The People and Katrina
By Mason Granger -- Broadcasting & Cable, 8/27/2006 8:00:00 PM
My most resonant memory of Hurricane Katrina is of the people in the midst of the disaster. Human strength, character and valor were manifested in so many ways. A sense of belonging and shared purpose developed among so many people.
I recall the people of our station, WDSU, who persevered despite personal and family losses, who were separated from their families and in many cases did not know the status of loved ones.
People like our anchor, Norman Robinson, who for four days sought out his granddaughter.
Others, like Tom Fitzgerald and Heath Allen, were stranded by floodwaters at the St. Bernard Parish Emergency Center, but courageously covered the story, then helped rescue people. They were among the first to get back into New Orleans to start telling the stories of the desperate needs of so many residents.
Engineer Raymond Williams lived in St. Bernard and lost his entire house—water even reached his second floor—but he stayed at his job and made the equipment work under immensely challenging conditions.
These individuals represent so many more from all the media in New Orleans. People from the staffs of WAPT in Jackson, Miss, and WESH in Orlando, and every station in the Hearst-Argyle group gave us equipment, food and, most important, talented staff members to support our round-the-clock coverage. Many stayed for weeks, sacrificing commitments back home. Our corporate headquarters gave us the human and financial resources and provided job security—and a sense of hope.
People like the citizens of New Orleans who found themselves stranded and apprehensive, yet determined and tough. They figured out ways to save themselves and their loved ones. They hung on through excruciating hours and days—like the man WDSU staff members rescued from his house and took to safety six days after the storm.
Many were people we don't even know. Heroes from New Orleans and from other places left their own lives and safety behind, and they remain unrecognized and unnamed to this day. They saved so many lives.
We won't forget the people in our audience on television and on the Web, around the country and the world, who told us their stories and sought information from us to find family members. They became our huge family, able to touch each other through our auspices.
Never have I felt that our industry was more vital, helpful or responsive. These recollections are part of each day of my life. Katrina is a visitor who does not depart.
Granger is the president and general manager of WDSU, New Orleans
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