On the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, anger over the stalled rebuilding was palpable throughout a city where the mourning for the dead and feeling of loss for flooded homes, schools, snow cone stands, old-time hairstylists and hardware stores doesn’t seem to subside.
Hurricane Katrina made landfall south of New Orleans at 6:10 a.m. Aug. 29, 2005, as a strong Category 3 hurricane that flooded 80 percent of the city and killed more than 1,600 people in Louisiana and Mississippi. It was the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States.
On Wednesday, protesters planned to march from the obliterated Lower 9th Ward to Congo Square, a venerable spot where slaves were able to celebrate their culture. Accompanied by brass bands and wielding megaphones, they will again try to spread their message that the government has failed to help people return.
“People are angry and they want to send a message to politicians that they want them to do more and do it faster,” said the Rev. Marshall Truehill, a Baptist pastor and community activist. “Nobody’s going to be partying.”
At Charity Hospital, a 21-story limestone hospital adorned with allegorical reliefs, public officials will attend a somber groundbreaking for a victims’ memorial and mausoleum that will house the remains of more than 100 victims who have still not been identified.
“It’s an emotional time. You re-live what happened and you remember how scattered everyone is now. There are relationships now that are completely over,” said Robert Smallwood, a New Orleans writer. “The city has been dying this slow death. In New Orleans, you can’t escape it. It’s bad news everyday.”
Churches will hold memorial services, including one at the historic St. Louis Cathedral on Jackson Square, and ring bells in honor of the victims. People throughout the city will hold their own private ceremonies to remember where they were when Katrina hit, and what they lost.
“Everyone who gives it any thought, and I can’t imagine who hasn’t, has to reflect on his or her own personal experience during that time, and also look at how far we’ve come,” said Larry Lorenz, a journalism professor at Loyola University in New Orleans.
A candlelight vigil is scheduled in Jackson Square at dusk, right around the time the French Quarter may start getting tipsy with street parties and anniversary revelers, as happened last year.
The anniversary is an opportunity for the city to recapture media attention to tell the nation what’s happened to New Orleans since Katrina. Reporters, television crews and photographers have, once again, flocked to the city.
The day has also attracted a passel of politicians — President Bush chief among them. He and Laura Bush arrived Tuesday night and dined with Leah Chase, the Queen of Creole cooking, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and musician Irvin Mayfield.
Several presidential contenders, including Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, have visited in recent days.
While politicians have used the anniversary to pitch policy, think tanks, scholars and activists have released a steady stream of reports on the state of recovery.
Meanwhile, an international people’s tribunal has been convened to take testimony from victims. The tribunal is being spearheaded by legal activists trying to build a case under international law accusing the United States of human rights abuses during and after Katrina.