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.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, March 07, 2014:
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.
The NFL has formally designated New Orleans' Jimmy Graham as a tight end for the purposes of his franchise tag value, which is now set at $7.05 million next season unless Graham and the Saints subsequently agree on a long-term deal.
A federal appeals panel ruled Monday that businesses don't have to prove that they were directly harmed by BP's 2010 Gulf Of Mexico oil spill to collect settlement payments.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has closed Interstate 10 from I-49 in Lafayette to Seigen Lane in Baton Rouge.
Jim Bernhard, who engineered the sale of The Shaw Group for $3 billion, recently has told several people involved in Democratic politics that he intends to run for governor in 2015.
A New Orleans levee board wants to hold the oil and gas industry accountable for decades of damage to our state’s coastline, but the Legislature may be poised to put the kibosh on the suit.
New standards curb elective induction
CVS stops tobacco sales
If an Acadia Parish fiddler misses a note while swatting a fly, will a St. Martinville accordionist learn “Ma ‘Tite Fille”?
(It's good, it's bad and it's just crazy)