The Old Man and the Storm
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What do you take away from this story on Herbert Gettridge and his family? Do you have a Katrina story to share?

Dear FRONTLINE,

After teaching 30 years in public school, and serving my country in the Vietnam War, I thought I had seen every kind of example of how progress can help human kind. But after viewing this program, I must now make a confession that I have NEVER been more embarrassed for my country as I witnessed the false hopes given to the victims of Katrina and their vain attempts to recover from the bungles within the U.S. government. I hang my head in shame.

Thom Wood
Easley, SC

Dear FRONTLINE,

Your show resonated deeply with my wife and me, residents of Bethesda, Maryland, who are providing refuge to my 87-year-old mother-in-law, Esther, a life-long resident of Barataria, Louisiana, whose home was destroyed by Katrina and Rita. Although Esther resettled in Barataria in a house that survived those two 2005 storms, her new home was made uninhabitable in September 2008 by the two-punch blow of Gustav and Ike. Mr. Gettridge's repeated disappointments in governmental promises, in the face of extraordinary resolve to reclaim his home, has also been the sad story of many people in the less populated areas south of New Orleans, such as Barataria, Laffite, and Port Sulphur. What an injustice for our nation to prolong the nature-induced agony of the people of this region while so quickly providing bailouts to big corporations that sowed the seeds of their own decline!

William Zellmer
Bethesda, MD

Dear FRONTLINE,

I get so angry at Bush AND at Congress. They will fall over themselves to help out General Motors with 7 billion dollars, but they can't help these people get back on their feet. Three and a half years later why are there only three hospitals functioning in that area? An 84-year-old man has to do all this by himself? He's got the patience of Job, is all I can say. God bless him and his family.

Iris Gross
Edmond, Oklahoma

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for Mr. Gettridge's amazing story of perseverance and strength as he struggled to rebuild his home in the lower Ninth ward of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. He is an inspiration to all of us here in New Orleans who have all struggled in the aftermath of a storm that flooded 80% of the city.

My car broke down 2 days before Katrina and I refused to leave my 8 cats behind in my Lakeview apartment, an area across town from the lower 9. The water started coming up from the broken levees and canals at midday on August 29th and by nightfall was up to my neck. I was able to climb up into a 7 foot closet to get out of the water and spend the night - a night like no other with blackness so complete that I could not see my hand in front of my face.

In the morning, I was able to break out my windows and swim myself and 3 of my cats out to the carport roof where I was rescued by a first responder. I had put my other 5 cats up into the same closet that had provided me a safe haven from the rising water and prayed that they would be safe until I could return to rescue them.

After a harrowing 13 days, I was finally able to return (by boat) to my home to try and rescue the 5 cats that I had to leave behind. And miraculously, they were all still in the closet, starving and dehydrated, but alive.

I returned to New Orleans in March of 2006 and moved into an apartment while trying to rebuild my then 87 year old mother's Lakeview home. It took almost 2 years to receive what Road Home money she did receive and about a year and a half to get any home owner's insurance. But by this time, my Mom was in a nursing home in Alabama and she made the decision to stay there and not to rebuild her home of 40 years. Most of the Road Home money is almost gone as it has been spent on my Mom's nursing home. I miss her so much.

I cried while watching the documentary - at the struggles of Mr. Gettridge and his family and I cursed at the footage of President Bush, FEMA and the joke that the Road Home program became.

New Orleans has been called the city that care forgot. And it is truly the city that Washington forgot.

But thanks to the incredible spirit of the residents of New Orleans and the scores of volunteers that have come here to help rebuild, we are doing so - and mostly on our own. Mr. Gettridge's story says it best and I thank you for sharing it and the plight of New Orleans with the world. We are still here thanks to people like Mr. Gettridge. God bless him. I pray that his family and neighbors will one day also be able to come home.

Chris Malkove
New Orleans, La.

Dear FRONTLINE,

I hope that the Gettridges' story will help to inform those in other states who say, "Why don't you people get to work and help yourselves and stop complaining?" The insurance companies vastly underpaid everyone, and only those who could afford to sue received adequate money for their repairs or replacement (after we all paid way above the national average for decades). In my case the insurance company issued most of the checks to my mortgage company, which is hanging onto most of the money until I complete my home! Now, 3 1/2 years later, the entire back of my house is still gutted while I try to make the time to fix it myself and still keep my life going. (My house didn't even flood, it was damaged by wind and rain.) People are being worn down by the grind of battling insurance and mortgage companies, the government, unscrupulous contractors, and taxes and utility companies which jack up rates to cover their own losses. Two people I know have shot themselves in the head. Most others are fighting depression. We dance in the streets to keep from jumping in the river. Hearing from other parts of the country that we're lazy and stupid doesn't help. God bless the thousands of volunteers, our countrymen who realize we're all in this together. How solid is the infrastructure where YOU live?

