September 03, 2015

 

By Sarafina Wright and D. Kevin McNeir 

Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer 

 

 

How well do you remember the last days of August 2005 when a tropical storm formed over the Bahamas and intensified as it made its way toward Florida, back out to sea and then to southeast Louisiana?

 

Hurricane Katrina would make history as one of costliest natural disasters and one of the five deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history. But what often comes to mind is the delay of government officials – several days in fact – before they heeded the call for sorely needed assistance in the way of food, water, medicine and shelter.

 

Now, as the city of New Orleans recalls the day that the levee system catastrophically failed, conversations continue to be held here in the District and across the U.S., assessing what progress has been made in rebuilding New Orleans and other parts of Louisiana and Mississippi – and what still needs to be done.

 

Criticism has been lodged, and rightfully so, against Mayor Ray Nagin, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco and President George W. Bush – the three leaders who hemmed and hawed – wasting vital time before initiating emergency response actions.

 

Today, as former Mayor Nagin serves a federal ten-year sentence for wire fraud, conspiracy, bribery and money laundering, Mitch Landrieu, the first white mayor of predominately black New Orleans since his father Moon Landrieu held office in the '70s, has traversed the U.S. to talk about the hurricane on its tenth anniversary and how his city’s landscape has been changed forever.

 

Mayor Landrieu appeared at the National Press Club on Tuesday, August 18, in Northwest, outlining New Orleans’s progression, obstacles and the seemingly never ending issue of violent crime.

 

“In the last 10 years, New Orleans has had to deal with Hurricane Katrina, Rita, Ike, Gustav, the BP oil spill and the recession,” Mayor Landrieu said. “But by nature we’re resilient and won’t bow down. We went from a city being underwater to one of the fastest growing cities in America.”

 

Somewhere between 1,800 and 2,000 people died during the storm and in days after the skies had cleared. One million people were displaced and the city experienced upwards of $150 billion in damage.

 

“It was an infrastructure and man-made failure of epic proportion,” Landrieu said. “But in the midst of death and destruction, the sun came up. Bodies were floating in the flooded New Orleans streets and people were stuck on rooftops for days under the blazing New Orleans sun.”

 

“But neighbors helped neighbors and pulled them out of the water,” the mayor added.

 

While the hurricane virtually destroyed New Orleans, it did create an avenue of change for the city’s faltering school system.

 

Some readers may consider listening to recent reports on National Public Radio [NPR] aired during the month of August where editors and reporters have led discussions about the efforts made to rebuild the city and other parts of the Gulf Coast.

 

“Ten years ago New Orleans was considered one of the worst failing school systems in the country,” Landrieu said. “Today nearly every student attends a public charter school. Students are no longer confined by geography.”

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