Over the weekend I finished a book that Stephanie’s dad lent me that will stay with me for a while. Rising Tide is the story of the 1927 Mississippi River flood that displaced millions of people and killed thousands. The true number will never be known because people simply disappeared, never to be seen again, surely drowned. The Mississippi Delta, which many of these people made their living off of, was reduced to swampland for nearly six months, effectively killing people’s livelihoods. It was, at the time, the worst natural disaster America had ever seen – and part of it was exacerbated by man himself.
I think back to Hurricane Katrina, when, at it’s worst, the displaced people from that flood suspected some of the flooding had been done on purpose. I thought to myself “that’s preposterous.” I thought these people are just mad and lashing out. After reading this book, I am not so sure. I’d like to think none of the flooding was purposely done during Katrina, but when you read Rising Tide and discover that some flooding WAS purposely done via the dynamiting of levees to re-direct water elsewhere, it makes you wonder. And I’ll give you one guess where “elsewhere” was.
Public officials in the 1927 flood were very upfront about it, citing the need to blow up levees as “the only way to save New Orleans.” Through nothing short of backroom force, the dynamiting was allowed to go forward, with written promises of financial help to the people who would be affected. Those thousands of people, mostly blacks in the Delta lost everything. Of course, a week later it was determined by nearly every expert that New Orleans was never in danger. And those people who were promised financial help? They never got a thing.
I didn’t ruin anything about the book – the story is how it all happened. How innocent people lost everything on purpose and got nothing in return. The politics of the south. Racism. It’s all there and it’s a barn-burner of a story.
How this escapes our history books is mind-blowing. Truly.