The Wind in the Reeds

The Wind in the Reeds: A Storm, a Play, and the City That Would Not Be Broken 

On the morning of August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina barreled into New Orleans, devastating many of the city's neighborhoods, including Pontchartrain Park, the home of Wendell Pierce's family and the first African American middle-class subdivision in New Orleans. The hurricane breached many of the city's levees, and the resulting flooding submerged Pontchartrain Park under as much as 20 feet of water. Katrina left New Orleans later that day, but for the next three days the water kept relentlessly gushing into the city, plunging eighty percent of New Orleans under water. Nearly 1,500 people were killed. Half the houses in the city had four feet of water in them or more. There was no electricity or clean water in the city; looting and the breakdown of civil order soon followed. Tens of thousands of New Orleanians were stranded in the city, with no way out; many more evacuees were displaced, with no way back in.

Pierce and his family were some of the lucky ones: They survived and were able to ride out the storm at a relative's house 70 miles away. When they were finally allowed to return, they found their family home in tatters, their neighborhood decimated. Heartbroken but resilient, Pierce vowed to help rebuild, and not just his family's home, but all of Pontchartrain Park. 

Meet the Author: Wendell Pierce & Rod Dreher

Wendell Pierce was born in New Orleans and is an actor and Tony Award-winning producer. He starred in all five seasons of the acclaimed HBO drama "The Wire" and was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for the role. He also starred in the HBO series "Treme" and has appeared in many feature films including "Selma," "Ray," "Waiting to Exhale" and "Hackers." Since Hurricane Katrina, Pierce has been helping to rebuild the flood-ravaged Pontchartrain Park neighborhood in New Orleans. 

Rod Dreher has been a writer, columnist and critic for a variety of publications, including "National Review," "The Wall Street Journal," and "the Dallas Morning News." He is the author of "Crunchy Cons" and "The Little Way of Ruthie Leming."

Find Wendell online: @WendellPierce

Find Rod online: @roddreher

The opening lines of The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri launched Rod Dreher on a journey that rescued him from exile and saved his life. Dreher found that the medieval poem offered him a surprisingly practical way of solving modern problems.


THE LITTLE WAY OF RUTHIE LEMING follows Rod Dreher, a Philadelphia journalist, back to his hometown of St. Francisville, Louisiana (pop. 1,700) in the wake of his younger sister Ruthie's death. When she was diagnosed at age 40 with a virulent form of cancer in 2010, Dreher was moved by the way the community he had left behind rallied around his dying sister, a schoolteacher.