Dome Away From Home

For two weeks in September, the Eighth Wonder of the World was miraculously transformed into the largest emergency shelter in the universe, where 17,500 Katrina survivors found comfort, hundreds of families were reunited, and New Orleans showed its first signs of rebirth.

IN THE EARLY MORNING OF SATURDAY, September 3, five days after Hurricane Katrina lit into New Orleans and rerouted the course of America’s natural, political, and economic history for God only knows how long, I walked up a ramp in the Astrodome with a blank-faced kid from Houston who never did tell me his name. Neither of us knew what we were walking into, but the kid, who looked to be barely twenty, at least knew what he was looking for. It gave him no comfort. His father lived in New Orleans, and he hadn’t heard from him since the storm had hit. But in the wake of Katrina’s third flood, the one that came after the rains and the levee breaks, the one that washed 245,000 hurricane survivors into Texas, the Dome had become the largest shelter the American Red Cross had ever organized, a temporary home to 17,500 people. When a Houston TV station had broadcast live from the Dome the previous evening, the kid had seen a man on-screen

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