No Ordinary Heroes: 8 Doctors, 30 Nurses, 7,000 Prisoners, and a Category 5 Hurricane

Richard Demaree Inglese, Author, Diana G. Gallagher, With . Citadel $24.95 (326p) ISBN 978-0-8065-2831-1

In the brutal aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Inglese, medical director of the Orleans Parish Jail in New Orleans, struggled to keep his wards alive for a full week after the levees broke. As his straightforward account illustrates, it was no easy task. Power went first, then potable water, then food, while the prisoners, abandoned to the stifling heat of the cell blocks, began to riot. A former army officer, Inglese possessed the determination and organizational skills to rally his staff in the chaos, and their professionalism undoubtedly saved many. Despite his M.D. and military background, Inglese seems like a regular guy—a regular guy who barely mentions his hobbies, opinions, past, friends or life outside his job and thereby never really takes shape as a character. The prose is pedestrian and abounds with clunkers like “My stubborn streak kicked in.” Yet Inglese's single-minded focus on the minutiae of navigating the disaster slowly brings out the inherent drama of his story—from swimming through the sewage-fouled water to facing down desperate prisoners. Inglese never assigns blame, but the fact of his isolation and the dangers faced by his little group highlight the absolute incompetence of the official response. Despite the book's shortcomings, Inglese brings the human scale of the tragedy to life. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 05/28/2007
Release date: 08/01/2007
Genre: Nonfiction
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