Five years after Katrina, city she ruined tries to move on
Her coffin rests on a plinth at the funeral home, the lid left open for mourners to drop in private notes expressing how they feel about her or to whisper their farewells.
today she will be taken to church in a horse-drawn carriage for a service led by the Archbishop of New orleans, paraded to the cemetery by a jazz band and civic dignitaries, then laid to rest in a vault inscribed with her name: Katrina.
“In remembrance of all that was lost, in anticipation of all that is yet to be gained. May our future be bright and our spirits stay strong,” reads the epitaph inscribed on the monument.
though there is no corpse in the coffin at the st Bernard Funeral Home in chalmette,
“A funeral ceremony is therapeutic for most people…”
Funeral director Floyd Herty
funeral director Floyd Herty hopes the symbolic send-off will help those still struggling with their painful memories of Hurricane Katrina to finally bury the grief five years after she struck New orleans and the Gulf coast, causing .$150 billion (£97bn) of destruction, and claiming at least 1,836 lives.
“A funeral ceremony for most people is therapeutic, it helps them to deal with loss and to embrace their future. People here in our community that lost everything, they just can’t seem to shake it, so we got to thinking ‘Gee, five years? We need to find a way to finally put this storm to rest,’” explains Mr Herty.
“Katrina will forever be a defining moment in our lives, but I don’t want to keep holding onto it and keep blaming every little woe and disappointment on ‘I’m a Katrina victim.’ Five years later, I still reminisce in disbelief at what we’ve been through, but I also marvel at the progress.”
that progress has included the return of 78 per cent of the pre-Katrina population, though in the suburbs it is a different picture; in st Bernard parish, over a third have stayed away.
the Us government’s $14bn (£9bn) road Home programme helped to settle more than 120,000 families back in their communities, yet five years on 860 families still live in trailers provided by the Federal emergency Management Agency and New orleans’ schools have only now received the $1.8bn (£1.1bn) in funding required to rebuild.
In the Lower Ninth Ward, the poor black neighbourhood obliterated when a wall of water – and a barge – smashed through the levees and smashed 4,000 houses off their foundations, less than one quarter of the properties have been rebuilt, 50 of them funded by actor Brad Pitt and his Make it right charity.
Homelessness is now more than double what it was before, fuelled in part by the devastation to the Gulf economy caused by the BP oil spill which has wrecked the area’s $2.4bn (£1.5bn) seafood industry.
tomorrow, president Barack obama will address the disasterweary people of the Gulf coast during a visit to New orleans to commemorate Katrina.
Aside from reflecting on the tragedy and the failures, it will also be a celebration of how far the city has come in its recovery and the successes.
Robert Fontaine, top, returns to the site of his former home, burned down in the days after Katrina struck