This is an article written in 2006 but it’s a reminder of what happened behind-the-scenes in the aftermath of Katrina. Lou Dolinar focuses on the efforts of the National Guard who for several days was focused on search and rescue efforts. While these efforts were not glamorous (rationing of food and water by the National Guard at the Superdome, a lack of bathrooms), they were effective: the number of deaths was much lower than the anticipated figure of 10,000.
Dolinar summarizes the story:
FEMA failed miserably. Yet the Coast Guard, a branch of the much-maligned Department of Homeland Security, operated precisely according to plan and saved up to 30,000 lives amid near total destruction. The National Guard Bureau helped run the show. The State Guard and regular military, which owes its extraordinary professionalism to the administration’s insistence on training and equipage for service in Iraq, saved tens of thousands more.
Well worth reading in full.