreciate all that they have done. But this was a day, I thought, for people to reflect on what had happened, their loss and how they stand tall now a year later.
SCARBOROUGH: Tell you what. People in Mississippi, people of great faith, and of course, all across Louisiana. Stan Tiner, the humblest Pulitzer Prize-winning executive editor I‘ve ever talked to!
TINER: And Joe, we appreciate your friendship and the constant concern you‘ve shown for the people of the coast here. A man of the coast, and we know you as one of us.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, thanks so much. And Doug Brinkley, thank you for being with us, and thank you, most importantly, over this past year for writing the definitive history, the first draft of history that people are going to be reading for, obviously, the next hundred years. Thank you so much for your great work over this past year. “The Great Deluge” is the story that people need to read to understand what went on behind the scenes. Thanks so much, Douglas. Greatly appreciate it.
Coming up next, we have our eyes on Ernesto. We‘ll tell you about where this tropical storm‘s headed next and how much damage it may cause if it becomes a hurricane.
Plus, the harrowing story of one hospital trapped in the middle of the hurricane and the doctors forced to make life-and-death decisions. We‘ll get that “Dateline” special when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.
SCARBOROUGH: Tropical Storm Ernesto is no longer a major threat to Florida. However, forecasters have dropped all hurricane watches, but there are -- - there are storm warnings and concerns. But the storm is weakening. NBC‘s Mark Potter‘s live in South Beach tonight with the very latest. Hey, Mark, what‘s it look like there?
MARK POTTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Not much, in a phrase, Joe. This storm is falling apart quickly. We‘re still getting some wind and some rain, but this thing is dissipating. I talked to forecasters at the National Hurricane Center, who say that the storm continues to drop in intensity. The only tropical storm-force winds they‘re finding now are in the feeder bands. They think it‘s quite possible that before dawn, that they will drop this category to a depression, no longer even a tropical storm. And then when it exits sometime off the coast of Florida around Daytona or Cape Canaveral and goes back out to sea, it might, at best, become a tropical storm. But it doesn‘t seem that there‘s anymore hurricane in Ernesto‘s future.
SCARBOROUGH: Oh, that‘s fantastic, Mark. Great news for everybody.
Greatly appreciate that update.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. And coming up: emergency in the ER, the frightening ordeal in one Gulf Coast hospital when Katrina hit as remembered by those who survived. And later: Home sweet home. We‘re going to take you inside these creative alternatives to FEMA trailers.
ANNOUNCER: Live from Biloxi, Mississippi, once again, Joe Scarborough.
SCARBOROUGH: Welcome back. When Katrina crashed ashore one year ago today, some of those hardest hit were the weakest among us, the injured and the infirmed, holed up in New Orleans hospitals. And most of them thought a hospital was the safest place they could possibly be to escape Katrina‘s wrath. But what they found inside those hospital walls was like nothing they could have ever expected. “Dateline‘s” Hoda Kotb has that story.
HODA KOTB, “DATELINE” CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dr. Glenn Johnson‘s ordeal began last August 27th, the weekend before Katrina hit. The doctor, a cardiologist and vice chief of staff at Lindy Boggs Medical Center, had weathered many storms in his 12 years at the hospital, but this one was different.
DR. GLENN JOHNSON, CARDIOLOGIST: I had a very bad feeling about the storm.
KOTB (on camera): You were scared?
JOHNSON: I was scared. I knew I was heading into something that was not going to be good.
KOTB: At Lindy Boggs, things were bustling. About 120 patients and their families were holed up inside this brick, four-story building. Some staff members also brought family members with them. After all, what better place to ride out a hurricane than in a hospital? Or so they thought.
(voice-over): On Monday morning, August 29th, Katrina came to New Orleans.
JOHNSON: You hear the windows all of a sudden exploding on the building.
KOTB: The next morning, Dr. Johnson could not believe his eyes. A massive flood had surrounded the hospital.
JOHNSON: I knew. I said, “We‘re in trouble. We‘re in big, big trouble.”
KOTB: Among his patients was 76-year-old Dall Thomas, a heart and kidney patient on dialysis. Dall‘s wife, Grace, had decided to ride out the storm in the hospital, thinking it would be one of the safest places.
GRACE THOMAS, WIFE OF PATIENT: I‘m going to go to the hospital that has generators, that will, you know, keep us going. And in three or four days, we‘ll all be home again.
KOTB: In the intensive care unit, another wife, Jessie Lasalle, held vigil next to her 32-year-old husband, Carl, who had struggled with illness his whole life. Carl had just fought his way through a risky liver and kidney transplant.
JESSIE LASALLE, WIFE OF PATIENT: I was praying that he was going to make it through, which I knew—I had faith. And I knew God was going to bring him through it.
