It was my pleasure to renew acquaintances with Kathleen Koch yesterday afternoon as we chatted about her upcoming book, How My Mississippi Hometown Lost It All and Found What Mattered. Kathleen is a Bay St Louis girl made good who ended up at CNN as a general assignment reporter covering aviation, the White House, Congress and the Pentagon during her 18 year run with the network. I went to school with Kathleen’s kid sister and my siblings were all around the same general age as the Koch kids so she was happily surprised to find out Sop was someone with whom she was familiar from back in the day. It was neat to catch up.
This brings us to the topic of today’s post, Kathleen’s upcoming book. Assigned by CNN to cover her hometown in the immediate aftermath of Katrina, the experience as any Slabber can attest, is life changing and such was certainly the case for Kathleen. This excerpt from the book’s press release sums it up:
As CNN correspondent Kathleen Koch covered the Katrina aftermath on the Gulf Coast, she made a promise to the hurricane victims in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. The day she left, she told them, “I promise I won’t let anyone forget what happened here.” The pledge would be difficult to keep, as most Americans didn’t realize Mississippi caught the brunt of the storm.
Despite her two award-winning documentaries and countless reports on Mississippi’s recovery for CNN, it is Kathleen’s inspiring new book that fulfills her promise. Rising From Katrina: How My Mississippi Hometown Lost It All and Found What Mattered takes readers on a journey from the eve of preparations and the crushing landfall of the monster hurricane to the town’s determined and ongoing efforts to rebuild. “I want people to see what I saw, hear what I heard, feel what I felt,” Kathleen says of the book, which also traces her own personal path from devastation to recovery.
Kathleen spent much of her childhood on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where on August 29, 2005, entire towns were reduced to shoulder-high rubble by Katrina’s roaring winds and unprecedented thirty-plus-foot storm surge. Her assignment to cover the storm and its aftermath was a personal one for the veteran reporter. Kathleen reported from the sites of once-beautiful homes—including her own—stripped to their concrete pads. Old friends asked her to search for loved ones whose bodies would soon be found.
But Rising from Katrina is not just a story of destruction and disaster; it’s a tale of the kindness of strangers, of minor miracles—and, above all, of how communities rolled up their sleeves and rebuilt. It tells of the bravery and resilience of Gulf Coast residents, who when no help came—helped each other restore their homes, their towns, and their lives.
We profiled one of those CNN specials Kathleen did on the Bay-Waveland area, The Town that Fought Back, which chronicled the insurance war in a post I authored in early 2008 which contains Youtube embeds of the entire documentary and it remains well worth the watch for those wanting to understand what the major insurers tried to do to homeless hurricane victims in the aftermath of the storm. In so many respects Slabbed is the blog that fought back as we have successfully taken on the full might of the State Farm cyber-PR machine not allowing their criminal conduct on the coast to be swept under the rug and to that extent we’re kindred spirits with Kathleen and her body of journalistic work on the subject.
Despite her career taking her to Maryland, Kathleen remains active in service to this area where she serves on the USM School of Mass Communications and Journalism Advisory Board. She will be down on the coast in early August doing a state wide book tour and she will be appearing in New Orleans as well. We’ll be reviewing the book and will cover one of the book signing events. So the New Orleans contingent of the Slabbed Nation is not left out on August 6th she will be at the Garden District Book Shop on Prytania St. In Mississippi signings are scheduled in August literally from the coast to Memphis and all points in between including Square Books in Oxford.