Monday, August 30, 2010

Remembering Hurricane Katrina

While some homes had been demolished in New Orleans' Lower 9th Ward,
nearly a year later others remained topsy-turvy by the force of the water.

Yesterday, August 29, marked the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making landfall in New Orleans, La. It is an unforgettable natural disaster in the history of our country. Katrina’s fifth anniversary allowed me to reminisce about my last visit to the “Crescent City.” It was the year after Katrina. I made two trips to New Orleans that summer.

The first trip was with two of my former colleagues Erika Anderson and Priscilla Greear. The editors at The Georgia Bulletin allowed us to take a long field trip to the Gulf Coast to do some regional reporting on the area, one year after the Category 3 hurricane left a path of massive destruction from central Florida to Texas. Over five days in July, we travelled to Mississippi cities like Bay St. Louis, Long Beach, Pass Christian and Waveland. We spent our final three and half days in New Orleans.

There are a few things that still stand out about the trip. First, we were graciously assisted and welcomed by so many people during their time of loss. In Mississippi there was Shirley Henderson, editor of the Gulf Pine Catholic. Shirley and her husband allowed us to stay at their home. There was also a man by the name of Bragg Williams, a member of St. Rose Lima Church, who showed us around Bay St. Louis and Waveland. In New Orleans Peter Finney, editor of The Clarion Herald, and his staff went out of their way to help us in our efforts. Peter, an alumnus of Loyola University New Orleans, also made arrangements for us to stay in a dormitory on campus.

Secondly, I was so amazed by the amount of destruction Hurricane Katrina left behind. It was so overwhelming that one year later still looked like one week later. To see the news footage on television was one thing, but to actually see it in person was unbelievable. Whole neighborhoods for several square miles looked like ghost towns and electrical power in many areas had still not been restored. Shopping centers, stores, restaurants and many other commercial and residential buildings stood vacant. I’ll never forget the images.

Lastly, the people we met and wrote about in the two states were so full of faith. When you have nothing else to hold on to, God is there to support you, and they were not hesitant about reaching out to the Father.

I went back a second time for two days in mid August to capture some more images. I was so moved by the experience I took my 20-year-old daughter at the time. I felt someone else had to see what I had witnessed with their own eyes too. I pray that the people and the parish communities directly impacted by Hurricane Katrina are better off five years later than they were one year later. I also pray that some sense of normalcy and stability has returned to their lives.

Michael Alexander, Staff Photographer


To read the stories or view more photos in The Georgia Bulletin issue that was produced following those trips, click here.

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