In the months following Hurricane Katrina, much of the discussion surrounding the storm focused on how the government failed New Orleans' citizens and rebuilding the city's economy. With thousands of families displaced, though, little to none of the conversation centered on how to restore childhood to New Orleans' kids.
On this tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, many observers are recognizing the renaissance of a city most people thought would never recover.
My visit to Waveland, Mississippi, last week brought back one of the most searing images of destruction I have seen in my nearly two decades of working in the disaster response and volunteer management field.
Brown didn't take responsibility for the mistakes of the past. His love letter to himself was about all of the ways he was wronged or misunderstood. His regrets seems to revolve around not more accurately predicting how the media and congressional investigators would spin his words, take what he said out of context, or lay blame at his door.
Julian put forth every sentence so succinctly and carefully formulated, generous and ironic with a profound sense of history. I was struck by what a fierce warrior he was and how every story was one of struggle and confrontation with the forces of evil and the commitment to fight to win.
The hurricane exposed not only race and class fault lines, but the odious fault lines of heterosexism and faith-based privilege. LGBTQ evacuees, many of whom are now displaced, faced all kinds of discrimination at the hands of many of the faith-based relief agencies.
Bostonians in the aftermath of the Marathon bombing like to remind themselves that Boston is strong. A similar sentiment was echoed hundreds of miles to the south in New Orleans on the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Its slogan is "Resilient New Orleans".
Last week, marking the tenth anniversary of what Dr. Ray Seed once called "the greatest man-made engineering catastrophe since Chernobyl," the circus came to town. No elephants, some clowns. Mainly foundation granters and thumb-sucking journos. Actually, there was an elephant, and they were the blind men. Perhaps the blindest was the walking TED Talk Malcolm Gladwell, who graced Meet the Press Sunday elaborating on his premise that "we needed to destroy New Orleans to save it." The reed on which he rested was a study showing that previously-incarcerated young men who didn't return after evacuation were less likely, statistically, to be re-incarcerated than similar males who returned to the city. Self-deportation for offenders, anyone? Finally, Mitt Romney has a soulmate.
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I watched as the stories came in that covered the destruction, fatalities and the chaos that ensued. And my heart ached for all those who were missing, dead and displaced as a result of this storm and the busted levies. This experience had an impact on me I will never forget.
Broadmoor wasn't a perfect community before the levee failures. We suffered from the systemic problems of poverty -- blight, slum apartments, and a failing public school -- and the deadly scourge of violent crime. But we possessed many assets -- historic homes, a public library, and an active neighborhood association -- and the greatest attribute of all, our people.
Sometimes we get ideas. Crazy ideas. Ideas that make us want to do interesting things, things that help others. And too many times we end up doing nothing. We push those ideas away, relegate them to that place where all our dreams languish.
Ten years after people were left to fend for themselves post-Katrina, we should all agree that inability to pay cannot mean inability to secure justice. Agreement on this principle, however, is not enough.
This week brought powerful reminders of what happens when a government fails its citizens. On Wednesday, as the nation continued to mark the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's unnecessarily tragic destruction of a uniquely American city, the nation woke to yet another uniquely American tragedy, as two Roanoke-based news staffers -- reporter Alison Parker, and cameraman Adam Ward -- were gunned down on live television. It was the beginning of a news cycle we know all too well: shock, outrage, calls for sensible guns laws, and then, if past is prologue, nothing. Since the Newtown shootings in 2012, nearly 85,000 Americans have been killed by guns -- yet common sense gun legislation proposed at the time by President Obama continues to languish. On Thursday, the president called Katrina "a man-made disaster, a failure of government to look out for its own citizens." The same could be said of Roanoke.
It's been 10 years since Hurricane Katrina made landfall, the people of New Orleans have spent a decade rebuilding their city, but not everyone has felt the full impact of the recovery effort. But don't be too discouraged. We found five innovations that are improving the lives of citizens across the board.
I spoke with Wendell Pierce - most famous for his HBO series roles in The Wire and Treme - on the closing weekend of Brothers from the Bottom, a critically-acclaimed play about gentrification in New Orleans after the storm, in which Pierce played a lead role both on stage and in production.