Every artifact in our collection has a unique story from World War II and beyond. This ecru-colored silk peignoir, once a parachute for the US Army, has withstood a world war, a marriage, a precocious child, and Hurricane Katrina before entering the Museum’s collection in 2008.
Using parachute silk brought back from the war, a Syrian immigrant crafted this peignoir for her daughter who waited to marry her sweetheart until after the war because she refused the prospects of being a war widow.
Surviving a new life as a garment, this peignoir was beloved by its wearer and used for joyous dress up games by her child. During this time it sustained red lipstick stains and signs of wear.
On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina’s high winds and waters destroyed the home in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi where the garment was being stored. It was found buried beneath a thick layer of dried, rust-colored mud where the home had stood.
Following the storm, this peignoir was cleaned up and given to the Museum’s collection to honor its maker Menna Abdelnour Lutife and to serve as a testament to the strength of the parachute silk used in World War II. This fabric safely landed our troops from the skies, survived the wears and tears of fashion, and weathered destruction of a hurricane. With its beauty and stains, it tells a story of war, love, and survival.
Gift of Patricia Saik, from the Collection of The National WWII Museum.
This is what I see every time I walk out my front door. That pole doesn’t look like much. It doesn’t look important or like it imparts a lot of information. It doesn’t look like a monument to one of the worst disasters in U.S. history.
But that is what it is. That pole, with its green-blue glass ring and painted base are the last marker of the levee flood levels on Elysian Fields Ave. A few more blocks down and you reach the Mississippi river. These poles are spaced every few blocks up the 5 mile distance of Elysian Fields from the Mississippi river to Lake Pontchartrain. Mine is the last and lowest. When you reach the lake the green-blue glass ring and paint stretch far above your head.
These poles are an understated monument. There is no bronze plaque that explains what they symbolize. There is nothing to tell people what happened or how many people lost their lives or everything in their lives. There are no crying statues or pictures. There are only these silent poles.
The watermark poles aren’t for tourists. They are for the people of New Orleans. They stand as a simple and stark reminder of what happened to the City and her people. We don’t need explanations or pictures or crying statues. The City, her streets, and her people remember those all too well.
A decade ago, Hurricane Katrina triggered floods that inundated New Orleans. More than 1,800 people were killed as storm waters overwhelmed levees and broke through flood walls on August 29, 2005. Today, much of the city appears to have found its rhythm again, although some neighborhoods, such as the Lower Ninth Ward, remain works in progress. A number of photographers recently returned to the area to document the way things look today, including Reuters photographer Carlos Barria, who covered the disaster in 2005. Barria visited many of the same locations he originally photographed in order show the difference 10 years have made.
August 29, 2005: Hurricane Katrina devastates much of the U.S. Gulf Coast from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle, killing an estimated 1,836 people and causing over $108 billion in damage.
It was the costliest natural disaster, as well as one of the five deadliest hurricanes, in the history of the United States. The storm is currently ranked as the third most intense United States landfalling tropical cyclone, behind only the 1935 Labor Day hurricane and Hurricane Camille in 1969. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_Katrina