Hurricane Katrina: Devastation captured by Navy photographer’s camera

Posted at 8:14 AM, Aug 31, 2015
and last updated 2015-08-31 08:14:16-04

(CNN) – A single picture can be powerful. It can show emotion, document history, and in the military, a photo can start or stop a war.

Ten years ago, a young Navy photographer had the assignment of a lifetime: be the first to capture the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. That photographer is now a CNN employee**, and as he explains to CNN's Mary Moloney, on that day 10 years ago, he had no idea what he’d be walking into.

Flying on a helicopter into New Orleans, two days after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, a young Navy photographer was stunned by what he saw.

“When you fly into a metropolis and a city and you see everything that’s flooded. That’s when it really hits that it’s catastrophic. I just started shooting as much as I could to document what we were seeing so we could show it to everyone else. The first thing that hit me was really just the smell. Just the smell of the water, the flooding, the sewage coming back up.”

“You could see people in little baby pools trying to get to the Superdome, wading through water. I saw a gentleman carrying just a little infant, maybe a year old. The water is up to his waist. People were doing anything they could to get to the Superdome and for him it was carrying his infant child through waist deep water through the streets of New Orleans just to get there.”

But the Superdome had a host of problems. “There was no garbage cans, the toilets didn’t work, there were dirty diapers, there was old food different things scattered everywhere.”

People were desperate.

“They have nothing left. This is real. This is not a movie that they are shooting, this is not something surreal that’s staged, this is real. And that’s when the emotions kicked in.”

Grisham documented the damage for several hours and then went to help people on the Mississippi coast.

He says he felt honored to meet survivors of the storm and to share their stories with the world.

** Jeremy Grisham also worked at NewsChannel 3 for several years as a photojournalist and assignment desk editor.