This issue goes to press as New Orleans and the Gulf Coast states struggle to gain a sense of normalcy following the devastating effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on August 29 and September 24. The heartfelt testimonials and harrowing accounts of hundreds of thousands of displaced persons have moved the nation unlike any other natural disaster in recent memory. The failure of the initial emergency response to Katrina has also forged the beginning of a national debate about disaster preparedness in the United States. Federal, state, and local government responses in the initial hours and days following Katrina were characterized by disorder, chaos, and ineffective coordination. Reaction to inadequate emergency planning and to the poor coordination of disaster relief efforts reverberated across the country. As volunteer organizations worked diligently to cope with the plight of vulnerable and disadvantaged people in New Orleans and surrounding Gulf Coast states, the Federal Emergency Management Agency received sharp criticism for its failure to provide leadership across all levels of government.