Surviving after Hurricane Katrina… Let’s celebrate the Survivors.

Fourteen years ago on this day, Hurricane Katrina drowned out and uprooted so many lives. I wasn’t here, but my family was. I can feel the ache in my heart of yesterday. I can feel the tears falling from my eyes as I looked at the TV screen. I can feel the desperation in my heart as I redialed my loved one’s phone numbers. I was lost in my own world of pain, but those going through the storm were suffering an unimaginable ordeal.

I dare not call today the Anniversary of Katrina, because there’s no celebration in this day, but the lives that survived. But we need to recognize what happened on this day years ago because so many mistakes were made that changed the course of many lives. Remembering Hurricane Katrina brings up a host of painful emotions, pains that we can not escape. The date feels like a bandaid that has been ripped off, exposing unhealed festering wounds. Those affected by Katrina may look and act as though they are healed, but underneath the scab lays layers of trauma.

Thinking back to Hurricane Katrina and observing all the changes in these fourteen years, it appears that the Survivors of Hurricane Katrina are put on display to stir emotions and not the mere acknowledgment of their survival. There are stories behind those voiceless pictures. I love that the city hosts a memorial ceremony for those who lost their lives in the storm, but we have thousands of living being who we need to celebrate as well. It’s not enough to acknowledge their lives by sitting around each year on and around August 29th to view their devastating moments, closing the album until the next year? That doesn’t sit well with me. Their faces show, sadness, hurt, distress, worry, and suffering, and they are deserving of at least a follow-up. A “Hey, how are you doing? You endured so much that day, and I would like to see if there’s anything I can assist with?” They survived, but they were traumatized, most still suffering and have triggers with each rainfall.

There’s no honor in plastering their pictures; they yearn for compassion and empathy. Anniversaries come with acknowledgment, a celebration of life and a gift for the date holder, because they made it, overcame and endured a significant life event. Yes, we should honor them annually with a big life celebration with awards and applause, second lines and a parade. Where’s the ”I survived Hurricane Katrina and this my life is” Show and interviews? A reunion of sort, bringing together the rescuers and the survivors would be a great addition to the memorial. Yes, we must remember Katrina, so that it will not happen again, but I believe more can be done for the people.

I honestly feel that the government and the wealthy people sat in wait for Katrina, because it gave them an excuse to create this New New Orleans. Maybe, that’s why they waited, perhaps that’s why the storm affected the most impoverished communities, and people of color. Hurricane Katrina proved that the government is controlled by money and greed. So much has been done to revitalize communities to intice tourist and transplants and not for the people who lived there prior to the storm. The priority of revitalization was to benefit the wealthy and tourist. The people of New Orleans were not only overlooked, but they were forgotten only to be remembered on today. What about the survivors of this tragic day? What happen to them? Katrina happened to them, gentrification. The story of Hurricane Katrina would read like when the French and British forced out the Native Indians.

Was Hurricane Katrina a blessing for the government and wealthy and a curse to the people and our culture? It sure seems that way. New Orleans makes millions, billions of tourism dollars, but the employees make $2.00/hr to minimum wage. Airbnb has forced out New Orleanians, charges hundreds of dollars a night to tourist, while residents struggle to pay their rent. Prior to Katrina, your years experience grandfathered you into higher-paying jobs, and now, most positions require that you have a bachelor degree. Slowing down gentrification by way of granting job priority to the survivors and those who evacuated would be a great way to acknowledge their loss. So many New Orleans who were displaced by Katrina have yet to return, because of affordable housing. Many can not afford to visit either, because their families aren’t here anymore. Possibly hosting a BE A TOURIST! WELCOME BACK TO NEW ORLEANS FESTIVAL! That would allow former residents affected by Katrina a reason and an affordable price to come back for a visit. Or simply discounting travel for them. They deserve it. I know the feeling of wanting to come back home, New Orleans lives in our hearts and souls, and not being here is devastating.

