arcadiabritt

Opinion: Katrina Still Plagues the Nation

In Uncategorized on October 26, 2008 at 2:31 am

Imagine this: You have no electricity or running water. You’ve heard about a storm coming but that’s the least of your worries. You survived Hurricane Betsy so this one shouldn’t be that bad. The house you stand in is the very pinnacle of your life. You watch people evacuating and wish you had that luxury. If a storm comes, what will your disabled daughter do? If a storm comes, where will you go? If the storm floods your home, where will you live?

These are all things that went through the head of Ms. Daisy, one of the women featured in a recently released film, Trouble the Water. In the film, viewers follow a family led by Kim ‘Kold Medina’ Rivers and her husband as they battle Hurricane Katrina and survive her aftermath.

In the film, viewers get a first hand account of the days before Katrina hit and the damage she left behind, but not from the perspective of your everyday videographer. Rivers is the woman behind the camera and she tells a story like no other.

I saw the film with a phenomenal group of AU students who belong to the American Catastrophe and Words of Mass Destruction first-year seminars, but the opportunity was certainly my pleasure. I can’t speak for other peer mentors but I can say that this experience is benefitting  me to a degree that I never expected.

Besides being able to hang out with a great bunch of students, the course has reopened my eyes to something that my brothers and sisters are still dealing with today. HURRICANE KATRINA is not over. Her aftermath still plagues much of New Orleans and the Gulf even 3 years later. Many of the homes of the Ninth Ward are still damaged. Most of the residents haven’t returned. And can you blame them? They would be returning to a New Orleans that is so unfamiliar to them that they wouldn’t know what to call it.

When I say Hurricane Katrina isn’t over, I’m referring to the social-economic struggles that the residents of New Orleans still face today. Being displaced from the only pace you call home is a tragedy but not ever being able to return is much greater. Feeling as if you are a castaway in your own country has to be one of the most disturbing emotions. What I believe to be troubling them the most today is pain and anger…a pain and anger that much of our country has forgotten about.

Like many things that become commodified tragedies in American history, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina has escaped the primary agenda of our society and, most certainly, our government.

A recent update on CNN.com describes how actor Brad Pitt has helped move a few families back into their old neighborhoods in the Lower Ninth Ward. Pitt and his foundation helped rebuild over 150 homes with contemporary designs unlike the traditional French styles. Many of the homes feature modern elements like solar panels and “green” appliances.

Although Pitt has helped to remodel parts of one of the most damaged districts, his efforts land on deaf ears. As the federal government focuses on other situations in American society, people who called New Orleans home are not a priority. And as the stock market scares us all into hiding beneath the covers, we forget about what we could and should be doing for people who could have been our neighbors, grandmothers and uncles.

So here is the challenge: I challenge you, Arcadia University student, to put yourself aside and think about what you could be doing. Think about Charles, a man who lost his wife in the storm and had to find her lifeless body 6 months after the hurricane passed. Think about Brian, a recovering addict who lived in a group home at the time of the storm and became homeless once it hit because he had no proof of residency. Think about the hundreds of men, women and children who lost their lives and will never see their hometowns again.

You can do something. The students in my learning community think that change for New Orleans starts with education. Educate people you know. Tell them that just because Mardi Gras happened in New Orleans, that doesn’t mean the entire area is flourishing.

Tell them that the French Quarter is not all of New Orleans. Tell them that their donations will go far but their time and hard work would go further. Tell them to volunteer. The people need you. Arcadia’s Community Service is going back to the gulf for Alternative Spring Break this year, so get involved.

Tell them that the next time they walk into their home or visit their place of worship or favorite restaurant to think about the thousands of Gulf Coast residents who no longer have this privilege and if things remain the way they are, they never will again.

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