Categorized | Opinion, Spartan Daily
New Orleans’ recovery is still moving slow on Hurricane Katrina’s fifth anniversary
By Michiko Fuller
August 31, 2010
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Michiko Fuller, staff writer
It was only gently raining Sunday when President Obama spoke at Xavier University on the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Tropical storms in the Atlantic have been avoiding the Gulf of Mexico, where New Orleans perches itself on the banks of the Mississippi River.
Known as the birthplace of jazz and the Mardi Gras festival every spring, New Orleans is a multicultural, multilingual port city and is the largest metropolitan area in Louisiana. It’s more recently known as one of the greatest natural disasters in the history of the United States.
Four years ago, I was sharing the lobby of my New Orleans hotel with Xavier students still flooded out of their university after a year of rebuilding. The building’s business center was their print shop and every chair was occupied by a student balancing a laptop on their knees.
Despite a full year passing, it wasn’t the first example of the lethargy plaguing the recovery process.
Driving away from the airport and into the city itself was trailer after tent after trailer spotting the yard space between each abandoned house boarded up by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Each house was marked in red spray paint with the number of dead found inside.
Initial slow response and poorly funded federal programs failed to meet the incredible demand of displaced citizens in need of shelter, food and healthcare. New Orleans still requires government assistance to shed the debris of destruction left by Katrina.
Today, the FEMA trailers remain. They’ve been repurposed as housing for the Gulf oil clean up workers. That’s not to say neighborhoods and communities have been rebuilt. Brad Pitt and Sean Penn can only build houses one at a time. Sandra Bullock can’t revive every school with one speech.
Having visited the city once before Katrina, I know the strength and vibrance that lives there. It’s found in the street musicians on every block and the scent of Cajun spice exuding from corner restaurants. Even better are the beignets, like French donuts, that I did my best to eat everyday.
My visit was a year after Katrina and Bourbon Street was filled with people and blasting music. The difference was it wasn’t audible from blocks around like before.
The quiet moments aren’t in resignation or pity. I sat on the Mississppi banks that flooded the city with residents from cops to the homeless and in between, to watch the sun sink into the horizon. Feeling connected to the river and the people, I understand why New Orleans has remained.
One year or five years after the disaster, the greatest speed bump has never been the hemorrhaging of the population or a lack of public interest. While people were forced to flee to temporary housing and seek employment elsewhere, they often chose to return. Some estimates put neighborhoods minimally damaged by flood at 100 percent capacity compared to before Katrina.
New Orleans was the beneficiary of fundraisers and the interest of philanthropic celebrities from the day Hurricane Katrina made landfall. Tourism continues to strengthen because there was minimal damage to downtown and the French Quarter, the historical center of the city.
Now that years have passed, the city continues to crawl back to its former glory. The New Orleans Saints Super Bowl win this past year showed the country how vital the city is.
On Sunday, President Obama was correct in saying the people of New Orleans are resilient. If the government is too slow to rebuild their home, then they will do it themselves one day at a time.
One Response to “New Orleans’ recovery is still moving slow on Hurricane Katrina’s fifth anniversary”
Ted Rudow III,MA says:
September 8, 2010
Barack Obama, the US president, pledged to continue America’s commitment to rebuilding New Orleans during a weekend of sombre ceremonies marking the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
Obama delivered a speech on Sunday at Xavier University, a New Orleans school that suffered tens of millions of dollars in damages during the 2005 hurricane. He called the flooding that followed Katrina a “shameful” episode, and said that the government failed to protect residents along the Gulf Coast.
“It was a natural disaster but also a manmade catastrophe, a shameful breakdown in government that left countless men, women and children abandoned and alone,”
Using this disaster to test the hearts and pocketbooks of US and see how willing they are to help the poor and the needy and by their attitudes and actions when they’re faced with such circumstances.
Ted Rudow III,MA
Class of 1996