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Book Review - Three Tides - Part 4

Pineda’s ‘gathering’ chapters are all about the epic destruction of Katrina. I come away from this reading feeling some sense of relief that many people are decent human beings who will help others in times of need, including Pineda herself. Pineda talks a lot about the strong sense of community in New Orleans before the hurricane and that during the hurricane the effected people were repeatedly “helping one another, sharing what they had.” 

But the sense of relief at the humanity between individual people, gave way very quickly to disgust at the negligence of the organizations meant to help. Starting with the callous government officials who actually seem to have viewed Katrina as an opportunity to ‘clean up’ the “public housing” of New Orleans in favor of “urban renewal.” Rep. Richard Baker actually said as much, adding, “We couldn’t do it, but God did.” Apparently, they blew up the levees intentionally to sacrifice the poorer parts of town, in order to save the richer areas and tourist districts. That, coupled with the fact they rescued the affluent white population first, make it impossible not to see it all as a cold and calculated plan just waiting for a cover story. But the dubious forms of help offered by other organizations, like the Red Cross, also leave me wondering where all the money went that was donated. It clearly didn’t make it to the people who needed it. One of the victims is quoted as summing it up with, “Most of us survived the hurricane. All the death … was from lack of medical attention, no emergency medical response, no rescue.”

I found these chapters deeply moving and excruciatingly eye-opening. The helicopters which flew overhead but didn’t pick people up for several days, or even drop water or food. The floating corpses of neighbors, friends, beloved pets. Watching people attacked by alligators or drowning in front of you. Separated families being shipped off to different states. No medications. Prisoners left locked in their cells to drown. This entire section of this book is a written tour of hell. And I especially appreciated Pineda’s inclusion of the verbatim oral history versions of the victims’ stories. Her explanation for recording the stories, “because like any holocaust, none of it should ever be forgotten or denied” is both beautiful and apt. 

And the way Pineda wove in the strands of her own subconscious preparations for a move she didn’t realize she intended to make was intriguing. The purging of all her unnecessary worldly goods, seemed to start as a simple desire to find things to donate to the hurricane victims. But the purging continued as she gathered more and more of the traumatic stories until she finally realized she had decided, on some level and at some point, to sell her house. I find that angle of the section fascinating. I’m trying to figure out if she would have come to that same place without the exposure to the hurricane victims.


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