Former scholar writes book about Katrina
Kathleen Koch, former CNN correspondent and Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholar, reports from her hometown of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, USA, after Hurricane Katrina devastated its residents and infrastructure. Photo by Skip Nocciolo/CNN
Just days after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast in 2005, CNN correspondent Kathleen Koch rushed to her hometown of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, to cover a story that other media outlets weren’t telling.
Much of the immediate news focused on the chaos in New Orleans, Louisiana. Koch, a former Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholar and an award-winning broadcast journalist, reported instead on the devastation in communities along the coast of Mississippi.
"I had a deep fear the history books would focus only on Hurricane Katrina hitting New Orleans. Most Americans didn't realize that Mississippi caught the brunt of the storm," Koch says. "Before I left my hometown, I made a promise to the residents that I won't let anyone forget what happened."
In her new book, Rising from Katrina: How My Mississippi Hometown Lost It All and Found What Mattered, she fulfills her promise.
Koch made two award-winning documentaries about post-Katrina Mississippi for CNN and reported extensively on the state's recovery before leaving the network in 2008. But she felt a book would be a more concrete way to illustrate residents' perseverance after the hurricane.
"I want people to see what I saw, to hear what I heard, to feel what I felt," Koch says. "I was so struck by their resilience, faith, and determination. They never felt sorry for themselves.
"While so many people today are losing their homes and jobs, I think this story can resonate," she adds. "It tells the story of the whole Gulf Coast and how they lost everything and didn't give up hope."
In her book, Koch mentions several Rotary clubs doing their part to help victims, including the Rotary Club of Jonesboro, Arkansas, which rallied support from clubs across the country to collect more than 10,000 toys for the Boys and Girls Club of the Gulf Coast in time for Christmas.
"I was always aware of Rotary's commitment to help those in need. And more impressive is the dignified way in which they do it," Koch says. "Rotary was everywhere and still is. How can you not recognize a group like Rotary?"
Koch studied in Dijon, France, during her scholarship year, and is a member of the Rotary Foundation Alumni Advisory Committee. She says it is important for alumni to stay involved with Rotary.
"Rotary shouldn't let alumni slip away and vice versa," she says. "We need to reach out more to each other to create relationships."
Koch is excited about the 2011 RI Convention in New Orleans. "I look forward to seeing Rotarians around the world come and enjoy our Gulf Coast."
Rising from Katrina is available online. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Pneuma Winds of Hope and Lutheran Episcopal Services in Mississippi Coast Recovery Camps, two nonprofit groups working on the Katrina recovery effort in Bay St. Louis.
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