I did not realize ten years ago this week that, I would never again live in New Orleans, but I am astonished that after so many years I cannot talk about this anniversary of Hurricane Katrina without my voice cracking.
The story of rebirth in New Orleans' schools since Hurricane Katrina is one of nationally historic significance - but as is true of the city's recovery, it is a profoundly unfinished story.
Despite the tremendous losses suffered during those terrifying days and nights in August ten years ago, we pause to remember those who were lost... celebrate those who survived... and praise those who call New Orleans home.
Katrina's devastation was, by so many measures, due to the mistakes of people. And the recovery is, by every measure, due to the strength of people.
Some dates settle in our nation's collective consciousness and can never be forgotten. August 29, 2005 is one of them. But the devastation of Katrina extends beyond the physical, and its aftermath can be felt by New Orleans residents old and new.
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As the adage goes, "Necessity is the mother of invention." In 2005, on the heels of one of the costliest and deadliest disasters in American history, necessity created opportunity in New Orleans and ushered in a new wave of purpose-driven entrepreneurs who took a fresh approach to the city's challenges: social innovation.
Although the events of 10 years ago were certainly momentous enough in and of themselves to warrant commemoration, Katrina is also a harbinger of our future. We know that climate disruption threatens to increase the frequency of extreme weather events, from droughts to heat waves to hurricanes.
The failure to coordinate services, to plan for the needs of the population, to keep families and neighborhoods together, and to find ways to enable all those who desired to return to New Orleans to do so constitute a third disaster, one like the failure of the levees of human origin.
Most agree that the work to reinvent New Orleans remains unfinished. That's true, especially because post-Katrina New Orleans is trending back toward its old self -- a sluggish regional economy with high inequality and not enough opportunities for its residents. That was certainly not the vision.
The truth is, for black people with roots in this city, the recovery isn't complete. And many of us are asking ourselves: What is the place for black people in post-Katrina New Orleans?
When Barack Obama took office, word went out to every federal agency about New Orleans: get creative and do whatever might be necessary to help the city recover. Unlike his predecessor, the president recognized that a new kind of federalism was required to help New Orleans come back.
Ten years ago, all we could do was blindly believe in our best selves. Ten years into a recovery that will likely take several generations, it's clear New Orleans didn't wash away after all.
The failure of the strongest government in the world was of historic proportions. But faith and interfaith communities made history. They were the first responders, if not the only help, for most people over the course of several weeks. After 10 years, their work with survivors continues.
What you probably won't hear about very much in the coverage looking back at Katrina is the enormous impact this disaster had on people with disabilities. They, too, were disproportionately affected, but just not because of Mother Nature.