Hurricane Katrina was fourteen years ago and my family was personally affected. We lost family members and friends, as well as property and belongings because of the effects of the storm. I can relate to those who remember this day by grieving those they lost, but today I feel the need to mourn differently. We lost my cousin months after the storm and he left us with the words ”Live your life” before he died. And their are thousands living after this enduring Katrina and we should help them live the best life possible. Just because time has passed that doesn’t mean healing is complete. Katrina Survivors are more than devastating pictures; they have names; they defied the odds and prevailed. Their lives deserve to be observed and celebrated.

A native of New Orleans, who left her beloved New Orleans to spend twenty years of living in the land of Minnesota Not So Nice. Minnesota was full of opportunities but would learn that the soul of the state and the people who made it was just as icy cold as the temperatures. After the years and my 40th birthday flew by, I decided it was time to pack up my youngest child and come back to my roots, my birthplace the city that not only birthed me but gave me life. I would not be who I am without my New Orleans beginnings. I am all things that would challenge the belief of growing up in New Orleans. I was a 16yr old teen mother of a premature baby born with a severe medical disability. And only With the help of my mother, was it possible for me to BE! I was able to endure and survive the obstacles laid before my child and me. In a city that was built by my family, but did not allow for us to reap the benefits I overcame. Charity Hospital was my second home — a building filled with miracle workers who made it possible for my daughter to have life. I have lived a life of rainy days with peeks of sunshine, that are my children, including those not of my womb. I'm the proud mother of three and a grandmother of three. My dream was to live the life of the nursery rhyme of ”The Old Lady Who lived in a shoe,” and for the most part, I did. I cared for several children over the years as a special needs foster parent. I would learn that my love was not enough for some children, but I loved them through their pain. I'm not sure if I ever had a case of true love or came close to what love looks like on television, but I had my share of men and the mirage of love. I survived two abusive marriages. Though I longed to return to New Orleans on a daily bases, I must admit my move was one of the best decisions made for me. I am a college graduate; I was a successful entrepreneur. I coowned a soul food restaurant and catering company in Minnesota for 12 years. I developed the talent of creating custom cakes after the murder of my beloved cousin Melvin Paul. He survived Katrina only to go to Minneapolis six months later to be murdered over a parking spot dispute. But with the challenge of creating a simple wedding cake, I was able to find healing. I created the House of Cakes in honor of him. Minnesota life had me pretty materialistic. I worked to the point I do not remember much, but work and handing my children love money. I thought by having the big house on the hill, a husband, having a family, the ultimate provider and being involved in all things that matter, plus having the funds to match would cure me of what I was told was a generational curse of lack of everything from money, love to even self-love. But for the most part, that life poisoned my heart and soul. I was blinded by visions fed to me by the media. I was told I wasn't anything unless I was better than the Jones's. I lived being ok with a broken, bleeding heart. Life like this did not exist in my family while living in New Orleans from what I viewed with my eyes and soul. We may not have had all the things I acquired over the years, but we were happy, we were together. Family outside of New Orleans wasn't family anymore. We lived separate lives and had awkward moments when we bumped into each other in public. I hated living in Minnesota even though life their helped me in so many ways. I felt deep down the only way to repair it was to get back to my roots, my soul, my home, myself, my New Orleans. I'm here, and I love it. Even being in the so-called Blighted Area of New Orleans and not having all the financial and material security, I'm happy. I am determined that She, yes, New Orleans is a woman is just like me; together, we will overcome and will rise from all that tried to kill our spirit. Nothing like starting from the bottom and making your way back up!. I just know in my heart that New Orleans will provide for me. There's a bank account with funds in it owed to me by way of back pay for my ancestors. And I will receive my inheritance, and I will continue the traditions and customs of the old to keep the heartbeat of New Orleans beating. I'm down in the boot, living the life that feels right to me awaiting my destiny...

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