This month I produced and directed the first episode of the online series “Hero Next Door” for the Weather Channel. As the name suggests “Heroes” is about people who not only survived an extreme weather event, but saved others in the process.
The first episode profiles father and son team, Jesse Shaffer III and IV, from Braithwaite, Louisiana who rescued 120 neighbors as they patrolled their town in fishing boats during Hurricane Isaac in 2012.
For their heroic efforts, the Shaffers were honored by the Medal of Honor Recipients in Washington, DC with the “Citizen Service Before Self” award for going above and beyond for their fellow man.
We were there on the one year anniversary of Hurricane Isaac. A year later, the community of Braithwaite Park is a total loss.
Braithwaite is about 20 miles southeast of New Orleans, so the DP and I commuted from the French Quarter for both shoot days. Here’s what we learned:
- Sometimes the GPS routes you by way of ferry across the Mississippi river.
- The ferry crosses the river in 7 minutes and costs $1 per vehicle.
- When in the bayou, beware of gators. Seriously.
- Storm surge of a hurricane can be more destructive than wind and rain.
- The levee system still requires attention before many people can return to Braithwaite.
- Still reeling from the effects and memories of Isaac and Katrina, the people who live there couldn’t be more generous and just want their stories told.
Special thanks to the Shaffer family, the Jones family, Natasha Morgan and Domingo De Los Reyes for sharing their stories and experiences during Hurricane Isaac, which proved both inspiring and humbling, and to John Marton, who really hustled in the field to make this look beautiful with his C300, and Conor Flynn, who edited the piece as fast as his fingers would fly.