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Oprah met with New Orleans's mayor, Ray Nagin, inside his makeshift headquarters in the scarred Hyatt hotel. His emotional appeal for help—a "desperate S.O.S." —remains one of the defining early moments of this crisis. "There's so much suffering," he says. "I think that's the part that bothers me the most. I understand hurricanes and I understand all that. But the story that I think is going to be amazing to America is the amount of people that suffered after. I just knew that this country, America—the richest country in the world—would not let Americans suffer. The state, with an $18 billion budget. How do you let your people suffer like this? I just don't get it. This should never happen again in this country. This is a travesty; this is unbelievable; this is inhumane. That Superdome, you wait 'til you see it...if you go in there. I don't advise you to go in there."
Both Mayor Nagin and the National Guard advised Oprah not to venture into the Superdome. They said the conditions were wretchedly unsanitary and unsafe, though thousands called it home just days before.