It's hard to believe its been ten years since the catastrophe called Katrina. The morning of August 29, 2005 the Category 3 storm hit New Orleans like a bullseye causing over $100 billion in damage and became the worst natural disaster in US History. When the storm hit it came with sustained winds of 145 miles an hour and a storm surge of over 27 feet - that's nearly a three story building. Considering most of the city is some seven feet below sea level - well you do the math. The storm killed nearly 2000 people and spread damage across 90,000 square miles of the Gulf Coast. The New Orleans' metro population went from a vibrant city of nearly 1.386 million to 1.04 million following the storm and has regrown now to 1.252 million. Over 300,000 people left and only 200,000 returned leaving parts of New Orleans still randomly deserted. Most of who left were African Americans. If you watch the videos of that week it is hard to really appreciate it from afar. We can watch from our TV and turn it off and go back to our lives, but the people who lived through this could not turn their situation off. It never left and only they could change their condition and situation. I have never had to experience something like this and I hope I never do. Those that have are truly remarkable people.
Having just visited New Orleans in May it is amazing to see how the center downtown area and the French Quarter has been resurrected. But there are still whole swaths of this city that have not recovered and will likely never recover. The storm brought to light the inequality that was and still is New Orleans. The poor felt the impact far more than others - most of the poor being African Americans. The storm showed the vulnerability, ineptitude, and corruption that plagued government both before, during and after the storm. Mayor Ray Nagin ordered evacuations too late, given over 100,000 of the residents didn't own cars! He was then later convicted of bribery, fraud, and money laundering while in office both before and after the storm and is now serving a ten year sentence.
Katrina showed us what is wonderful in people and a community and what is an absolute shame. Looters robbed and shot vulnerable victims, while many others did everything they could to help others. Ten years later and people are still struggling here. Katrina is a great metaphor for all of our lives. Hurricanes and storms come our way in our lives too. Unexpected illness, death, business problems and issues, the list is long and all too familiar to all of us. But like New Orleans it is what we do to prepare for storms, how we weather a storm, and what we do after the storm that counts. The trials and tribulations in our lives give us a chance to reflect and to rebuild. To start anew. I think so many choose to be a victim and stay in the squalor instead of pushing forward and beyond. Yes, some have more resources and assistance than others to move on after disaster and I think it is up to all of us to help those less fortunate but only those that are willing to do their part to move forward. Those that would rather complain and remain a victim despite assistance....well I have no sympathy for you. You have chosen to stay there. Those that do accept help, those that have faith, believe in their community and contribute to their community, and are then willing to do their share, just like the rest of us that have to deal with hard times, I commend you and your spirit and I can assure you better times lies ahead. Sometimes it just takes faith and small steps towards a brighter future.... just like New Orleans.