Patricia Thompson: After riding out the storm in the city with her family, Thompson led twenty-two members of her family on daily trips to the Convention Center, the Superdome, and the I-10 Causeway in search of help. On one occasion, armed soldiers trained their guns on her six-year-old granddaughterâ€™s forehead.
Dan Bright: The night before the storm, Bright was arrested on false charges and held in Orleans Parish Prison. When the storm came, guards abandoned the building, leaving Bright and his fellow inmates to break out of their cells to save their lives.
Father Vien The Nguyen: Father Nguyen stayed through the storm to aid parishioners who could not evacuate. As the days wore on and their supplies dwindled, help was nowhere to be found.
Rhonda Sylvester: After weathering the storm, Sylvester floated her grandchildren in buckets through miles of filthy floodwater, searching for rescuers. Buses meant to take them to safety eventually moved them to a highway where they languished for days.
Abdulrahman Zeitoun: Zeitoun traveled around the city in a canoe rescuing stranded neighbors and animals for days before being arrested under suspicion of terrorism. He was then held for weeks without charges or contact with his family.
Renee Martin: The morning after the storm, Martin awoke to find herself surrounded by water. She fled to a neighborâ€™s porch where she waited through the night for rescue. In the morning, she was brought to the Superdome where she remained for days.
Father Jerome LeDoux: LeDoux stayed in New Orleans during the storm in order to tend to his churchâ€”the oldest African-American parish in the United Statesâ€”and parishioners. Then when the floodwaters receded, he and his parish were faced to keep their church from being closed by the Catholic church.
Anthony Letcher: Letcher and his family reside in the Ninth Ward. As the storm raged on and floodwaters surrounded their house, Letcherâ€™s mother spotted two children screaming for help. Letcher dove in and saved the children. Over the next week, he rescued dozens of people in a boat he found across the street from his house.
Daniel Finnigan: Finnigan and his neighbors defended their local grocery store from would-be looters for three days following the storm. However, as word spread of the devastation in the Lower Ninth Ward and help did not come, Finnigan abandoned his efforts.
Jackie Harris: Years before the storm, Harris co-founded the Louis Armstrong Summer Jazz Camp, and has remained a major part of the cityâ€™s vibrant music scene. She evacuated to New York before the storm, where she immediately began organizing benefit concerts for Katrina survivors.
Kalamu Ya Salaam: Ya Salaam is one of the brightest literary voices coming out of New Orleans. Before the storm, he taught New Orleans public school students and worked as a journalist. He returned to the city shortly after the storm and is a strong advocate in the struggle to preserve New Orleansâ€™s African-American cultural tradition.
Sonya Hernandez: Without enough money to evacuate the city, Hernandez and her family were forced to flee to the Superdome for safety during the storm. Conditions in the dome rapidly deteriorated to a horrific level. Hernandez kept her family close together until they were finally evacuated to Camp Gruber in Oklahoma, where they remained for over a month.
Voice of Witness is a non-profit organization that uses oral history to illuminate contemporary human rights crises in the U.S. and around the world. Founded by author Dave Eggers and physician/human rights scholar Lola Vollen, Voice of Witness publishes a book series that depicts human rights injustices through the stories of the men and women who experience them. The Voice of Witness Education Program brings these stories, and the issues they reflect, into high schools and impacted communities through oral history-based curricula and holistic educator support.