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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

They Called It Katrina

(Part 2, continued from August 29 post "One Year Ago Today")

Since my sister's school received extensive damage due to the flooding, two semesters, starting in January, were held off campus in a downtown hotel. Her graduation was postponed until July. My family and I drove down and as we passed over the bridge, we could see the parts that had been rebuilt. It was quite overwhelming to be on a bridge that a year ago, was partially destroyed by a hurricane.

As we drove further into the city, some of the places still looked the same. Hotels with broken windows, closed dealerships with destroyed cars sitting in the parking lot, houses with blue tarps covering up the roofs.

It's been almost a year. Why does this place still look like this?

After graduation ended, pictures taken, and goodbyes said, my sister took us on a "tour" of New Orleans. She showed us where she used to work, her apartment (not all of us had seen it), places she used to go. It all looked the same: abandoned, rotting buildings with spray paint on the outside saying whether or not it held a dead body inside. And in the middle of all that: an open Burger King. People gotta eat, right?

Being that close to destruction - I still don't have any words to describe the feeling. Not only do the survivors need monetary help, after going through that type of devastation, they need psychological help. You don't just get up and walk away from that type of catastrophe and not be mentally scarred......

*****

Graduation was held on campus. Trees had been replanted. Lawn neatly manicured. A mini movie describing the before, during, and aftermath of the hurricane and flood was shown on the big screen. "Father Can You Hear Us?" from Diary of a Mad Black Woman was played in the background.

The tears started.

Afterwards, the president of the university got up and said "Katrina tried to destroy us, but she failed. Dillard University will come back bigger and stronger than before. Welcome to the NEW Dillard University!"

What struck me about her speech (outside of the emotionality of it) was that she didn't say 'Hurricane Katrina.' She said 'Katrina', like the hurricane was a real person who had a soul....

I can just picture it. 50 years from now, Katrina survivors sitting on the porch rocking chair telling their young grandchildren about what happened to the city of New Orleans on August 29, 2006...

"Kids, Katrina killed people. Katrina destroyed a city. Katrina showed the world that not everyone is treated the same."

"Did they put Katrina in jail, grandpa?"

"No, baby.... You can't confine someone like Katrina. Katrina was a storm. A very destructive storm....."

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