View Full Version : New Orleans Grieves For Those Who Died During Hurricane Katrina

08-30-2007, 09:08 AM
New Orleans grieves those who died during Hurricane Katrina


Published: Wednesday August 29, 2007

US President George W. Bush visited New Orleans Wednesday as the devastated city marked two years since hurricane-driven waters washed out entire neighborhoods, killing some 1,100 people.

The city, still a stark landscape of abandoned homes and haunted by slow rebuilding efforts, will mark the sad anniversary of Hurricane Katrina with prayer services and a new memorial to those killed.

The president and First Lady Laura Bush were to meet with education officials, visit a charter school and observe a moment of silence for Katrina's victims, followed by a presidential statement on the reconstruction.

Bush was then to travel to Mississippi to get a briefing on rebuilding there and make a statement before heading back to Washington.

The plight of a city where the old and infirm were left to die in the streets as murderous flood waters churned through breached levees, has been turned into a rallying point by Democratic candidates ahead of the November 2008 presidential election.

On the eve of the observances, however, the grief of the still-wounded city is captured in a single card left in a cemetery, amid a field of white flags honoring the victims.

"We all miss you. It never got any easier in the two years you have been gone. You were our rock. We begged you to leave, but you just didn't think it was going to hit here," read a note by the daughter of 76-year-old storm victim Meahrer Patrick Turner.

Turner, a tan man with white tousled hair, stares out sadly from the picture. The date of his death -- "August 2005" -- is an estimate, like the death toll itself.

On Wednesday, the city will unveil the Katrina Memorial in a nearby park. Some 1,500 people were killed across the Gulf Coast, and about 100 of the storm's unidentified and unclaimed victims will be laid to rest at the memorial among hurricane-shaped walkways.

"This will be the one memorial where victims of the storm will be actually buried," said Gerard Schoen, a funeral director at Lake Lawn Metairie Cemetery, one of the city's oldest burial grounds who helped organize the event.

"You truly judge a culture by the way they take care of their dead," said Schoen, a sixth generation-funeral home director and native New Orleanian.

Among the living here, life is hard.

Just over half of the population has returned to rebuild the homes destroyed when Katrina struck the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005 and flooded most of the city, leaving thousands stranded on rooftops as violence and looting broke out in the few dry streets.

The musicians, artists and everyday residents who made the Big Easy unlike any other place in the country are battling with exorbitant rents, rising costs of utilities, high insurance, spiking property taxes and crime.

Homeowners are still struggling to find reliable contractors and weave through the bureaucracy of the government and insurance companies so they can pay them.

And workers in the remote, heavily damaged residential areas of eastern New Orleans find little safety in numbers -- gunmen rob job sites en masse in broad daylight.

The city is on pace to become the nation's homicide capital with 140 murders so far this year in a depopulated city of only 275,000 people.

"It's staggering and nothing that has been tried since the beginning of the year has worked," said Texas State University criminologist Peter Scharf.

The stress is taking a huge mental toll: a recent government study found that mental illness has doubled among Gulf Coast residents, there is a surge in the number of people considering suicide and there are more people suffering from post-traumatic stress now than there were a year ago.

Meanwhile, billions of dollars in federal aid remain wrapped up in bureaucratic red tape and blame is flying in all directions.

The recovery is a tale of three cities. The French Quarter, Garden District and other areas frequented by tourists have returned to a semblance of pre-storm normalcy after having escaped much of Katrina's fury because of their higher elevation.

Outside what locals call the "sliver by the river" are the gap-tooth neighborhoods where homes are being rebuilt next to houses that have not yet been gutted, or vacant lots where homes once stood.

Finally there are the heavily damaged neighborhoods that remain choked with weeds and few signs of life.

Asked why so many residents continue to live in the still-broken city two years after the storm, funeral home director Schoen replied: "New Orleanians have a lot of pride."

08-30-2007, 04:42 PM
Yeah, me and my wife were there. Wearing our "9/11 was an inside job" shirts, yet the media wouldn't even look at us.

We live in New Orleans, by the way.

08-31-2007, 01:17 AM
We live in New Orleans, by the way.Yeah, umm, that was kinda inferred by you being at the event. Being as how you have no money for gas, I would have doubted you had you said you and wifey jogged in from Topeka. The plot of your true intentions thickens. I will give you a chance to redeem yourself: How does a frisky grasshopper such as yourself come up with a screen name as profound as Zen? Or is that your name or something?