Cynthia Scott
New Orleans, Louisiana

Dear FRONTLINE,

As I watched this program, my heart went out to Mr. Gettridge and all of the families that suffered loss from Katrina.What struck me most, was how determined Mr. Gettridge was to get his home back togehter without the help of the local or federal government. And how sad to see Mrs. Gettridge come home and see how different everything was. Life had totally changed for them and their family.Being from Louisiana, I know how close families are here. The thought of having your loved ones scattered all across the country is more than anyone can stand. The stress of having to start over, with no help, having family far away, and not knowing when or if the neighborhoods will return, no one but the people going through that can know what it's like.Not only did the storm destroy lives , homes, schools and cities, it destroyed the culture of each of these little communities in it's path. It is a loss that can never be gotten back.I pray for the Gettridge family and all of the others who are in the same situation.The volunteers, who came and who are still coming to help, are the silver lining in the terrible storm. THANK YOU TO ALL OF YOU.

Ponchatoula, La.

Dear FRONTLINE,

I thought it was a very strong story. I do not understand why you felt you needed to use someone who'd already been on CNN and received a lot of coverage. His story is tragically common having gone to the Gulf Coast to do rebuilding work on three separate week long trips I've met a lot of people who have similar stories down there. I just wanted so much more from this documentary does not scratch the surface. Mississippi was never mentioned, that's where the eye of the storm past. That's where I have done my work in the Gulf Coast and I can tell you that it just surprises me to see so much attention on the 9th ward. This storm destroyed a region not a neighborhood. It was very interesting and appropriate to hear about the failure of programs by FEMA and the Road Home, but I felt that it didnt do justice to the storm and its victims. What about the levees, the evacuation process, the Superdome, the looting, the failure in that, the great job done by the Coast Guard in rescuing victims?

Joe Iadonisi
Norwood, MA

Dear FRONTLINE,

What a wonderful, moving program "The Old Man and the Storm" was. I found myself so quickly attached to the Gettridge family, particularly Mr. Herbert Gettridge, who reminded me much of my own grandfather. I'm glad they are doing well now. I'd give anything for them not to have had to suffer their loss with Katrina and the many struggles and pains that followed.

Gettridge family, you are in my prayers that you may soon feel "at home" again.

Never again, please America.

Katherine Phillips
East Norriton, PA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Just a thank you for bringing another story of the south and the devastation that was left after Hurricane's Katrina and Rita. I was fortunate enough to be one of thousands who traveled to the south in 2006 and 2007 to help rebuild homes and lives. I can't begin to describe the resiliancy of the people and the effect they had on my life. I was happy to be a part of their lives for the short times I was there. Their stories of survival were incredible and their gratitude and spirit boundless. Each time I went the improvements were small but they were there. I pray every day for all of them and I am so glad for shows like this so that we may never forget those in need. They are still out there. ---- thank you pbs

Tamara Hixon-Schaeffer
Maple Shade, NJ

Dear FRONTLINE,

I watched in anticipation and I was glad to see Gettridge family members I hadn't seen since Katrina. Mr. Gettridge is my neighbor and it filled me full of emotion. I am back home on Tennessee Street, and the Wizard is such an inspiration, seeing him on the roof, cutting his lawn or just doing something on his home. I wish that my mother were able to be here, but, like Mr. Gettridge you have to go on. And for bringing normalcy back I am happy for having him as a role model and I share in his zeal for wanting your neighbor back.

Robert Lynn Green, Sr.
New Orleans, La.

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for this story. I pray for the Gettridges and all who lost loved ones, homes and livelihoods in New Orleans. A former New Orleanian, I visited the Lower Ninth as well as Lakeview and Chalmette at Christmas: all three destroyed by Katrina, all three making painfully slow recovery. It would be good to shine the light on Lakeview and Chalmette too (mostly white, middle class) to show America that the slow recovery is not due to racism.

Karen Santelli
Allison Park, PA

Dear FRONTLINE,

All I can think of are the words of that coldhearted, bitter, uncaring, condescending, bigoted Barbara Bush at the Houston arena a few days after Katrina hit caught on tape saying something about how "these people" were disadvantaged anyway so this was not a bad deal for them....."this" being the unbearably hot, foul smelling, beyond-crowded arena housing the homeless victims of Katrina. I've seen every documentary on Katrina and this one was up there with the best. I hope June Cross will do a followup.

Terry Clark
New York, New York

Dear FRONTLINE,

i just wanted to say thank you for an incredible story about an incredible man. I met Mr. Gettridge in 2006 when I tried to save one of his houses from demolition (the one declared a historic landmark). He touched my soul. I so often worried about him, living alone with no electricity or working endlessly in sweltering Louisiana heat. But he never ceased to amaze me. Unfortunately, despite all my efforts, I failed to help save his house. I think of him and his family often.

Mandeville, LA

Dear FRONTLINE,

This was such a heartbreaking and inspiring story. To see Mr Gettridge triumph in spite of the government was truly inspirational. I only wish our elected officials had such spirit and courage. It is unfathomable that our government can invests billions in companies but cannot be bothered with helping people. Bush is wrong to think history will judge him kindly, history will remember Katrina.

LaTosha Lewis
Washington, DC

Dear FRONTLINE,

Mr. Gettridge is the pure embodiment of an American hero. He is at the pinnacle of human resiliency. I wish his leadership could inspire young men and women to act and aspire to become the young politicians this country so desperately needs.

Daniel Dybowski
Shorewood, Wisconsin

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posted january 6, 2009

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