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.
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.
I visited New Orleans twice this summer. Although the purpose of my trips were more business than leisure I found time to stroll around the city that 10 years ago was partially destroyed by a massive hurricane.
New Orleans became a symbol of American rebirth and reinvention in the face of senseless tragedy. From dramatically improving results in its public schools to rebuilding its civil infrastructure, the city has taken many impressive and forward-looking steps since Katrina.
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.
The President did the right thing by going to struggling neighborhoods and spending time with the young people who could see in a man who, through the dedication, love and hard work, a mirror of themselves and what they too could accomplish.
Despite the various narratives of progress, black and brown kids across our city--almost regardless of school, age, neighborhood, or income--are punished, threatened, failing, and producing predictable, vilified, low test scores. This is no surprise to any of us--not a one.
I struggled to find words to best commemorate this day. Today, on the ten-year anniversary since Hurricane Katrina struck and devastated the Gulf Coast, there is little that has not been said already.
When Hurricane Katrina struck, children were caught in the floods when the levees failed. Some were killed; others orphaned. Thousands were separated from family and hundreds of thousands were displaced. But there is another part of the story that is not often told. Children took action.
New Orleans is a tale of 200,000 cities. That's how many people were left in New Orleans post-Katrina. After the diaspora, each of them became a city unto themselves. And each has lived a lifetime in the last 10 years.
The storm brought a new level of destruction to the city schools. More than 100 schools were severely damaged, rooms flooded with mud, holes torn in walls, rubble strewn in hallways. It was hard to imagine that New Orleans schools could come back from all of that, but they did.
While Hurricane Katrina initially devastated New Orleans, it reaffirmed my belief in the capacity of a community to come together not just to survive, but to thrive; to build upon a dream, born of disaster; to no longer be the city that care forgot.
"Our story is just one. Add those of a hundred people I know and then multiply that by ten thousand and you will be getting close to getting the picture of the more than a million people with dramatic stories from this massive disaster."