University of the District of Columbia Law Review

Article Title

Priam's Lament: The Intersection Of Law And Morality In The Right To Burial And Its Need For Recognition In Post-Katrina New Orleans


Sarah Tomkins


Priam's lament might resound with those of us who saw certain images after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans three short years ago: bodies of beloved mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers dangling from house rafters and left to rot on street corners and in basements for months. The remaining unidentified victims were interred last summer at a new memorial, after spending the three years since Hurricane Katrina in a storage facility.3 How could this happen? In America, we might not expect the intercession of gods, but we do expect our government to set reasonable limits on human suffering. Were there just too many bodies? There were over fifteen hundred.4 Were they the wrong bodies? Over sixty percent of the victims of the storm were African American. Since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, these and many other hypotheses have been proposed to explain the neglect of Katrina's victims. However, none of these explanations address the question of why Katrina was so different from other national tragedies.