Kathy can’t help but check the TV and internet constantly, searching for her husband’s name, or their company’s name. On some sites she sees reports of hundreds of murders, but others claim that no babies have been raped, and no murders have taken place in the Superdome or Convention Center. The fear, confusion, and rumors are at a height.
Kathy’s reconnaissance underlines the chaotic nature of the news coming out of New Orleans in the days and weeks after Katrina—contradictory information, and an obsession with security rather than concerns for the safety and assistance of the victims.
There is a massive debate on where the violence and chaos of the city comes from—the residents or those sent to bring order. Kathy reads that private-security firms have sent soldiers-for-hire into the city from all over the world, including Israeli commandos. Since Zeitoun is an Arab, Kathy grows even more fearful. The private-security firm Blackwater has also entered the city in full battle costume.
Given that Katrina took places in the years after 9/11, Eggers emphasizes how the authorities were ideally suited to mount a militarized response to the hurricane, one that seems to have more in common with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan than with the rescue needs of the populace. Blackwater would also become an infamous example of corruption and corporate greed in those wars.
Kathy calculates that hundreds of rifles and machine guns must be in the city, and wonders if one of the mercenaries might have shot Zeitoun and covered it up. But she convinces herself that the American troops on the ground must have things under control. Still, if these soldiers are coming straight from Afghanistan or Iraq, she assumes her husband could easily come under suspicion.
Having dealt with suspicion herself because of her religion—and having witnessed prejudice against Zeitoun for being Middle Eastern—Kathy fears that these soldiers, meant to keep people safe, might assume Zeitoun is the enemy and act accordingly.
Kathy searches more websites, learning that 1,000 state police officers, SWAT teams, men from Border Control Tactical Units, and Coast Guard tactical units that are part of the War on Terror—all have swarmed the city, armed with M-16s, shotguns, and handguns. Kathy turns off the computer, but finds herself drawn back.
Kathy’s research reveals a massive military mobilization in New Orleans, meant, according to the president, governor, and mayor, to keep order against a threat that still seems vague and undefined. Katrina was a horrible natural disaster, but only compounded by the human tragedy of this misguided response.
Another email from Ahmad has attached a number of pictures from the family’s visit to Málaga, Spain the year before. This reminds Kathy of the intense hike that Zeitoun had forced the family to take. As they were walking down the beach, Zeitoun noticed a small rock formation in the distance, and suggested they walk there. At first, the stroll was pleasant, but after an hour, it still didn’t seem any closer. Zeitoun was carrying Safiya on his shoulders, clambering over ridges and rock outcroppings. Kathy begged him to turn around, but finally, after walking for four hours across 15 miles, they finally reached it: a small rock jutting out into the sea.
As she attempts to distract herself from the constant media stream, Kathy (like Zeitoun alone on his roof in earlier days) finds herself drawn back to memories of their past together. This anecdote emphasizes Zeitoun’s classic stubbornness, but also his perseverance, as he refuses to give up on anything he told himself he’d do—even if the goal no longer seems that important, or the steps needed to attain it too difficult to be worth it.
Kathy had to laugh, simultaneously furious and content to be married to such a stubborn man. She thinks of how his stubbornness gave a certain epic sense to their relationship, which now spans two continents, children, and a business. Now, whenever anything seems difficult and Kathy wants to give up, Zeitoun will tell Kathy, “Touch the rock!”