Gulf Coast residents have only recently been able to mark, in Churchill’s words, “the end of the beginning” of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. This week, these Americans and the entire nation also mark the fifth anniversary of another disaster: Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Several months after these devastating storms, in its March/April 2006 edition, Health Affairs published “Witness to Disaster.”  In a special edition of the journal’s Narrative Matters section, patients, local clinicians and officials, and volunteers who came from all over the country related fist-person stories of the aftermath of the Gulf Coast hurricanes. Most of the experiences described in Witness for Disaster never made headlines, but they often made the difference between life and death.

An online supplement to “Witness for Disaster” describes what life was like in New Orleans in March 2006, and also provides photographs of the destruction. In addition, you can listen to podcasts of two of the Witness for Disasters authors reading their own stories: W. Richard Boyte, a Mississippi pediatrician who volunteered at a rural Mississippi camp housing elderly evacuees from a Louisiana nursing home; and Buck Taylor, a Montana community clinic director and volunteer fire captain/emergency medical technician who helped provide medical care in New Orleans.

All are invited to read the stories in “Witness To Disaster” and to take advantage of the audio and visual accompaniments. All of the material is freely available.