Fast forward 12 years and I was now starting my freshman year at Tulane University, where I quickly learned that Katrina transformed the city of New Orleans and the people that live in it, to this day, both on a personal and city-wide level. The people whose stories I heard are still as relevant and important today, as they were then. In one of my classes on New Orleans culture, we spent some classes going over the devastating effects and emotional toll that Hurricane Katrina took when it touched down in 2005.
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated the Southeast, making it a defining moment for those who lived in Louisiana, Mississippi, and other close areas at the time. In 2020, as the 15 year anniversary of the storm is coming up in just a couple of weeks, the survivors are seeing a devastating year once again.
Lindsey Bristol grew up in Biloxi, Mississippi, and lived there right before Hurricane Katrina hit, before evacuating and eventually returning to finish out high school. She later moved to New York to pursue acting, where she performed on Broadway and now teaches dance and drama.
Right now, she is interested specifically in the storytelling process from start to finish. This year, she started a podcast called Storm Stories to talk to people that were students when Katrina hit, and how it affected their lives then and now.
I got the chance to ask Lindsey about herself, podcasting, and the importance of storytelling and resilience, then in 2005 and now in 2020.
Let's begin...tell us a little about yourself and how you got into podcasting.
I’m Lindsey Bristol, and I would consider myself a “theatre professional.” I am originally from Biloxi, Mississippi, and I have a degree in Musical Theatre from the University of Montevallo in Birmingham, Alabama. I moved to New York City eight years ago to pursue the Broadway Dream. In the time that I’ve lived and worked in New York, I've realized that my love for theatre goes way beyond performing on the stage.
Now don’t get me wrong; I love performing. I’m extremely thankful for the opportunities I’ve had to perform not only in New York, but on national tours and in regional theatres all over the US, but I have discovered that I am passionate about the full creative process of storytelling - from inception to development to production.
In addition to working in a Broadway Casting Office and teaching Drama and Dance classes, in the past few years I’ve gotten more involved in writing and producing my own work as well as managing and directing developmental projects. So, currently, while the theatre industry is at a standstill, I wanted to keep telling stories, and podcasting seemed like a safe and exciting way to do that.
Still from a zoom recording for Storm Stories
What inspired you to start Storm Stories as the 15 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina is approaching?
I am so proud to be from the Gulf Coast. I think growing up here shaped who I am as a person, and as an adult, I am always so disappointed to see the news refer to my home as “the landmass,” especially because it is such a vibrant region with incredibly resilient people who deserve to be recognized. I also think Hurricane Katrina shaped my life in a way as well. I think everyone on the coast has a “Katrina Story”, but we rarely talk about it anymore, and I wanted to hear those stories.
Still from a zoom recording for Storm Stories with our founder
Your podcast focuses around people that were in high school when Katrina hit. Why has this group become the focus of the podcast?
My mind was blown when I realized that this was the 15 year anniversary. I turned 30 earlier this year, so 15 years was literally half my lifetime ago. I’ve grown and changed so much since then, and I know that living through a major life event at such a formative age impacted me. When we hear stories about Katrina, we usually just hear the stories about the communal recovery efforts or the economic impact of the area, but we rarely hear the personal stories of people who lived through it, and we NEVER talk about how it impacted students. So I decided I wanted to reach out to my friends and classmates, who are now adults navigating through another major crisis, to hear what they remember and how they were impacted.
Still from a zoom recording for Storm Stories
Podcasting has risen in popularity in the past couple of years. What are some of the biggest benefits and drawbacks to operating in this format?
I think it’s funny that podcasting is considered a “new trend”, because I think it’s really just an evolution of radio programming, which predates most of our modern entertainment by a longshot. The advances in technology have made podcast production accessible to almost anyone who feels like they have something to say, which is awesome. However, that accessibility also leads to oversaturation. There is so much podcast content out in the world that it would be impossible to consume all of it.
What has been the biggest surprise for you to learn from your guests on Storm Stories?
It’s been really interesting to discover what people my age remember from the time leading up to and following the storm. We were so young. And we didn’t process things the way our parents did. We remember things differently. We remember time differently. My parents could probably tell you exactly when we returned to school after the storm. To my friends, it felt like months and months. My parents could probably tell you where each business along Highway 90 was located before the storm. We just remember thinking how crazy it would be if the big shark in front of Sharkheads might be discovered in the Sound by an unsuspecting fisherman. We don’t remember all of the logistics of rebuilding, but we remember seeing cars in pools or boats in trees. And it has been fascinating to see what memories have made the biggest impact on each of the guests we’ve talked to.
You look at stories from Katrina from then and now. Is there anything different from how the stories sound from 15 years ago and now and the way they are told?
It has been particularly interesting to record a podcast about Katrina in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. I think living through Hurricane Katrina really influenced the way many of our guests have approached this crisis, and we ended up asking each person what advice they might give a student right now who is experiencing the uncertainty and impact of a life-changing event. Some of the advice has been really moving. The resounding theme is “you will get through this, and it will get better.” Sometimes people get emotional when they remember the events immediately following the storm, but there’s also a lot of laughter when we recall some of the bizarre experiences that we lived through.
What is the biggest takeaway you want people to take from Storm Stories?
I think all of our guests have such unique stories, and I hope that giving them a platform to share those stories was cathartic in a small way. I hope that our listeners can use Storm Stories to take a moment to pause and remember the events from 15 years ago, acknowledge the loss and destruction, and then recognize just how far the Gulf Coast has come as a community.
Do you think podcasting is something that you will continue to do for other topics you’re interested in, or do you want to continue with just Storm Stories?
Honestly, I haven’t really thought that far ahead. Like I said, I’m really passionate about storytelling. Podcasting just happened to be the best medium to tell this particular story at this particular time. Who knows? The next story might be a film or a musical.
You lived in Biloxi, Mississippi at the time of Katrina. How did the Hurricane personally affect you and your community at the time and in the years following the storm?
I share a bit of my story on the podcast as well, but I evacuated to Florida right before the storm, and then ended up enrolling in school with my cousins until Biloxi High School opened up again while a family who lost everything lived in my room. I actually had some really great experiences at that school, but I also remember being a “refugee,” and that feeling of displacement had a huge impact on me. I do think that gave me the courage to pick up and move to New York years later. I had experience starting over in a new place, so I knew I could do it. I remember coming back to school though, and realizing there were classmates that I would never see again. My graduating class went from just over 500 before the storm to approximately 300 students when classes resumed. And to this day, Biloxi does not look like it did before Hurricane Katrina. The storm shaped the entire region, and some of the recovery efforts have been remarkable, but some things will truly never be the same.
To learn more about for Lindsey's podcast Storm Stories, follow her on Instagram for updates at @ohheyitslindseyshea!
Morgan Maschler is a Marketing and Social Media intern with Freret & Napoleon. She is from New Jersey, but goes to school at Tulane University in New Orleans. She’s a foodie, and she loves music and travelling. She loves exploring New Orleans and all that it has to offer. See what she's up to on Instagram @morganmaschler!