Shortly after dawn on the morning of August 29th, 2005, an ever-feared doomsday scenario began to transpire. At first, it was believed NOLA had “dodged the bullet” as Katrina took a slight wobble to the east just before coming ashore. That night, America went to sleep thinking the worst had passed, meanwhile, the Army Corps of Engineers already knew the levees had been breached. On the morning of August 30th, the world awoke to complete and utter devastation. No one wanted to believe or consider the possibility of such widespread disaster. Poorly constructed levees, uninformed, ill-prepared residents, and irresponsible leaders led to the loss of 1,833 innocent lives and the destruction of more than 800,000 homes.
The days and weeks following the disaster were truly surreal and melancholy. The State and Federal Governments really didn’t have a plan. Evacuated residents returned to what used to be their homes, and walked dazedly through the rubble and debris. Many of those whose homes and livelihoods were destroyed by the storm never returned. Some stayed away because it was just too difficult to remain there and rebuild, but some were no longer alive to do so. Before the storm hit, the population of New Orleans was about 484,000 people, but after, it was less than 370,000, and today it is about 340,000.
Various parts of the city have been restored to something close to what they were before Katrina. The land bordering the Mississippi River and the Lakefront are again flourishing with life and beauty. There are numerous hotels located around the city for tourists pouring into the city day and night. The illustrious food business is thriving with old and new restaurants opening their doors to eager foodies, tourists, and residents alike. The musical culture is alive in the jazz orchestra and the streets, and this fall, in the newly renovated and restored 1918 Orpheum Theatre.
There is still a huge sense of loss. Most residents refer to life “before the storm” and “after the storm.” Many of the worst flooded neighborhoods in the city, such as the 9th Ward, did not exactly have the same revitalization as the rest of the city. The people who lived in those houses were the poorest in the city, most of them being African-American. Many of the residents stayed during the storm, not being able to evacuate and it being too late to get to a safe place. There was no escaping the quickly rising floodwaters, and a great number of the residents perished. The destruction here was unreal, the houses were either completely demolished or inhabitable because of all the water damage. And, being that these people were extremely poor, they did not have the money to restore the community. So, a lot of the houses remain gone, or in shambles, and the area is worse off than before the storm. Houses that are being rebuilt will never have the unique charm and architecture that was ubiquitous to only New Orleans.
Another thing lost is much of the Crescent City’s culture. The city was majority African-American and has Creole, French and Spanish roots in everything, from food to music to architecture to the people. The city is still a majority African-American, but with a much smaller gap than before. There was an influx of Hispanics into the city in the time following the storm, commissioned to aid with relief efforts and the rebuilding of the city. Many of the workers remained, and they have added many aspects of their own culture into the city. New Orleans has now become more of a melting pot of lots of different cultures fusing into one.
New Orleans lost everything, then worked hard to get it back. Some things were lost for good, but new things were gained in their wake. The city has struggled with innumerable heartache and loss, but the people have banded together and are striving to revitalize The Big Easy, once and for all.