KOTB: As the hours passed, water seeped into the hospital‘s basement, flooding the generator. Suddenly, Lindy Boggs lost all power. They had no elevators, no lights, and something much worse: no electric ventilator machines to help critically ill patients like transplant patient Carl Lasalle breathe.
(on camera): When the power went out, your first thought, when it came to your husband, was what?
LASALLE: My God, the power went out, and he‘s still on the ventilator. What are they going to do?
KOTB (voice-over): The doctors and nurses had to find a way to help Carl and the other ventilator patients get air. For a while, they used hand pumps to blow oxygen into the patients‘ lungs.
JOHNSON: Having the nurses sit there with an ambu-bag, squeeze the bag in order to get the patient to breathe.
KOTB (on camera): You‘re talking about just squeezing it and squeezing it? So each squeeze is a breath?
JOHNSON: That‘s correct.
KOTB (voice-over): It wasn‘t just the ventilators. When the power went out, dialysis machine that kept kidney patients like Dall Thomas alive shut down, too.
JOHNSON: They know their clock is ticking, because without dialysis they will die.
KOTB: They had no TVs, no radios, no working phones. But the communication blackout was only the beginning of their problems. They had no clean running water, no way to dispose of waste. The food was running low. And as this photo shows, the heat became unbearable as it rose to about 104 degrees inside the building.
JOHNSON: We basically brought a towel, and you just kept wiping your face, wringing out the towel, trying to strange scrubs or your clothes. They were wet within 10 minutes.
KOTB (on camera): So were you, what, soaked from your head to your toes?
JOHNSON: My socks were squishing with sweat. Quite honestly, that‘s how hot it was.
KOTB: And in that heat, the staff of about 145 had to hustle. The internal telephone and paging system was shut down. Dr. Johnson and his staff had to rush up slippery stairways and down darkened hallways just to speak to one another. They struggled to read charts and give injections in the dark. Dr. Johnson turned the conference room into a war room, where the staff met to solve problems.
(on camera): For any of us, I think we would have felt helpless, but let me ask you personally. For you, you‘re a guy who solves problems. You‘re a guy who makes sick people well. And here you are, in a way, somewhat helpless yourself. How did you handle that?
JOHNSON: Well, if you‘re asking me on a personal level, we were lucky in that we had a priest there. We were saying mass and prayer service. I couldn‘t go because I knew, if I broke down there, it would not be good for the staff. And so my attitude was, I‘d go to my room, shut the door, and throw up. If you want to know what was going on, that‘s what was going on.
KOTB (voice-over): Dr. Johnson rushed about inside the hospital, going from room to room to check on patients. He tried to keep Dall Thomas going.
JOHNSON: I could tell he was starting to get really weak. He was getting more short of breath. I could hear fluid in his lungs, and I knew he was getting into trouble.
KOTB (on camera): And there was nothing you could do for him?
JOHNSON: Not a thing I could do.
KOTB (voice-over): But then suddenly, down the dark, steaming, wet hallways of Lindy Boggs came a miracle.
JOHNSON: And the word gets out there are firemen that have arrived.
And all I‘m thinking is, “Thank God. Thank God.”
KOTB: It was Wednesday. Rescuers had been dispatched to help evacuate some of New Orleans‘ hospitals. Firefighters from Shreveport, Louisiana, had found their way to Lindy Boggs by boat. Captain Kerry Foster, John Gimnich, and Chris Shamburger were part of the rescue team.
CHRIS SHAMBURGER, FIREFIGHTER: This is a full-blown MCI.
KOTB (on camera): What‘s an MCI?
SHAMBURGER: Mass casualty incident.
KOTB (voice-over): A mass casualty incident. The firefighters immediately realized it was going to be a long and difficult evacuation. The patients would have to wade out onto rescue boats, then wait on a dry strip of land until a helicopter picked them up. Rescuers worried that some of the more frail patients would not survive the trip. They also knew they couldn‘t move all of the 120 patients at once.
Now, the same firefighters and doctors who normally rushed patients to safety would have to decide who could go first and who would have to wait. Of all the decisions made at Lindy Boggs that day, this would be the most difficult.
SHAMBURGER: We went with the letters A, B, and C.
KOTB (on camera): What did “A” mean?
SHAMBURGER: Ambulatory, walking, just like me and you.
KOTB (voice-over): The patients marked “A” would get to go first, “B‘s” second.
(on camera): What was “B”?
SHAMBURGER: “B” was wheelchair, basically patients that could sit up.
KOTB (voice-over): “Cease-fires,” the most critical and helpless patients of all, would have to stay at the hospital and wait until more help arrived.
SHAMBURGER: I don‘t wish that upon nobody, to go through a hospital
saying, “You can go, you can go, you‘re staying. You can go, you can go” -
we don‘t do that. We‘re the guys that bring sick people or hurt people to a hospital to get better.
