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.

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