September 1, 2005: Watching television I saw an image that moved me: a photo of a black man with no legs being pushed in a wheelchair through the floods of New Orleans. This image prompted me to look at who was being hurt by this calamity, and at how desperate people were being portrayed as savages. Inspired by this image and by my friend Clarence Williams, who had just been rescued from a New Orleans rooftop, I felt an obligation to do what I felt wasn't being done: to photograph this epic loss with sensitivity for the survivors, the people who were suffering the most.

September 4, 2005: On the verge of purchasing a ticket to Houston, Texas, a friend of mine called to say that her church and others from the Newark, New Jersey, area would be leaving for Mississippi by bus on Wednesday with gallons of water, toiletries, support, spiritual guidance, and most of all the desire to bring back 20 families!

September 10, 2005: As we traveled south we saw signs of trauma nearly everywhere - from children innocently playing while their parents stayed nearby worrying, to the uncertainty and weariness that the eyes of the young and elderly could not hide. But despite all the frustration, embarrassment, and humiliation they had suffered, the survivors we met from New Orleans and Mississippi were the most respectful, gracious, dignified group of Americans that somehow no one – least of all the media – seemed to know anything about. We helped to resuscitate them with hope, but for how long? Their needs exceeded what we could offer financially, but they valued our compassion, support, prayers, and listening more than anything else.

September 14, 2005: Leaving Hattiesburg, I first thought of what gluttons we are here in America. We waste more than what we give, and we horde just as much. I then thought of how fortunate we were to meet such a group of humbled people, whose survival, loss, and faith taught us more than money could buy. You never know what you have, till it's gone.

-- Russell Frederick

All photographs and text copyright © 2005 Theo Rigby