Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Keeping our area up front

If you look deep enough, you'll find a lot of awareness about this area across the country. Here is one article written by a senior at Whitworth University in Washington State

OPINION: The hurricane of coverage is no more, but New Orleans remains

Karla Rose, Staff Writer
link to this editorial

Maybe it's because the average American has an attention span of eight seconds.

Whatever the reason, "out of sight, out of mind" is probably a fair assessment of the state of New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast affected by Hurricane Katrina.

While media coverage and promises to rebuild were rampant in the first months following the storm, nearly three years later, those promises are still unfulfilled and we've all but forgotten - we being America at large.

Though thoughts of Katrina and its victims are less prevalent today, for six Bonner Leadership Scholars who spent this past Spring Break rebuilding on the Gulf Coast, the reality of Katrina victims' continued devastation will not quickly be forgotten.

Witnessing the influx of refugees in her Texas hometown prompted sophomore Katie Petitt to volunteer in New Orleans.

"I am from Texas and so we got a lot of refugees after Katrina, so the storm was more of a real thing to me than maybe others. [In New Orleans] we saw a lot of devastation and hopelessness. The city is still not rebuilt, and there were countless houses gutted out, rotting, or just turned into rubble by bulldozers," Petitt said in an e-mail interview.

Despite claims of progress, much of New Orleans and the surrounding area remain uninhabitable.

Katrina left 80 percent of New Orleans flooded, took over 1,800 lives and displaced over 800,000 people.

While some have returned to New Orleans, many residents of lower-class neighborhoods lack the means to rebuild and have been permanently displaced. Unlike low-income areas such as the 9th Ward, wealthy neighborhoods such as Lakewood have been reconstructed using private funds.

During the 2008 State of the Union Address, President Bush commended the effort that has gone into rebuilding the Gulf Coast and announced plans to convene the 2008 North American Summit of Canada, Mexico and the United States in New Orleans.

Scheduled for April 21-22, the impending Summit places government leaders in the very place they have been accused of abandoning.

In April 2007, the New Orleans Office of Recovery Management released the Unified New Orleans Plan, which outlined intentions to begin rebuilding throughout 17 "Target Areas," including the Lower 9th Ward.

To date, rebuilding of these areas has yet to commence.

Junior Skye Staley recalled her experiences in New Orleans.

"One of the most poignant memories I have of New Orleans is a sign we passed in the Lower Ninth Ward, the neighborhood literally right next to the area of the levee that broke.

"Nearly three years later, most people have not even returned to the area, and the few houses standing are still in complete disrepair," Staley wrote in an e-mail.

Part of the sign's message read: "We want our country to love us as much as we love our country."

At one point America did love the Gulf Coast.

Within a month after Katrina, American charities raised over $1 billion, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

In recent months, American citizens have proved less charitable, less concerned.

And while the federal government has provided over $144 billion to assist reconstruction, little of that money has made its way to those who need it.

Professor of theatre Rick Hornor accompanied the student volunteers during the Spring Break trip.

"I was stunned at how bad the situation still is. It's interesting to see where the money has gone. The casinos and hotels, those are back. But all along the coast there are still piles of bricks. In between Bay St. Louis and Biloxi you can count on maybe two hands the number of beach front homes. Police departments and the city hall are still in FEMA trailers," Hornor said.

With the third anniversary of Katrina approaching, it would be nice to know we have made progress in returning survivors to a state of normalcy and stability.

It would be nice to know that as a country, we have not forgotten our neighbors. With attention divided between politicians and their intentions for the country, Iraq, healthcare and so on, we must remember to remember those in our own land.

If a national crisis is not met with appropriate concern, what of foreign policy?

No, we can't all rebuild in New Orleans or donate thousands of dollars.

But what we can do is keep talking, keep reading and keep remembering.

Maybe those in charge will take notice if we can make Katrina the "Most Popular" story on Google.com.

It's a start.

Karla Rose is a an opinions columnist and a senior majoring in English. Contact her at karla.rose@whitworthian.com.

Thanks, Karla.

1 comment:

Anita said...

"Part of the sign's message read: 'We want our country to love us as much as we love our country.'"

omg yes. just.. yes.

2 years, 7 months, 11 days since Katrina. I'm not going to shut up about it until there is nothing to talk about anymore.