Five years af­ter Ka­t­rina, city she ru­ined tries to move on

The Scotsman - - International - JaC­quI gOd­dard

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.

Pic­ture: Getty Images

Robert Fon­taine, top, re­turns to the site of his for­mer home, burned down in the days af­ter Ka­t­rina struck

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