Mark Cave: Historian collects stories of life in immediate aftermath of Katrina





So what really happened in New Orleans in the twilight-zone days immediately following Hurricane Katrina?

That's one of the questions to which Mark Cave, an oral historian with the Historic New Orleans Collection, has been seeking answers in his personal interviews over the last three years with 500 police officers, firefighters, National Guard troops and emergency medical personnel who were on the ground after the storm.

Since any trial lawyer knows that two people viewing the same event can come up with wildly differing accounts of what they saw and experienced, Cave said the value of conducting hundreds of interviews with people on the scene is that the "truth" rests in the preponderance of evidence.

In an interview with the Clarion Herald, newspaper of the New Orleans Archdiocese, Cave said conducting hundreds of interviews allows common stories and facts to emerge from the jumble of eyewitness accounts, and the commonly shared memories can be relied on as the best version of the truth.

Cave, his Historic New Orleans Collection colleague Alfred Lemmon and New Orleans archdiocesan archivist Emilie (Lee) Leumas presented their findings in July to the 16th Congress of the International Council on Archives in Malaysia, which drew 1,200 archivists from around the world.


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