Written by Jeannine Bell
On Sunday, August 28th 2010 we marked the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina which flooded 80% of New Orleans metro area.
My parents live in New Orleans and I remember Katrina making landfall and the subsequent breaking of the levees with a sharpness and clarity that belies the passage of time. After many, though not all—I cannot forget that too many did not make it out of New Orleans alive that August—were ferried to safety, we wondered how New Orleans would rebuild. Even before the storm, that beautiful vibrant city faced many challenges—an ailing public school system, stark racial segregation in housing, a crumbling public housing system, and widespread police corruption, to name just a few. And then the storm hit….
There is much to celebrate 5 years later. As I’ve told the many people who looked at me and said, rather wistfully, “I never had a chance to go….” New Orleans is still very much there. While federal governmental response to New Orleans was appalling, outreach by thousands of private volunteers has been tremendous. Volunteers from around the country still come to New Orleans to do everything from provide legal advice to hang sheetrock. It’s not just outsiders rebuilding the city, of course, New Orleanians some of whom never left, and others who chose to return, are at work in nearly every corner of the city. Though there is still some distance to go, impressive progress has been made in the school system, the heath care system and the criminal justice system. The energy that made these changes possible may be one of the best things to celebrate five years later.