President George W. Bush and his wife Laura visited Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School for Science and Technology on August 29th, the second anniversary of the day Hurricane Katrina made landfall along the Gulf Coast causing massive failure of the levees and flood walls, killing more than 1,500 people. "New Orleans is better off today than it was yesterday," Bush said. "And it will be better off tomorrow than it is today." Now that's eloquent.




KATRINA UPDATE SEPTEMBER 11, 2007:

It's kind of like a double anniversary today.

Today marks the sixth anniversary of September 11, 2001, and the worst act of terrorism perpetrated on United States soil. It is also, by coincince, the day I am giving a Katrina update and posting a new gallery to coincide with the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, August 29, the greatest man-made catastrophe in United States history. Lest we forget, Katrina in New Orleans was NOT a natural disaster. The residents of the Mississippi Gulf Coast were the victims of a natural disaster. And they are still dealing with it as well. Katrina in New Orleans was a very preventable.

A whole lot has happened since the beginning of hurricane season. Susanne and Uma have moved to Ohio. Susanne got a really good job as director of the new women's center at Ohio University in Athens. She was ready to leave. She was tired of still having to see the debris and the devastation as she drove to work every day. The senseless murder of our neighbor, Dinerral Shavers, the drummer of the Hot 8 Brass Band, was a severe blow to her faith in the city. Now she has an office in the brand new $64 million student center that overlooks a small pond in a nice wooded area on campus. It takes her five minutes to ride her bicycle to work. The nearest interstate is 40 miles away in West Virginia. Uma walks a block and a half to school. Public school. There are no private schools in Athens, Ohio. But more importantly: there is no debris, no crime. Susanne says she wakes up in the morning and no longer has ugly thoughts. I think we all long for that, but for those who remain, there is no end in sight.

It seems like the same people who, two years ago, were determined to return and re-build the city, are now fed up and disillusioned. A friend who lost her house in Lakeview told me she just want to sell her lot and move to Colorado. When I first saw her after the storm on Halloween 2005, she was just happy to be back. What a difference two years make. The recovery is slow thanks to greedy insurance companies, lazy bureaucrats and politicians who don't care. The crime rate is out of control, and we are, once again, the murder capital of the country.

I've stayed on in New Orleans for the fall. I had to cover the anniversary and the beginning of the Saints season. And I have to prepare for an opening at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in October. I need to do some work on the house and I hope to sell my rental property on Desire Street after the first of the year. It's hard to let go of New Orleans. I drove a visiting friend through Uptown, Mid-City and Bayou St. John last week to show him some of the storm damage. It was the early evening and I was hard pressed to find any at all, at least on the main thoroughfares. It was hard to find the waterline even in neighborhoods that were under eight or ten feet of water. So the more people who come to visit, the more will believe that everything is fine. Unless they go to Lakeview or Gentilly or the Lower Ninth, it will be for them as if Katrina never happened. But we know better.

Once again, the phone has stopped ringing since the anniversary. And once again, I am okay with that for the time being. I need to get my bearings, to figure out where to go from here. What do you do after two years of work on the greatest story of your lifetime? How can you ever find purpose again, especially knowing that your work has not reached it's maximum potential, and at the same time, the rest of the world is no longer paying attention? Still, I am determined to put an end to my Katrina coverage altogether. I will continue to do occasion Katrina-related assignments and to work with Mr. G. and the Rev, but I simply must move on. It is not easy. Katrina continues to dominate our lives and until the federal government starts to take the issues of recovery seriously, we will continue to limp along at the a snail's pace.

I am offering a new gallery, Katrina at Two. It offers a glimpse at what has changed, and what has not. And while we all must try to be optimistic for the future, it's obvious that otherwise we'll all go crazy, or worse.


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