Searching Door by Door for Katrina Survivors

Extraordinary events sometimes reveal ordinary truths gone unacknowledged. In August of 2005, Hurricane Katrina exposed a U.S. government unprepared to assist the people of New Orleans when they needed help most. When Hurricane Katrina made landfall it devastated lives across disproportionately poor and African American communities along the Gulf Coast. The storm’s impact and its aftermath killed more than 1,800 people and displaced nearly one million others from their homes. The black neighborhoods in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward were obliterated when nearby levees broke.

A door with rescue markings from Hurricane Katrina.
Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

With as much as 80 percent of the city flooded, rescue crews from across the country went door by door in New Orleans searching for survivors. The crews marked each home and building they searched with their name and the date, as well as the areas they inspected and the number of any bodies discovered. Door markings in the photo above show the interior was searched by San Diego, CA Fire and Rescue on September 12, and ‘0’ bodies were found inside.