By Robert Mann
In the days after Hurricane Katrina in August-September 2005, then-Major Ed Bush of the Louisiana National Guard and a colleague, Sgt. Carlos Sanchez, took dozens of photographs of life inside the Louisiana Superdome, where they and hundreds of National Guard troops from Louisiana and other states lived as they provided security and care for approximately 40,000 New Orleans-area evacuees.
Bush, whose memories of that hellish week are featured in my most recent column for NOLA.com | Times-Picayune, shared with me these photographs, many which have never been published.
Below are several of the photos taken in and around the Dome that week with Bush’s descriptions of them:
Col. Ed Bush:
Some guy would walk up, “Look, my Auntie, she’s sick, she can’t walk, my dad broke his leg and the way here, he can’t walk so can I get – I’m just getting them for my whole family, I need 10 MREs.” And, then, they send somebody else up, and now they’ve got 20. And I get it, because they’re like, “We better take care of our own.” They’re just taking care of their families. We were absolutely controlling because we knew if we didn’t we’d run out, so we controlled water and we controlled food. But never did anyone miss a meal.
I mean we changed it a lot along the way. When we were in the Dome, we took golf carts and we delivered to the upper levels, to the general populations that could definitely move. We set up several points at gates and they just came and they got their food and we gave them one. Very quickly, you knew wherever the pockets and that some people were probably never going to make or a little scared to leave their spot, so we would try to kind of hit the far reaches. We would send soldiers with a cart-full and just say, “Go feed people.” If somebody came to me and said, “I didn’t get one,” I was going to give them one. I’m not going to call them on it. It’s not worth it.
Col. Ed Bush:
People were bringing their animals to the dome and we put them in a designated area. They had to leash them, they had to tie them. They could go visit them, but we kept the animals out of general population, for lack of a better term, and then we had a few guardsmen to volunteer just to go walk them, make sure they were doing okay.
We track it now, as a result of this. I give out a daily number that says how many people we’ve saved and how many animals we’ve saved as a lesson learned from Katrina. Our pilots have special training, our crews have special training, on how to deal with animals because then, as that helicopter picked you up, it was literally a matter of, Am I putting this kid on a helicopter or is this dog going on a helicopter? And our pilots absolutely said, “You can’t bring that animal on here.” Because there just wasn’t room and that’s sad, but I can remember saying in a press conference, “I understand that it rubs people the wrong way and I understand that I sounds cold but I’m telling you, people come first and in that situation where literally pilots are flying as fast as they can because he’s got a full load.”