Coast Guard heroes remember rescues after Katrina

Walking through the Hurricane Katrina exhibit at The Presbytère brought back the memories of saving lives in the flood for Coast Guard rescue swimmer Jonathan Rice.

NEW ORLEANS -- Walking through the Hurricane Katrina exhibit at The Presbytère brought back the memories of saving lives in the flood for Coast Guard rescue swimmer Jonathan Rice.

"We were flying for five days and nights straight, and my final total was like 228 people rescued."

But one brought tears to this strong man's eyes.

"I did a rescue to a two-story building, where this lady threw her infant child at me, and I had to catch the child in the air," Rice said. "I'm sitting here, and I'm holding this child by the arm, and I'm holding this child by the arm, going 'man, what if I would have missed this child's arm?' And she's crying and I pull her up, and I hug her real tight, and I get her inside the aircraft, and she starts smiling at me, and just reaches over and hugs me. She knew that I'd just saved her life."

"They were incredibly heroic," said Coast Guard Rear Admiral Jake Korn. "It's kind of hard to describe some of the things that they did, some of the conditions they experienced."

"Waving towels and shirts, and just anything that they could to get our attention," Rice said, remembering the frantic families stranded on roofs.

"You could see there were thousands on the rooftops, and I just remember having chills up my spine when I saw four Coast Guard helicopters, all hovering," said Coast Guard Cpt. Frank Paskewich.

"We decided as a crew, women and children first," remembered Rice.

"We rescued approximately 33,500 people, both by air as well as urban search and rescue," said Paskewich.

Those who went through Hurricane Katrina say the huge storm changed the Coast Guard for the better, and that 10 years later, those lessons are still being passed on.

"The things that we learned from that I think translated to the Deepwater Horizon for instance," Korn said. "The Coast Guard is better for what happened after Katrina, because we learned to imagine the worst I think."

In all 4,500 members of the Coast Guard took part in the search and rescue, plus the area's recovery efforts, in the first two and a half weeks after the storm.


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