August 30, 2008

Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

Today is the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and the City of New Orleans has scheduled several events to observe the disaster. This day’s activities began at 8 a.m. CST at the Hurricane Katrina Memorial with a burial service and traditional jazz funeral for the unclaimed victims of Katrina. Those in attendance included New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin and city council officials. A two-minute bell ringing ceremony followed at 9:38 a.m., the time when the city’s first levy broke on August 29, 2005. One of the final events was a candlelight vigil at 7:30 p.m. in Jackson Square.

I volunteered in Louisiana during the week of Thanksgiving in 2005, cleaning neighborhood homes in New Orleans and also in Houma. I will never forget the devastation I saw and the people I met. Their stories of destruction, their determination to continue to fight for the community deeply moved and inspired me. The events surrounding Hurricane Katrina must be remembered because it should never happen again. Lessons have to be learned from horrific failures that cost nearly two thousand lives and scattered even more throughout the country. Hurricane Katrina was more than just a series of images on television. Real lives were thrown into chaos, and they deserve to be honored.

As the city remembers the tragedy of 2005, they are also preparing for Gustav, which has been upgraded from a tropical storm to a hurricane and is expected to reach the Gulf Coast early next week. Gustav has already destroyed areas and killed residents of Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Jamaica. According to The Times-Picayune website, volunteer evacuations are underway in parts of Jefferson Parish, and additional measures are expected in the coming days, with mandatory evacuations possibly on Sunday. Gustav is expected to be a Category 3 Hurricane when it reaches the Gulf Coast.

If you would like to reach out and help victims of Hurricane Katrina, please contact Habitat for Humanity/NOLA. To learn how to help the recent victims of Gustav, please contact UNICEF.

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