The Gulf Coast

Watching this on TV, the water was rising in time with the chaos…I, like everyone, was trying to comprehend the situation, and I felt the need to do something, but what? After 5 hours of researching, my publicist called and said, "I've talked to some producers at the Oprah Show and they are looking for people who want to get 'down and dirty.'" The next morning I was on a plane with a camera and sound crew on our way from Burbank to Baton Rouge.

The plan was not defined, but the ball was rolling…We were headed to the Gulf Coast.
Gas rations left Matthew McConaughey way-laid in Baton Rouge.

We got off the plane in Baton Rouge and we didn't have the means to make it anywhere, really, because we had two trucks on empty and there's no gas in town.
Matthew McConaughey and Lois in Zachary, LA

We finally got gas and headed towards Zachary, Louisiana, population 12,000…in the last seven days, the population has more than doubled. At the Cornerstone Church in Zachary, we met Lois, who had no idea where her family was. We were able to contact Lois's daughter by telephone.

With an endless amount of needs to be met for the people down here, our next goal was where and what? Leslie (a producer for the Oprah Show) downloaded me on the conditions in Waveland, Mississippi.
Matthew McConaughey beachfront in Waveland Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

We're beachfront in Waveland Bay St. Louis, Mississippi: one of the hardest hit by the hurricane and had the most direct devastation of physical property—remember, the hurricane and the New Orleans flooding are related but separate devastations—90 percent of the structures were wiped out in this Gulf line community.
Waveland Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

First feelings of walking in here is how still and quiet everything is.… Turned out to be a very resilient people that live here in Waveland.
A statue of the Virgin Mary survived Katrina.

To look around and see how much earth, trees, house, structures were moved, left, right, up and down and for all of it to have settled, it's one of the first things that's very eerie.
Roland's dream house was destroyed by Katrina.

Everything you see here used to be a physical community…homes that are no longer there. We met Roland, a man who had the means to build his dream house, to engineer a house that could withstand 160 mile an hour winds, and his house is gone.
Jennifer and Matthew McConaughey in Waveland, MS

We met Jennifer, who said, "Most people down here don't have any flood insurance because it didn't flood here," herself included. This is what's left of her home...
Jennifer sticks an American flag on what used to be her home.

As near as Jennifer can tell, this is where her house was; she can see her stuff scattered in the debris the tidal wave left behind here.

Our work was just beginning. Back in New Orleans, a doctor left behind to care for man's best friends needed to be rescued.
Matthew McConaughey helicopters into New Orleans

We helicoptered from Slidell, Louisiana, to the rooftop of a hospital in the middle of New Orleans. There's no air traffic control; pilots fly on common sense. Inside, an anesthesiologist has been pent up since the levees broke because he promised the owners of more than 50 pets he wouldn't leave without them.
Dr. James cared for 50 dogs and cats in New Orleans.

Just a day earlier, a rescue attempt had gone terribly wrong when a chopper had crashed on landing. No one was hurt, but it meant that Dr. James and the animals were stranded another day. After seven days without food and water, he wasn't sure he could go on much longer.
Matthew McConaughey and a lucky dog.

We help the doctor keep his promise.
Matthew McConaughey and crew load the animals onto boats.

Our crew gave the doctor a hand loading the animals on boats...
Dogs and cats are ferried by boat to dry land.

In just a few hours, every beloved pet will have been ferried down the still flooded streets to a make shift landing strip in hopes of reuniting with their families.
Matthew McConaughey on helicopter with dogs.

All in all, we choppered about 50 dogs, 18 cats and 2 hamsters.