I will introduce this unit and the skills by using a major event, fairly current, that was highly publicized with issues that arose afterwards. With this my students will be able to give an opinion and express their feelings on the subject from firsthand knowledge, making interpretation of chosen photographs of this catastrophe easier. Hurricane Katrina's devastation created physical loss and damage to life and property. It also created loss of trust and confused emotions ranging from feelings of worthlessness to abandonment and from fear to rage.
"09.01.05 - New Orleans, LA - Residents sent out a desperate plea for help as they waited to be rescued from the roof of an apartment complex." By Smiley N. Pool (Eye of the Storm, pg. 77)
This picture was taken by a photographer in a helicopter directly over a rooftop with one woman (?) and four men (?). Although I cannot see the women's face that clearly, they don't appear to be adults, instead, teens possibly with one child. The word "HELP!" is spelled out in about six-foot white letters. At the base of HELP stands the female dressed in what appears to be a dress, sandals with a scarf on her head, waving the American flag. About 15 feet away is a young man with black shorts, sleeveless t-shirt also wearing sandals. He is holding one hand across his forehead as if to shield himself from something and some type of stick in the other hand, while looking in the direction of the photographer. Directly in front of him are about two-foot white letters that spell out "The Water is Rising Pleas." Behind him off to the side stands another teen boy dressed in white wind pants, white t-shirt, sandals and a white hat holding a bottle of water. He is also looking in the direction of the photographer. Directly at his feet lie two other young men on the roof with something under their head. The younger of the two boys dressed in tan khakis, blue print shirt, and sneakers has his head lifted looking in the direction of the photographer. The other teen dressed in black shorts, sleeveless t-shirt, and sandals is lying down, unfazed by the presences of this helicopter. Strewn about the roof with them are several drinking containers, blankets, clothing and another American flag.
The objects in the photograph including the people and letters in the written message are scattered about the roof in a state of chaos. This chaos is a direct representation of the disaster from preparation for the storm to the response efforts after the storm
The two flags seem to be representing two different things. The first flag is being waved in a token of patriotic allegiance to America the land of the free and the home of the brave. It also states that Americans are survivors and conquerors over all obstacles with victory, as well as a reminder that we are American come rescue us.
The second flag is lying on the ground as a sign of disrespect, to mirror their feeling that they have been left on this roof top in this state of emergency as if they are not American and not worthy of rescue.
The photographer took this picture directly over head including only the roof top and possible the entry to the roof. This angle further shows the isolation these people were probably feeling as if they were all alone in the world.
(Complete Lesson I)
"09.01.05 - New Orleans, LA - Tossed together by crisis, 81 year old Louis Jones (left) and 62 year old Catherine McZeal joined forces to navigate Poydras Street in their trek to the Superdome and a chance at evacuation. Both said their children couldn't get through to help them out." By Michael Ainsworth (Eye of the Storm, pg. 80)
In this photograph two elderly women are trudging their way across a small river of knee high water that used to be a street. Both women have walking aids. Louis Jones is dressed in a pink skirt white shirt and a blue cap. She is holding on to her walker that doubles as a seat. She has two plastic bags draped over each arm above the wrist filled with things that she felt she could not do without, perhaps food, water or medicine. Catherine McZeal has a walker closed up and leaning on it with one hand as a cane. She is dressed in blue jeans and a pink shirt. Behind the women a monstrous Army vehicle, possibly a tank is parked with seven guardsmen on top with at least one on the inside. They appear to be pointing and looking in a different direction than the women are traveling.
The photographer is focused on the two ladies; all of the surroundings are blurred. Each woman is holding an assisted walking device representing their dependency.
Both women appear to have stopped for a break, possible of disgust or to plea for help, while looking in the direction of the photographer. I can only imagine what they may have been thinking.
The out of focus guardsmen seem to represent distance in proximity and in awareness. They offer no assistance or even to seem to care about their plight with no indication that they even notice them. And on the other hand the photographer is close enough to offer assistance but instead takes a picture.
(Complete Lesson II)
"09.02.05 - New Orleans, LA - National Guardsmen helped 87 year old Ester Frederick leave the Superdome and board a bus for evacuation." By Irwin Thompson (Eye of the Storm, pg. 105)
This elderly white lady holding on to a jacket or sweater is being carried down the stairs in a wheelchair at the superdome to a waiting bus by four National Guardsmen. In the background of this picture you see guardsmen walking up stairs to the Superdome.
In contrast to photograph 2 these guardsmen appear to be happy to offer assistance. If one were to view these to pictures simultaneously one might be offended that the efforts of the men of service were not dispensed equally to all.
Pictures of this nature were flashed to America constantly via T.V., newspapers, and magazines that showed similar situations interpreted differently by the media or dealt with differently by those who were there to assist. Equality or should I say the lack of seems to be in question.
Hurricane Katrina has brought to light many questions that need to be addressed. These questions fit into my unit goal to explore the African American experience--for example, specifically the devastation that predominately African American populated New Orleans experienced due to the lack of preparation and slow response. Questions to ask my students include; Why did the federal government fail to offer financial assistance to the local government to repair of the levies when they knew that they would not be able to withstand a major storm? Why did the federal government not assist in the evacuations before the storm hit when the destruction was predictable? Why was their response to rescue extremely slow? Many have speculated that the government's failure to act before the storm and their slow response after the storm has a direct connection to the people who would be and were affected the most, African Americans.
(Complete Lesson II)