Lieutenant General Russel Honoré, MU’s Mizzou Reads speaker, visited Jesse Auditorium on Wednesday evening to discuss preparedness and leadership in the U.S. during Hurricane Katrina.
The Mizzou Reads selection for 2011, "Zeitoun," explores the consequences of government actions taken after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. Lt. Gen. Honoré was in charge of many National Guard troops after the tragedy. He expressed great concern for making preparations as a nation for future disasters.
“The key to being able to respond to disasters like this is preparedness,” he said. “Hopefully, on your watch, we won’t see another Hurricane Katrina.”
Lt. Gen. Honoré said he recognizes that disaster preparedness for New Orleans was inadequate at the time of his arrival in the flooded city. Caring for and transporting victims away from harm was especially challenging.
“The impact of losing power in a disaster sets us back about 80 years,” he said. “We even ran out of REMs, or ready to eat meals.”
Providing aide, even in the form of food and water, became a difficult process, he said.
Although some of the events that Lt. Gen. Honoré witnessed were horrific, he remains optimistic about the future, and driven to continue to make a difference.
“We have to end poverty in America,” he said. “The majority of people who died in Katrina were elderly, disabled or poor. These are some problems that you can help solve that will make us a more resilient nation.”
Attendees shared their admiration for Lt. Gen. Honoré.
“He was really big on preparedness,” freshman John Stahl said. “If you want change, you have to be the change.”
A few students who have read "Zeitoun" were required by teachers to attend the event to learn more about the relief effort from a first-hand experience.
“We had to go for my English class," freshman Madison Minter said. "We have to write a one-page formal response. The whole class is based around 'Zeitoun.'”
Although some of the audience members were studying material relevant to the speech, some found Lt. Gen. Honoré’s account to be enlightening.
“I gained a better understanding of Hurricane Katrina, and more detail from his point of view,” Minter said.