David Rae had a number of hurricane Katrina-related photographs selected for the Acadiana Center for the Arts' recent Southern Open 2007 exhibit, and he asked me to pick up and hold onto a few of his photos when the exhibit ended. Can't make it to Lafayette to get the pictures right now, he said. He was going to be traveling and working in Mississippi, but he'd be back for the anniversary.
His shorthand description has stayed with me. No need to mention the name or date of the event that killed 1,800 people, drove more than 200,000 people from their homes and irrevocably changed Louisiana forever. If you were affected, the anniversary is understood.
Unfortunately ' no, tragically ' it's a travesty how many people both outside and inside our state don't understand the real reasons why New Orleans was devastated on Aug. 29, and how their uninformed viewpoints have devolved into talking points that continue to chip away at Louisiana's recovery efforts.
It all started with former Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert's ridiculous comment that it didn't make sense to him to spend billions of dollars rebuilding New Orleans since the city was below sea level. Hastert backtracked, of course, but the damage was done. That opinion still gets trotted out two years later on television talk shows and in letters to the editor across the country, often presented as a civil, measured, even logical argument. It's now a springboard for additional, equally insidious assertions: Why should U.S. taxpayers give money to a local and state government known for its corruption? After all, President George W. Bush has authorized $110 billion in recovery funds, and it's Louisiana's fault that the state doesn't have a recovery plan.
Pardon my French, but that's a load of merde.
A recent study by Tulane University notes that 51 percent of New Orleans is at or above sea level. And New Orleans was devastated because the levees designed and built by the federal government and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ' levees constructed so the rest of America could access the rich oil reserves that supply 30 percent of our nation's energy ' failed in the most horrific way possible. But instead of honoring his pledge to "do what it takes" and "stay as long as it takes" to help the Gulf Coast recover, the Bush administration still refuses to commit to Category 5 levee protection for the Crescent City, claiming it's too expensive.
Meanwhile, the price tag for the war in Iraq is now estimated at $1 trillion.
Yes, New Orleans has serious problems with its crime rate, leadership and education system. And New Orleans Councilman Oliver Thomas' recent guilty plea to corruption charges and Mayor Ray Nagin's beyond-idiotic statement that the high murder rate is a double-edged sword because it "keeps the New Orleans brand out there" are not helping the city's image or its recovery.
But that is no reason to let the callous, uninformed naysayers spout their nonsense about our state's recovery. Left unchecked, it spreads like a virus and inhibits the ability to see all the positive things ' especially the tireless activism and inspiring devotion to the rich cultural traditions of the Cresent City. Relentless negativity dishonors every honest, hard-working person, family and volunteer who spends their waking hours trying to rebuild one of America's greatest cities.
And what about Buras, Port Sulphur, Chalmette, Arabi, Meraux, Violet and every other community that was devastated by the storm? Like the victims of Hurricane Rita a month later, these towns and regions find themselves overshadowed by the lightning rod of New Orleans, but their struggle is no less painful, difficult or important.
As Louisiana faces continued challenges in our recovery, the anniversary is also a time to remember Acadiana's incredible response to Katrina. In the aftermath of the storm, countless volunteers' actions at the Cajundome and the relief and sheltering efforts from local nonprofits, churches, schools and businesses provided hope when it was in short supply. Despite immense hardships, our region sent a message that we can face this crisis together. Two years later, we cannot let that unity fade, and must stand together as one and continue to hold our leaders accountable as we rebuild our cities, homes and lives.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, April 18, 2014:
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Time and time again, the Lafayette Parish School Board shows an overwhelming tendency toward idiocy, but Wednesday night’s contentious discussion over Northside High School’s teen mother program tops the list of dumb discussions.
“The accomplishment of this goal within the next ten years is not only critical for the region to effectively compete with other regions for residents and businesses, but also to provide an amenity for everyone in Acadiana to enjoy.”
Education Superintendent John White says a continued push to try to keep Louisiana from using tests associated with the Common Core education standards are creating "a state of chaos" for public school teachers.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan to use $210 million in surplus and one-time money to help balance next year's budget received the backing Thursday of the State Bond Commission, support that was needed for the maneuver to work.
State wildlife and fisheries agents have arrested a 39-year-old man accused of stealing crawfish.
An East Feliciana Parish lawmaker has jettisoned his proposal to make it harder for a condemned prisoner to appeal a death sentence.
Senators advanced a proposal Wednesday that would let the governor remove New Orleans-area levee board members for violating what he considers to be public policy, despite concerns it would introduce political meddling into state flood protection.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council on Tuesday will vote on a resolution that if approved would clear the way for a December ballot proposition asking voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax parishwide to help fund the construction of a new terminal at Lafayette Regional Airport.
Just days before the fourth anniversary of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and oil spill, the Coast Guard has moved cleanup of Louisiana's coast to a new phase, allowing BP to end its "active" efforts in the area.
Legislators still must leave their guns at the door of the Louisiana Capitol.
Sen. Fred Mills may have an "R" behind his name, but his actions in the Louisiana Legislature transcend the established boundaries of his party.
The Louisiana House overwhelmingly rejected a repeal of the state's unconstitutional anti-sodomy law Tuesday.
The Louisiana Senate sided with Gov. Bobby Jindal and the oil industry Tuesday, agreeing to void a lawsuit that a south Louisiana flood board filed against more than 90 oil and gas companies for coastal damage.
Acadian rep notifies would-be supporters that an April 25 fundraiser for the embattled U.S. rep won’t go on as planned.
While it isn’t all too unusual for public bodies to have hired security present during meetings, the LPSB’s push to do so is arguably a response to the antics of one board member.
“I’m running. Why would I be raising all this money? Just to have to return it to people?”
With incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu watching from afar, and with a united Democratic Party in her corner, the fight to get the GOP officially behind Congressman Bill Cassidy is gaining just as much momentum as it is hushed controversy.
15th Judicial District Judge Durwood Conque has announced that he will not seek re-election after 27 years on the bench.
The controversial standardized tests are set to be used in third-grade through eighth-grade public school classrooms next year.
The Louisiana Senate has agreed to prohibit unmanned aircraft from flying over chemical plants, water treatment systems, telecommunications networks and other items considered "critical infrastructure" in Louisiana.
It didn’t take long for KATC TV 3 to jump all over the news of a dead body found in Girard Park, but in its rush to produce headlines, the local TV station got sloppy.
An unholy trinity of civil-society upheavalers whose first names are not Conner, Tanner or Logan are facing charges in Eunice.
Now that lawmakers have shot down efforts to cap annual interest rates for payday loans, supporters for stricter regulations of the storefront lenders are rallying behind another strategy.