By Robert Mann

It was unmercifully hot outside the Louisiana Superdome around 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2005. It was five days into the inhuman ordeal afflicting 40,000 New Orleans residents after Hurricane Katrina. Huddled in and around the building – surviving on rationed water and MREs and enduring horrendous hygienic conditions – the Dome’s occupants were boiling mad.

Standing before them on a truck bed, trying vainly to calm the sullen crowd, was Major Ed Bush, the deputy public affairs officer for the Louisiana National Guard. Along with hundreds of guardsmen, Bush had lived in the Dome since the night before Katrina’s landfall on Aug. 29. “It was just hot,” recalled Bush, now a colonel and the Guard’s public affairs officer. “The people had enough. It was kind of a breaking point kind.”

“Can I talk to them?” an African-American woman asked Bush. “Come on,” Bush replied, as he helped her onto the truck. “She takes the mic,” Bush recalled, “and she’s literally like, ‘Shame on you!’ Just scolding them –10,000 people.” When she was done, the woman led the crowd in a hymn.

An unidentified woman scolds the crowd at the Louisiana Superdome on Sept. 1, 2005, as then Major Ed Bush, left, of the Louisiana National Guard climbs down from a Guard vehicle.

At that moment, Bush recalled, “a little bit of light mist” fell from the sky “and everybody just kind of went, ‘ahh.'””

The crowd’s anger dissipated, he said. Bush told the woman, “If you’ve got any more of that left, you might want to save some because we might need a little bit more.” The woman hugged him and climbed down. “I don’t even believe in miracles and that was a miracle,” Bush said.

During more than an hour of interviewing Bush about the hellacious week in the Superdome, he recounted similar stories. Sure, there was some awful behavior (although reports of widespread deaths and violence in the Dome were false). The remarkable moments, however, were many acts of kindness and the crowd’s refusal, in the face of enormous suffering, to surrender to mayhem or widespread violence.

“It’s very hard to comprehend,” Bush told me in Baton Rouge on Aug. 17 during a break from his duties dealing with the floods that had inundated south Louisiana days before. “I don’t know that any group of people could really hang on, and they did. Everyone in that Dome, they’ve could’ve flipped that place upside.”

Continue reading on at this link.

Note: You can view some of the photos Ed Bush took inside and around the Dome in September 2005 on my blog at this link.

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