Five years ago today, Hurricane Katrina broke this levy and others around NOLA. Water gushed into New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward, knocking homes off their foundations, breaking trees, and ending the lives of over 1,000 NOLA residents.
Everyone remembers it like yesterday: the unimaginable scenes of a city under eight feet of water, people stranded on rooftops, some of whom were never rescued. Driving on once flooded streets, standing where a home once stood, and seeing the enduring signs of unhealed wounds from the storm, put me at a loss for words. Houses remain half destroyed; lots remain vacant; spray-painted dates still decorate houses, showing when rescuers came to look for survivors. These photos, which I took in August 2010, will tell the story.
Traces of bitterness linger about the way the Katrina crisis was managed.
And now, New Orleans struggles under the weight of another crisis – the BP oil spill.
Despite the long road ahead that remains, there are remarkable signs of progress and rebuilding. Make It Right, made famous by Brad Pitt, is re-building in the 9th ward. Their homes follow the traditional new Orleans shotgun style, but with a modern twist – and with re-purposed and sustainable materials.
Harry Connick Jr. is spearheading the construction of New Orleans Habitat Musicians’ Village, which is sprinkling brightly colored, subsidized housing in a neighborhood demolished by Katrina to lure musicians back to NOLA.
And, the city now remembers the lost in a beautiful memorial at City Cemetery at the end of Canal Street.
Unidentified victims are entombed in the memorial. The granite reads, in part, “This memorial is dedicated…to all who suffered or died during Hurrican Katrina. Let the victims here forever remind us of those harrowing days and the long struggle to rebuild our city. Let their final resting place call us to constant preparedness. Let their souls join into an eternal chorus, singing with the full might of the indomitable spirit of New Orleans.”
This mural is painted on a fence on Decatur street. “Instead of fueling our anger with violence we must quell our anger with PEACE! We must forgive BP, and the powers that be, accept that President Obama and BP need everyone’s help to heal our mama earth. Let’s extend our hands, lead the way with our hearts, and give the power space to accept their responsibility and change!!!”