JOHNSON: It‘s just very hard to go and start marking people like cattle.
KOTB: Early Thursday morning, the remaining hospital staff gingerly brought the critical patients down to the boats. Jessie and Carl were among the last to be saved from Lindy Boggs. Finally, the hospital was emptied.
SCARBOROUGH: And coming up next, following the Katrina money trail.
How much of your donations actually reached hurricane victims?
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SCARBOROUGH: I‘m telling you, friends, I‘ve seen it. You can get mad at me if you want to. If you work for the Red Cross, be angry with me. I don‘t care. If you work for the White House, be angry with me. I couldn‘t care less. If you work for the Louisiana governor or the mayor in New Orleans, be mad at me. I don‘t care.
The fact is: You people aren‘t doing your job.
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SCARBOROUGH: Welcome back.
You know, when Hurricane Katrina hit, Americans opened their wallets. They were so generous and you all were so generous helping people out along the Gulf Coast with your donations to a charity that we helped support. But all told, we raised $500,00 for that charity, but all told Americans gave billions of dollars. What exactly did all of that money pay for? Here‘s NBC‘s Carl Quintanilla.
CARL QUINTANILLA, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Joe. So much of New Orleans‘s staggered recovery is due to the fact that the money, the relief money has come in waves, some of it right after the storm, some of it not even here yet.
(voice-over): The most expensive natural disaster in history has a complicated money trail. First, donations. More than $4 billion sent in by individuals and corporations, much of it already gone. Take the Bush-Clinton-Katrina fund. It‘s given most of its $130 million to the region‘s governors, colleges to help them stay open, and places of worship.
The American Red Cross has pulled in $2 billion, and despite worry from some volunteers a year ago that funds were wasted...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I‘m ashamed.
QUINTANILLA: ... the charity now says 90 percent of that money has been doled out, providing assistance to families, running shelters and meal trucks, and mental health services.
JACK MCGUIRE, AMERICAN RED CROSS INTERIM PRESIDENT: We helped 1.4 million families in Katrina, Rita and Wilma. In 2004, we only had to help 73,000.
QUINTANILLA: Donations pale in comparison to government funding, $122 billion approved by Congress, eight times that of Hurricane Andrew, including FEMA funds for housing and trailers, medical needs, and that much-criticized hotel program. Recovery officials say the checks are just now reaching some victims.
WALTER ISAACSON, LOUISIANA RECOVERY AUTHORITY: Congress appropriated the money in June. We had a plan in place. The president had to sign the bill. The money hasn‘t come down from the federal government.
QUINTANILLA: But for all the steps forward in aid, there are steps backward due to fraud.
(on camera): A breathtaking amount. One government audit this summer found 16 percent of FEMA aid in the first six months was obtained illegally. A Department of Justice task force has obtained more than 400 indictments.
GREGORY KUTZ, GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE: We found an estimated $1 billion through February of 2006 of fraudulent and improper payments related to the disasters, and this represents tens of thousands of people.
QUINTANILLA (voice-over): Like this man, who collected two $2,000 FEMA checks while living in a Louisiana state prison. Federal officials say there were roughly 1,000 other inmates with schemes just like it.
(on camera): And the search for more fraud continues. One Justice Department Katrina fraud prevention hotline is still getting some 200 calls a week—Joe?
SCARBOROUGH: Hey, thank you so much, Carl, for that great report.
And a programming note: Coming up next on MSNBC, a new documentary, “RISING FROM RUIN,” an intimate look at three families struggling to cope with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
And I just want to say this, friends: Again, on a personal note, being here every day after the storm hit, I found it was the faith-based organizations that were lightest on their feet, that were able to get the water, and the food, and the shelter, and the supplies for young children and infants immediately afterwards. Unfortunately, it was the bigger charities and the federal government that seemed to be the slowest, at least along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Still ahead, an update on our efforts to raise money for Katrina victims. Plus, we‘re going to take you inside the new homes for these hurricane survivors, homes they so badly need.
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SCARBOROUGH: I‘ll tell you what: It is amateur hour, and it has been amateur hour over the past four or five days. This is completely different, friends, from the way the crises was handled in Florida last year. Four hurricanes, two of them major, it was handled with ruthless efficiency. I know. I was there. That is not happening tonight in New Orleans.
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SCARBOROUGH: You know, it‘s probably the biggest obstacle to the Gulf Coast recovery: a lack of housing. Katrina destroyed an estimated 300,000 homes, so rebuilding or even finding a contractor to do the work could take you years. CNBC‘s Mary Thompson has more.
MARY THOMPSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: Joe, it‘s the biggest obstacle to the Gulf Coast recovery: a lack of housing. Katrina destroyed 300,000 homes.
