Press Release for Monday, August 25, 2008

Author Recounts Hurricane Katrina Through the Eyes of Kids

Contact: Joanna Norris, Assistant Director
Department of Media Relations and Events
(904) 620-2102

Hurricane Katrina was the costliest and one of the five deadliest hurricanes in the history of the United States. With the approaching third anniversary of one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes ever recorded, Thelma Young, a UNF employee and student, has authored her second book “All You Could See Was The Water: Hurricane Katrina through the Eyes of Children.”

Young, an Arlington resident, plans to release her latest book on Friday, Aug. 29, the anniversary date of Hurricane Katrina. The book is available at,,,, and at more than 2500 other online retailers. Young’s book can also be preordered on her Web site at

“All You Could See Was The Water” captures the personal experiences of 11 children who survived Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall on August 29, 2005, in southeast Louisiana and at the Louisiana/Mississippi state line. Some of the kids who shared their stories were evacuated; some were in New Orleans when the levees broke; still others were on the Mississippi Gulf Coast when Katrina made landfall.

“Their stories underscore the emotional and physical costs to those who bore witness to one of the worst disasters in American history,” said Young, who is the part-time program manager over the Oral History Project at UNF’s Thomas G. Carpenter Library and a UNF student working to complete her Bachelor of Arts degree in literature. She also works as a faculty assistant at the Florida Coastal School of Law.

Danielle, then 16, and her family didn’t evacuate New Orleans before the storm. Here is an excerpt from Young’s book: “I can’t swim. The water was up to my chest. I thought I was gonna drown…we had to walk three blocks to the Superdome…there was nobody else walking around. It was just us. Everybody else had left. We seen dead people. They was under the bridge wrapped in garbage bags. It was sad.’”

Young received a Transformational Learning Grant for approximately $1,000 in 2006 from the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Leadership Council at UNF to conduct research for her new book. She is also the author of “The Stories My Foremothers Told Me,” an oral history based on the lives of five women in her family who witnessed the Civil Rights Movement in the Deep South.

In addition to recording oral histories, Young, a native of Biloxi, Miss., conducts workshops across the country, emphasizing the importance of storytelling. Her work with children who survived Hurricane Katrina prompted the University of Virginia to invite her to speak at their inaugural Symposium on Race and Society.

In addition to working at UNF, she is also employed at
Young has received several honors and awards, including the Woman of Power in 2006 by the National Council of Jewish Women and an annual writing contest at UNF was renamed the Thelma F. Young Award for Writing Excellence in her honor. She is a member of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History and has served as editor in chief of the “Fiction Fix” literary journal.