Ten years later, ‘unbowed’ New Orleans reflects on Katrina

31 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

At events both somber and raucous, Gulf Coast marks 10th Katrina anniversary, looks to future.

NEW ORLEANS—A city known for its resilience marked on Saturday the 10th anniversary of one of the worst natural disasters ever to hit the United States, beginning with a somber ceremony at a memorial to Hurricane Katrina’s victims.NEW ORLEANS — As the church bells rang marking the decade since Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, the 80-year-old woman wept softly into a tissue as she leaned against her rusting Oldsmobile near a Catholic church in Mississippi. “I feel guilty,” said Eloise Allen, whose house in Bay St. Louis was damaged but inhabitable after the storm. “I didn’t go through what all the other people did.” Saturday was a day to remember what “all the other people” went through. Pointing to the memorial, he said those who died in the storm sit in judgment on the living of New Orleans, and judge them not on what they have accomplished in ten years, but by how far they have to go. “They are the conscience of the city,” said Mr.

The ceremony was the somber beginning to the day’s commemorations—many of them festive—marking the anniversary of the storm that forever changed this city and region. In parts of the city, people wearing festive clothes could be seen riding horses down the street or riding in special buses to celebrate the resilience of a city that has survived war, disease and floods since being founded by French settlers in 1718.

In New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward, residents and community activists gathered Saturday at the levee where Katrina’s storm waters broke through and submerged the neighborhood. WMT -1.73 % as a primary sponsor, organized more than 100 projects throughout New Orleans to clean up parks, fix churches and schools and repair homes.

After the speeches were done, a parade snaked through the neighborhood while music played from boom boxes and people sold water from ice chests under the hot sun. In the city’s 8th Ward, about 100 students from Tulane University came to paint the fence of the future Encore Academy, a charter school moving into an elementary school abandoned since Katrina. Terri Smith, the school’s leader, said it would have cost $47,000 to put in new fencing around the school and instead Tulane students are painting the old fence for free. He came back Saturday just to find old faces from the neighborhood but he couldn’t bring himself to see the vacant lot where his house used to be. “The family home is what kept us together and it’s gone,” he said. Brandon Golant, 20, a Tulane student from Highland Park, Ill., said the volunteer work in the city has helped him connect with New Orleans. “Now it definitely feels like home to me,” he said.

The event will also feature performances by the city’s “Rebirth Brass Band,” award-winning journalist Soledad O’Brien and Big Chief Monk Boudreaux and the Wild Magnolias. Neighborhoods across New Orleans held local events to commemorate the storm, and thousands of volunteers spread out across the city in a day of community activism.

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