The Latest: Former President Bush Arrives in New Orleans

28 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Bush returns to New Orleans for 10th anniversary of Katrina.

Ten years ago, storm waters from Hurricane Katrina topped levees designed to protect New Orleans, leaving the city and Gulf Coast region trapped in a cloud of chaos and tragedy.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. 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. As New Orleans and its iconic landmarks, like the Superdome, were ravished, the preponderance of local businesses— including a professional football team—had no choice but to relocate.

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. In an SI.com exclusive oral history, players and executives share their memories from the year of the displaced New Orleans Saints and the miraculous revival of their stadium. So great was the demand for workers that the Bush administration temporarily suspended immigration regulations that required employers to verify the immigration status of people who worked for them. 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 then-director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Michael Brown— marred his personal record. Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University and author of “The Great Deluge,” a detailed account of the first days after Katrina, said the catastrophic hurricane became a “confluence of blunders” from which Bush would not recover.

Saints vice president of communications Greg Bensel: I grew up in New Orleans with a lot of hurricanes and 95% of the time they veer to the East or the West. 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. As Katrina was making its way, I thought, ‘man, this is a humongous storm and if it stays on the track it’s on, this is going to be bad.’ Saints defensive end Will Smith: We didn’t think it would be severe at all.

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. The contractor promised to pay them once they finished the job. “We called him when we were done with the house, but he didn’t answer,” Alvarado said, adding that they later learned the contractor had left to Texas and had no intention of paying them. “He ended up owing us a total of $12,000 for the work that we did for about a month.” Ten years after Hurricane Katrina, Alvarado is among the thousands of workers who were taken advantage of by unscrupulous contractors and still haven’t gotten paid. 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.

The Gulf Coast and New Orleans are places Bush is deeply tied to — both as an eastern Texan familiar with the Gulf and as the president who inherited the Katrina disaster. Harold Washington, 54, a military retiree studying at Tulane, said the city is “better than it was.” But he was sad that children are now bused all over town rather than attending neighborhood schools. Since Katrina, New Orleans has become a living experiment for a city-wide charter system, with many schools reporting greater diversity and steady academic gains.

Workers are also given the opportunity to meet with law students and staff attorneys to discuss the possibility of filing a lawsuit against an employer. We had about 225 other Superdome workers, inclusive of their families who couldn’t get out before the roads were shut so they came here and we put them to work. We kept people confined to the lower level because we had a football game scheduled the next week and we wanted to keep the stadium in tact in case we played it. Meanwhile, 2,200 miles away from New Orleans, nestled in the safe confines of the Fremont Marriott, the Saints watch the city’s devastation unfold on television. What a train wreck that place is.” In the days that immediately follow: The team enacts on-the-fly contingency plans about the season’s future while juggling personal affairs in the midst of chaos.

Loomis: I remember one morning I looked at USA Today, there was a picture of a man carrying his belongings and wading through water, and the cross streets in the picture were the cross streets of a house I was building. October 30, 2005: On the morning of the Saints’ first of four “home” games to be played at LSU Stadium, a move by the NFL to promote connectivity to the recovering region, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, NFL executive vice-president, chief operating officer Roger Goodell and NFL executive vice-president Joe Browne, in town for the occasion, request a meeting with Thornton.

January 18, 2006: The Saints announce the hiring of new head coach Sean Payton, who was an assistant under Bill Parcells in Dallas but was still a relative unknown with no head coaching experience. “There was nothing conducive to having a team that might be remotely successful. March 14, 2006: Free agent quarterback Drew Brees signs with the Saints right after the Miami Dolphins pass on him due to concerns about a recent shoulder injury.

September 25, 2006: With 70,000 fans and supporters gathered from around the globe, the Saints make an emotional return to the Superdome to play the Falcons. Steve Gleason’s blocked punt that teammate Curtis Deloatch landed on in the end zone on just the fourth play of the game set the tone for the game and the season.

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