“The guy who runs this building I’m in, emergency management, he’s responsible for everything. His mother was trapped in a St. Bernard nursing home and every day she called him and said, ‘Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?’ [starting to cry] And he said, ‘Yeah, Mama, somebody’s coming to get you. Somebody’s coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Friday.’ And she drowned Friday night. She drowned Friday night.” — Jefferson Parish president Aaron Broussard, Sept. 4, 2005 on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
A friend’s post on Facebook this morning reminded me that nine years ago today, Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast. Katrina was the most destructive storm of the 2005 season and was one of the five deadliest hurricanes in the history of the United States. More than 1,800 people died.
Katrina was a natural, social and political disaster on all fronts. I’m not going to rehash that here. But I am going to pull a couple of books off my shelf that I’ve been meaning to read for years.
I took two short term reconstruction trips to New Orleans with our church missions department. The first time, we worked on three houses. I worked mainly on the home of a pastor who lived next to one of the levies. His home was under nine feet of water which took weeks to recede. Three years after the storm when I took my trip, he was still living in a FEMA trailer on the front of his property. We managed to complete the drywall to help him in the restoration of his home.
The second trip I took was two years later. We worked at a church to build a fence for their daycare. At that time the church was still meeting in the community building. The beautiful sanctuary remained water damaged and moldy. It has since been restored and I’d love to go back to see it.
No one could have fully anticipated the damage from Katrina. If you’re looking for someone to blame and you stop at President Bush, you’re either blindly partisan or simply ignorant. The truth is that there was plenty of blame to go around. President Bush has admitted that he made mistakes in his early response by not going to tour the area. But do not discount mistakes made by the governor and the mayor. There’s plenty of blame to go around. And that’s all before the scam artists showed up.
Likewise, I have little patience for those who say “why do they live below sea level?”
They live there because, for many of them, it’s the only life they’ve ever known.
Much of the area has returned, but there will always be scars.
The Editorial Board of the Times-Picayune wrote today, “Those of us who endured the horrific aftermath of Katrina and the flood each have our own way of marking the anniversary of the tragedy…we will forever be marked by the experience.”