It's been two years already. If they had lived in Bangladesh during the tsunami, they'd be back home. But in New Orleans USA, more than half the original residents have not, CAN NOT, return to “The City That Care Forgot.” Now, in Big Easy to Big Empty, our investigative documentary re-released this week, meet the people that EVERYONE forgot.
– Stephen Smith who had no car, and no way to evacuate New Orleans. He tells us his devastating story of being left behind, closing the eyes of an old man who died while waiting to be rescued on a bridge, watching helicopters soar pass overhead, and no one coming to rescue him or the dozens stranded with him, on that bridge, for days. After the storm it took him 3 months to find his children. He is currently working in a grocery store in Houston and wants to come back to New Orleans but has no place to live.
– Ivor Van Heerden, Deputy Director of Louisiana State University's Hurricane Center reveals who knew what and when — before, during, and after the storm — and warns that his job is in danger for telling us his story.
“FEMA knew at eleven o'clock on Monday that the levees had breached, at 2 o'clock they flew over the 17th St. Canal and took video of the breaches, by midnight on Monday the White House knew, but none of us knew.”
– Brod Bagert, Former New Orleans' City Councilman and lawyer takes us to a neighbor's house where 5 bodies were found after the storm — in the back yard we find the levees that were supposed to protect the city from flooding; the levees that were supposed to protect the people who died here.
“Old ladies watched as water came up to their nose, over their eyes, and they drowned in houses just like this, in this neighborhood because of reckless negligence that is unanswered for.”
– Pamela Lewis, who had guns shoved in her face when she tried to evacuate with her 86 year old mother, has now been relocated over 100 miles from the city to one of FEMA's giant trailer parks fenced in with barbed-wire and has lived there for 9 months. The trailer park is in a field literally in the middle of nowhere behind an Exxon Oil Refinery — the only bus available for residents goes only to Wal-Mart.
“It is a prison set-up. I've never been to the bottom of the barrel until I came here.”
– Patricia Thomas who broke her teeth while trying to evacuate is now homeless and is locked out of her public housing unit in the Lafitte housing project near the French Quarter. We go with her as she enters her blockaded apartment (which she now plans to illegally occupy) and find that it was not damaged by the flooding and could be re-opened within a week's time.
“Katrina didn't do this. Man did this. This was man made.”
“If we could do it – we could take a thousand people and house them in a humane way, why can't the federal government do it?”
– Henry Irving Sr., home-owner in the Lower 9th Ward. His entire neighborhood has been completely destroyed, hardly anyone has returned, and those that have returned have been told not to — and yet Mr. Irving plans to stay.
“That's what they want us to do. They want us to get discouraged and to leave. I'm going to stay here long enough to see it come back.”
Big Easy to Big Empty: The Untold Story of the Drowning of New Orleans.
“One of the best documentaries I've ever seen.” – Christiane Brown, Air America Radio.
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Greg Palast, Writer & Reporter
Matt Pascarella, Executive Producer
Jacquie Soohen, Co-Producer, Filmographer & Editor
Coordinating Producers: Leni von Eckardt, Zach Roberts & Christy Speicher
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