George W. Bush visits disaster zone 10 years after Katrina

29 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Bush lauds recovery 10 years after Katrina.

The two met with students at the school’s gymnasium, where he was also greeted by New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu and former Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco, who was in office during Hurricane Katrina. NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Visiting residents on tidy porch stoops and sampling the fried chicken at a corner restaurant, President Barack Obama held out the people of New Orleans on Thursday as an extraordinary example of renewal and resilience 10 years after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. “There’s something in you guys that is just irrepressible,” Obama told hundreds of residents assembled at a bustling new community center in an area of the Lower 9th Ward that was once under 17 feet of water. “The people of New Orleans didn’t just inspire me, you inspired all of America.” Still, Obama acknowledged that much remains to be done.In the decade since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, New Orleans has weathered challenge after challenge, including multiple hurricanes, the BP oil spill and the national recession.Saskatchewan Roughriders receiver Korey Williams, who is from New Orleans, says the losses his family suffered from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 continue to resonate. “I lost everything,” Williams said.

A series of faux pas, from flying over flooded New Orleans first on Air Force One, to his “Heckuva job, Brownie” quip in support of the soon-to-be-dismissed director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Michael Brown, marred his personal record. “We have fond memories of his last visit,” said Arthur Hardy, a celebrity in New Orleans for his expertise in all things Mardi Gras and carnival, the city’s signature festivity. And after walking door to door in the historic Treme section of a city reborn from tragedy, he cautioned that “just because the housing is nice doesn’t mean our job is done.” In his remarks at the community center, Obama blended the same themes of resilience and renewal that he drew from encounters with the sturdy residents he met along Magic Street and at other locations.

After New Orleans, the Bush family will visit Gulfport, Mississippi, to attend an event with state officials, including governor Phil Bryant and former governor Haley Barbour. Hurricane Katrina exposed New Orleans’ generational fault lines—from longstanding social and racial divides to failing healthcare and education systems. Bush focused on education, citing the failings of the city’s public schools before Hurricane Katrina, and the marked improvement since. “Isn’t it amazing? Everything he had — back home — was destroyed. “The hard part for me was just going back to see that I no longer had childhood memories anymore.” “I have nothing to visually look at,” he said. “I can go to a park that I used to play at, I can go to where my old house used to be, but being able to have something to grasp and hold onto — there’s not much there.” “It’s just a part of me that I’ll never forget and it just reminds me that no matter what you go through, you can come out of it on top,” he said, noting the value of hard work and prayer. “Wins and losses in football are one thing, but wins and losses in life are much bigger,” he added. “Everyone on this team has been through some stuff.” “There’s other forms of disasters,” he said. “We had the hurricane. She pronounced herself a fan of the man, saying he’d handled “a rough road.” Chase — who’s known as the “Queen of Creole Cuisine” — said, “That’s all you have to do: handle what’s handed to you,” voicing what could be a credo for the city.

New Orleans had to learn how to innovate by necessity; and it had to be more creative, to not only rebuild but to also make structural reforms that would strengthen and preserve the authenticity and culture that the world has come to love. For the past 10 years, New Orleans and The Rockefeller Foundation have been working together with many other partners to make sure that the city is more resilient so that it can do more than survive; it can thrive. Bush did not address what made the flooding a rich target for critics of his administration: the weakness of the initial response to the disaster, when federal, state and city agencies were widely seen as doing far too little to help the stranded and displaced, and doing it much too slowly.

That work also inspired 100 Resilient Cities (100RC), an initiative designed to help cities across the globe build their own long-term resilience strategies. Many New Orleans residents make the distinction between those horrific first days and what was eventually a robust federal rebuilding effort — a difference Mr.

Bush himself noted in his memoir, “Decision Points.” “I should have recognized the deficiencies sooner and intervened faster,” he wrote. “All of us who are old enough to remember will never forget the images of our fellow Americans amid a sea of misery and ruin,” Mr. Video of residents seeking refuge on rooftops, inside the Superdome and at the convention center dominated news coverage as Katrina came to symbolize government failure at every level. This network has connected cities like New Orleans, Norfolk, and Rotterdam that now share ideas to better understand what it means to live with water, instead of trying to fight against it. But twice, he said, “I hope you remember what I remember,” citing the work of military personnel, law enforcement and thousands of volunteers in rescuing, feeding, sheltering and rebuilding. “In spite of the devastation, we have many fond memories,” he added, recalling sitting with Russel L. Bush received an enthusiastic response from several hundred dignitaries, students and school staff members in the auditorium of Warren Easton Charter High School, on Canal Street, a former city school that was flooded and battered 10 years ago and reopened the next year as a charter.

The area is filled with vacant lots where houses used to stand, so overgrown that local residents sometimes refer to it as the wilderness and worry about snakes hiding in the grass. When confronted with a crisis, communities must find a way to adapt by rebuilding with higher building standards, greater community cohesion and more inclusive economies.

But in the city at large, where signs of recovery are just blocks away from neighborhoods where little progress can be seen, bitter memories of the days after the flood are still common. Colette Pichon Battle, executive director of Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy, cautioned against slapping too happy a face on New Orleans, saying “rebuilding since the storm favors privileged private enterprise and this illusion of recovery is not progress.” “I think we have a long way to go,” said Lisa Ross, 52, an appraiser. Today, New Orleans is one of the fastest growing cities in the country, home to improved schools, a burgeoning biomedical corridor and an expanding and diversifying economy. It has become a model for criminal justice and education reform, a laboratory for innovation, change, entrepreneurship and more—all thanks to resilience planning. It started with flood protection and an investment of nearly $15 billion to reduce the risk of damage brought on by storms and to protect residents and structures.

Bush’s visit contrasted with the sight of President Obama walking through some of the hardest-hit neighborhoods on Thursday and saying that as much as the city had recovered, more needed to be done. “We came to realize that what started out as a natural disaster became a man-made disaster, a failure of government to look after its own citizens,” Mr. Today there is a city-assisted evacuation plan, a $2 million emergency operations center, a special needs registry, a community emergency-response team, and a highly collaborative system among local, state and federal public safety officials. Existing signs marking emergency evacuation points—which blended in with parking signs and were easy to overlook—were replaced with public art pieces.

The 14-foot tall stainless steel constructions that evoke someone hailing a cab—or gesturing for Mardi Gras beads—also help bring public art to more New Orleans neighborhoods. The NOLA for Life violence prevention campaign, a partnership between the Center for Restorative Approaches and the city’s Health Department is working in public schools to help children learn that violence is preventable, not inevitable. The program will train conflict-resolution volunteers, create the opportunity for schools to refer students to conflict-resolution, and will support at least one school as it changes its entire disciplinary system. The new system will better manage water by connecting an improved canals and pond system and collecting water in bio-swales and rain gardens—keeping water inside the levees where it belongs. Bush went to Lafayette, La., but that she had never discussed that period with him in any depth. “I’d like to talk with him at length someday,” she said.

Not every city will need new levees or water management, but they will need creative solutions to complex problems that urban America has faced for generations.

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