Zeitouns Tell Katrina Story in Lansing

By: Sherene Tagharobi Email
By: Sherene Tagharobi Email

Zeitoun is the true story of a man many consider a hero of Hurricane Katrina. He stayed behind, navigating the flooded city in a second-hand canoe, passing out food and water, rescuing neighbors, and caring for pets left behind.

Abdulrahman Zeitoun says everywhere he went, there was someone who needed help.

But instead of being treated like a hero, he was taken prisoner by some local police and national guardsmen. He was called a terrorist and held without trial for 24 days--What felt like a lifetime to his wife and kids. During this time, he was denied medical care and access to a phone to tell his family where he was.

"I was a nervous wreck," said his wife Kathy Zeitoun. "So I can only imagine how I played on my children considering they stopped eating as much, they were losing their hair, they were having bad dreams."

Kathy says post-9/11 stereotyping had everything to do with how her husband was treated.

"I think they cared that he was a foreigner or an Arab so to speak at this time," she said.

Five years later the Zeitouns say they're at peace with what happened.

"I don't want to be angry with everybody because of what a few guys did to me," said Abdulrahman Zeitoun.

"It's okay to make mistakes if we learn from them," said Kathy Zeitoun.

One Book, One Community Committee Member Melissa Bauman says there's plenty of opportunity for that.

"Here's a man who went out of his way to help people, and you hear him talking about it even now, and he's not bitter" she said.

The Zeitouns hope their story inspires people to stand up to injustice.

You can meet the Zeitouns and hear their first hand account. They'll be at the Kellogg Center Sunday, September 19 as part of the One Book, One Community program.

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