5-year anniversary of Katrina’s wrath somber, reflective

by
August 30, 2010

(CNN) — Five years ago Sunday, the water rushed in, the lights went out and for thousands of Gulf Coast residents nothing was ever the same.

The milestone was marked by vigils, tears and reflection on what was, what came after, what still remains to be done and what, if anything, we have learned from Hurricane Katrina.

A number of events were planned in New Orleans, Louisiana, and elsewhere to commemorate the anniversary of the landfall of Katrina, the costliest and one of the five deadliest storms ever to strike the United States.

President Barack Obama was scheduled to visit New Orleans on Sunday and speak at Xavier University of Louisiana. The hard-hit parishes of Plaquemines and St. Bernard were holding commemorative community events, and a third commemoration was planned in New Orleans’ Jackson Square.

Katrina left more than 1,800 dead in its wake. It slammed into the Gulf Coast near the Louisiana-Mississippi state line early on August 29, 2005. Most of the dead were in and around New Orleans, where more than three-quarters of the city flooded after its protective levees failed. Nearly 300,000 people were displaced.

After the storm, “We were a city that had no people in it,” Ray Nagin, who was mayor of New Orleans when Katrina struck.

“Now, we’re a city that has over 80 percent of its population back. Lowest unemployment in the country. Construction everywhere. I think we’re on our way to success,” Nagin told CNN’s Don Lemon as the storm’s anniversary approached.

Still, it is widely agreed that more work remains to bring New Orleans and the Gulf Coast back from Katrina’s devastating blow. Some say that little has improved, and entire neighborhoods in Louisiana and beyond have not rebounded.

“Nothing’s really changed,” said Conrad Wyre III, 35, of New Orleans. Some regions are still “in shambles,” he said, and some residents still feel helpless and without support, as if they are “floating in the wind.”

About 6,000 families own homes that cannot be rebuilt. One-third of New Orleanians say their lives are still disrupted by the storm, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation Poll. In New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood — seen as ground zero for Katrina’s wrath — only 4,000 of 18,000 residents have returned.

To read more, visit: http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/08/29/katrina.anniversary/

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