In the Ninth Ward, Johnson visited the George Washington Elementary School, on St. Claude Avenue, which was being used as a shelter. “Most of the people inside and outside of the building were Negro,” the diary reads. “At first, they did not believe that it was actually the President.” Johnson entered the crowded shelter in near-total darkness; there were only a couple of flashlights to lead the way.
“This is your President!” Johnson announced. “I’m here to help you!”
The diary describes the shelter as a “mass of human suffering,” with people calling out for help “in terribly emotional wails from voices of all ages...It was a most pitiful sight of human and material destruction.” According to an article by the historian Edward F. Haas, published fifteen years ago in the Gulf Coast Historical Review, Johnson was deeply moved as people approached and asked him for food and water; one woman asked Johnson for a boat so that she could look for her two sons, who had been lost in the flood.
“Little Mayor, this is horrible,” Johnson said to Schiro. “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.” Johnson assured Schiro that the resources of the federal government were at his disposal and that “all red tape [will] be cut.”
The President flew back to Washington and the next day sent Schiro a sixteen-page telegram outlining plans for aid and the revival of New Orleans.
Monday, September 26, 2005
What a president does after a hurricane
In September 1965, President Johnson visited New Orleans two days after Hurricane Betsy struck.
at 8:45 PM