Editor’s Note: On August 29, it will have been 15 years since Hurricane Katrina and the ensuing malfunctions devastated New Orleans and changed all of our lives. As we move through another tragedy, we want to remember how our community came together and recovered — against all odds. The spirit of New Orleans is not something you can sink easily, and this week we will be publishing stories of hope and rebuilding in order to show that. Stay strong, all!
ViaNolaVie is working with the founder and producers of the The Listening Post. TLP is a community media project that aims to meet residents deep in their own neighborhoods, on porches, at libraries, in barbershops, and start conversations about local news in New Orleans and both get and share important information about life in the city.
Each week on their WWNO radio segment, TLP explores issues ranging from healthcare and WhoDat, to tattoos and transportation. Listeners are able to contribute via TLP recording devices at local libraries or via a text messaging service, which then became source material for these programs. This piece aired on August 28, 2014.
Like a lot of New Orleanians, Wayne Benjamin understands that after 9 years, some people are ready to stop talking about the storm.
“But for others, it’ll never be something that goes away, and I guess it depends on where you’re at as a person and what you’ve lost” he says.
Benjamin lived displaced in Birmingham and Savannah for a while, watching TV news incessantly.
“I really felt then I’d completely lost my city, I thought we’d never be back.”
But Benjamin did come back; he had to. As a longtime DJ on New Orleans Q93 hip hop station, he’s the voice of the city every weekday from 2:00-7:00 p.m.
That’s one way to commemorate the storm. We wanted to know how YOU feel about the city’s progress in the past 9 years and how you think we should commemorate next year’s 10th anniversary. Here are some of the responses we got:
“Help the ninth ward
“New Orleans still has a long long way to go!!!”
“So much is better, all that creative juice powering start ups! Sadly now my husband & I can’t even afford a hovel in the hood. the folks that can afford to buy, raise the rents, try to close the Country Club, and bitch about loud music & second lines. I wish there were some kind of program to help out people who BADLY want to move back but have been priced out.”
“Many improvements have been made to New Orleans, since Katrina, in that much of the city’s infrastructure has now been repaired, upgraded &/or replaced, as a result of the storm. necessary resources severely lacking & which is impeding both NOLA’s recovery & economic development is that the city is no longer a 24hr town – It is difficult to impossible to find healthy food choices late at night, which is unacceptable for a city who’s work force is largely reliant on the service industry full sized grocery store that is open after hours (Mardi Gras Zone, in Bywater). NOLA is also only place in northern hemisphere w/out a 24hr Walmart, which is unacceptable, especially for a city of this size.”
“For these questions, I always defer to friends who were living here during at the time, and the answers are always mixed.”
“I think it has. But I am new here. I cannot tell there was a storm unless someone points things out. It should be celebration for the dead. A collective funeral for those who passed in the storm.”
“Hard for me to say since I wasn’t living here prior, but maybe businesses and residents should pick projects in their neighborhood for improvement on damages caused in Katrina.”
“Lower ninth ward stop the money making tour’s of damage.”
“N.O. has made good progress toward recovery but still not fully recovered. Too many areas still blighted from Katrina. Streets are worse than ever. Schools are better though. I don’t think there should be any commemoration for the10th anniversary. Let’s forget the bitch.”
“New Orleans has gotten worst…the plan is to get rid of all the lower class people in the city .. That’s why the levees were broken..the people over the city are selfish ..we have a lot of issues to talk about like healthcare ..homelessness..”
Lonzie Beamon lives about a block from the site of the London Avenue canal breach in Gentilly. The local non-profit Levees.org put up a state-sanctioned plaque there.
“I see it every time I come home. It’s not a reminder to me but it’s a reminder to people that don’t know. It’s a reminder to people who come down the street and see it and say this is where it happened at,” says Beamon.
The plaque is a testament to lives lost, but also to design failures by the Army Corps of Engineers that caused the flood. Levees.org recently announced plans to install a garden and outdoor exhibit explaining what led to the failure of the levee at the site of the London Avenue canal breach.
Government neglect before and after Katrina has been a continued theme the last nine years.
But with the world’s cameras on New Orleans for the 10th anniversary. Wild Wayne says it should be a productive year around the city.
“These potholes are going to get fixed, they’re going to fix the sewer system, they’re going to finish all of these blighted houses off. I think that’s kind of a sad little story, that it would take something as monumental as that to make people actually get the job done,” he says.