The Wounds of Hurricane Katrina

In her new memoir excerpted in Newsweek, the former secretary of state recalls the horror of being caught off guard while on vacation when Hurricane Katrina trounced the Gulf Coast.

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Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (Getty Images)

Newsweek features an excerpt of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's new book, No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington. The chapter "The Wounds of Katrina" shows a softer side of the usually taciturn Rice, who details her regret about staying on vacation after learning that Hurricane Katrina had struck New Orleans. 

... That evening, upon arriving at the Palace Hotel, I flipped on the television. Indeed, the hurricane had hit New Orleans. I called Henrietta, who said that the main issue was making sure our people were safe. She'd also convened a departmental task force because offers of foreign assistance were pouring in. I called Secretary of Homeland Security Mike Chertoff, inquiring if there was anything I could do. "It's pretty bad," he said. We discussed the question of foreign help briefly, but Mike was clearly in a hurry. He said he'd call if he needed me. I hung up, got dressed, and went to see Spamalot.

The next morning, I went shopping at the Ferragamo shoe store down the block from my hotel, returned to the Palace to await Randy and Mariann's arrival, and again turned on the television. The airwaves were filled with devastating pictures from New Orleans. And the faces of most of the people in distress were black. I knew right away that I should never have left Washington. I called my chief of staff, Brian Gunderson. "I'm coming home," I said.

"Yeah. You'd better do that," he answered.

Then I called the President. "Mr. President, I'm coming back. I don't know how much I can do, but we clearly have a race problem," I said. 

"Yeah. Why don't you come on back?" he answered. 

I actually hadn't expected that from the President. That's odd, I thought. He'd been so insistent that I go and get some rest. He's really worried. "Maybe I can go to Houston to represent you," I said ...

Read the entire excerpt at Newsweek

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