Friday, August 27, 2010

Hurricane Katrina-5 Years Later

It has been 5 years since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and changed the lives of so many people. I was living in Utah at the time and felt so disconnected from the disaster. I had no idea what was really going on. All we saw here were news bits and horrible images of people with their belongings over their heads, neck deep in water. I heard stories of looting and chaos, tragedy on top of tragedy. It wasn’t until May of 2008 that I truly understood the devastating effects of the storm.

I had the opportunity to travel with my university to the South on a Civil Rights Immersion. We visited historical sites in Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana including Martin Luther King Jr’s church, the Edmund Pettus Bridge where African Americans marched on their way to Montgomery to fight for their right to vote, as well as the graves of MLK and his wife Coretta Scott King.

After touring these Civil Rights sites, we travelled to Biloxi, Mississippi where we began a week long Habitat for Humanity build. Just prior to entering Mississippi we stayed in New Orleans and toured the Ninth Ward. I have never seen so much rubble and desertion. What we were told was once a house amounted to three or four cement steps leading to a pile of siding, wood, and debris. Only a handful of the houses were even beginning to get rebuilt and the effects of the high waters and tremendous winds were evident all around us.

Trailer in front of an unlivable home in the 9th Ward
We found the French Quarter lively and bustling with tourists, beads, and street performers, yet not ten minutes away in the surrounding neighborhoods people were still trying to get their life back together, if they hadn’t abandoned their home all together. In Biloxi we found a similar situation. FEMA trailers lined a street of boarded up homes; the houses we were working on needed re-sanding, re-painting, and re-doing.
Rebuilding in Biloxi

And everyone had a story. Where they were when the storm hit; what they were doing; where they were evacuated to; and what happened to their family. These stories made my heart ache. It was finally real. The struggle, the hardships, the tragedy, came rushing over me as I attempted to ease their pain while wiping away my own tears.

I witnessed just a glimpse into the lives of some of those affected by Katrina. You can also read reflections from other Red Cross volunteers who were helping in the shelters, working behind the scenes, and who were there on that fateful day five years ago.

For more information from the Red Cross on Katrina five years later click here.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Thank you for reminding us of the devastation and impact the Hurricane had on not only the South, but the entire US. It is easy to forget something that is not directly in our immediate world.