(voice-over): A necessity after the disaster, an eyesore after a year. Some of Mississippi‘s 36,000 FEMA trailers may soon be replaced by kit homes like this one.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It‘s wonderful. Definitely beats those trailers.
THOMPSON: Knowing it could take years to replace the 65,000 homes destroyed in Mississippi...
MARIANNE CUSATO, ARCHITECT: What was lost down there was amazing architectural heritage, amazing details, and really nice character of place.
THOMPSON: Governor Haley Barbour asked architects to come up with an alternative. The result: Marianne Cusato‘s Katrina cottage.
CUSATO: Everything we do in the design of these buildings is to really be like a real house. There‘s just less of it, and that‘s what makes it affordable. That‘s what makes it accessible and easy to build.
THOMPSON (on camera): The prototype for the Katrina cottage is 308 square feet. It‘s about the size of a FEMA trailer, but with big windows and overhead fans, it‘s lighter and airier. The kitchen, bathroom, two sets of bunk beds and an 8-by-12 porch all included in the kid.
This model takes four to six weeks to build, at a cost of $45,000, and that includes heating and cooling. But late fall, Lowe‘s will sell materials and plans for larger models for $45 to $55 a square foot. Designed to withstand 145 mile-per-hour winds, these temporary homes could create permanent value.
CUSATO: Some of the buildings are designed to be out buildings, which would be free of the footprint of the house. And then when you rebuild your house, you have an asset on the property.
THOMPSON: With the FEMA trailers‘ life cycle pegged at 18 months and an average cost of over $59,000, the agency is taking a closer look at prefab houses. Mississippi is one of five states vying for a $400 million FEMA grant to study them as an alternative to trailers.
GAVIN SMITH, MISSISSIPPI OFFICE OF RENEWAL AND RECOVERY: It was (INAUDIBLE) and so, not only are we excited about trying to help Mississippians, first and foremost, but we‘re very interested in trying to figure out how this could serve to help people in California, or Florida, or any other place where a major disaster occurred.
THOMPSON: Providing a solution to a housing crisis that looks and feels more like home.
(on camera): It‘s a crisis made worse by the fact that they‘ve never built more than 2,500 homes a year along the Gulf Coast—Joe?
SCARBOROUGH: Thank you so much, Marys. And Mary is exactly right. You know, two years after Pensacola got hit with Hurricane Ivan, it is still hard to find enough contractors to rebuild private residences and to rebuild businesses.
Now, for NBC correspondents covering Katrina, it was a deeply personal experience. Tonight, a look back in their own words.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the most powerful thing that I experienced in person was at that freeway interchange where they were bringing survivors. These people had been on their roofs, in their attics, in floodwaters 10, 12 feet deep in cases. They were rescued either by boat or by helicopter.
They had more people to rescue, so they had to just take them where they could. Within two days, there were 2,000, 3,000, 4,000 people all huddling together waiting to be rescued again.
QUINTANILLA: As we left the neighborhood, they were mad. I mean, they were obviously mad that we were leaving them. I couldn‘t say help was on the way. I couldn‘t say, “We‘ll be right back.” And I don‘t think I‘ve felt more helpless than that moment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was struck by how many people were missing someone. How could you not be drawn to a story of a mother missing her two daughters who is desperately trying to find them?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was unimaginable to think that there could be this many people in an airport-turned-hospital desperate for help and not enough people to help them. And there was this sea of human misery, bodies everywhere. There was this one man laying amongst all the bodies, and all he wanted was something to drink and eat.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You walked into the doors of the Convention Center and the smell just overwhelmed you. It smelled like death. Charles took me by the hand and brought me over, and it was his job and solely his job to go out and find water.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the person that we just passed up, she might be dead.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here was this little kid who was expressing every emotion that everybody was feeling.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They would say, “Well, please tell someone.” “Do they know?” was often the question that people would ask. What they meant was they, being the nation. Does the president know? Do people outside of New Orleans know? I think that they were flabbergasted that they could be suffering so greatly and feel like nothing was being done. And they thought that the only answer was no one knew.
MARK POTTER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Every time we would enter a community in Mississippi, we would watch people come back to their homes to find only a foundation, a concrete slab and a pile of rubble. They would dig through the rubble, looking for personal effects, to discover that that was not their stuff. That was from a house blocks away. Their stuff was blocks in another direction, pushed there by the massive waves.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It took my breath away. It was like nothing I had ever seen.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, as somebody that came over the day after the storm hit, there were so many sad stories, so many tragedies, but so many heroes. And a year later, you can see the great changes that have taken place. And you can see that this is a community—and Mississippi especially, along Mississippi‘s Gulf Coast—that‘s recovered because of family, friends, and their faith in God.
Thank you so much for being with us. We‘ll see you tomorrow night in
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