Making Contact in Times of Crisis: Literacy Practices in a Post-Katrina World
On Saturday, August 27, 2005, two days before Hurricane Katrina struck her home in New Orleans, April evacuated to Texas. She packed enough clothes for three days, a few books, and her laptop and evacuated with her sixteenyear-old son, Tommy, and their new puppy. Her husband, Blair, stayed behind to secure their home. He planned to leave the next day-ahead of the storm-but when the levees suddenly rose, Blair became trapped before eventually hitch-hiking out of town one week later. The family was together for just two weeks, and then Blair returned to the Gulf Coast to begin recovery efforts. April and Tommy stayed in Texas until October 3, 2005. During their fiveweek exile in Texas, they stayed first with relatives and then in a hotel. While in exile, April employed a variety of new literacies-those literacy practices that have emerged as a result of rapidly changing informational and computerbased technologies (Cope & Kalantzis, 2000; Kress, 2003). Sometimes she did this in familiar ways such as maintaining contact with friends and family through email, and sometimes in ways she had never encountered before, such as blogs. After she returned to New Orleans in early October to begin rebuilding her home and life, April witnessed novel uses of literacy that arose in direct response to the Hurricane, such as spray-painted signs that spoke of rescuers’ findings in abandoned houses and survivors’ wry observations on the Federal Emergency Management Agency.