After the Levee Breach, She Never Spoke Again

Gladys Simpson, Lakeview resident

The letter below is printed with permission from the writer, Carol Wilkinson who contacted us recently to thank us for our new “Fact Box” that we cycle on our new website.

Carol’s mother lived in the Lakeview neighborhood badly affected by the breach of the 17th Street Canal. I was struck by the final sentence of her note:

So much of the country has suffered devastation by disasters and know how it feels to lose not only a home, but family, neighborhoods and life as we knew it. I wonder how much worse they would feel if they lost their homes by an error from the government they trusted and it could have been prevented.

My mother lived in Lakeview 50 years. She had some dementia. After the levee breach, she never spoke again.

Making sure history is preserved and the facts are recorded properly is why is nominating the 17th Street Canal breach site and others to the National Register of Historic Places.

Click here for more details, and to find out what you can do.

3 responses to “After the Levee Breach, She Never Spoke Again”

  1. Judith Martin says:

    Footnote: Evacuations and checking on the elderly: Mom was already in her bed, dying, on the afternoon of Saturday, August 28, 2005. There was no way that I could move her from the bed to our car so that we could evacuate.

    The pastor of my church, who had already evacuated, called from Houston to urge me and Mom to evacuate; he never asked if we needed any help in getting out of our house and onto the road. Cousins of mine, who lived (and still live) within a 15 minute drive from where Mom and I lived (and where I still live), never once phoned to find out if we needed help in evacuating. They were already up in Shreveport!

    That is why I am so angry with people who were able to evacuate, but who gave no second thought to check on relatives, particularly elderly ones, to find out if there was a need for help for additional evacuation. Of course, we did not expect the levees to fail. Still, it would have been a nice consideration if someone from the family in particular had phoned, one way or the other.

    What happened six years ago is over and done with. But even today, I have second thoughts about whether to trust certain relatives or not when it comes to emergencies.

  2. S. Rosenthal says:

    Dear Judith, thank you for sharing this important message.

    It’s true, no one expected the levees to fail. As noted in the book The Making of a Catastrophe by W. Freudenburg, “no one asked them to evacuate on the grounds that the levees and floodwalls were about to fail, and those who concluded that they could withstand the storm were essentially correct in their thinking.”

    However, that does not excuse family, friends and neighbors who should have inquired if assistance was needed before, not after they left town.

    Sandy Rosenthal, wife, mom, whodat and founder of

  3. S. Rosenthal says:

    This comment is posted by with permission from Hannah Polmer.

    “After Hurricane Katrina struck there were reports on the news about the memorials that would pop up along the Golf Coast commemorating the event. I imagined I would visit beautiful commemorative plaques and sculptures from New Orleans to Alabama. I am hoping my vision becomes reality because even as I speak about it six years later, people show an interest in knowing what happened to the civilization of that area and why. 

    “Last year I put up a plaque on the site where my mother’s house once stood.  She passed away there during the flooding of New Orleans. It was the only way for me to voice my anger and disgust over the levee failure of the 17th Street Canal and the deaths that occurred. 

    “In memory of Rachel Polmer, who loved New Orleans and her adopted country, and who lost her life August 30, 2005.  This monument honors all the residents of Lakeview who lost their lives, their cherished loved ones, and their beloved pets in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  Let us show our eternal love of New Orleans in the way we remember these victims in our hearts.

    “Thank you for not allowing what happened to be forgotten.”

    Hannah Polmer

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