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Monday, 29 August 2011 18:54

Katrina Anniversary: Obama, Louisiana Officials Remember Hurricane, Aftermath

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KatrinaPresident Barack Obama and various elected officials have made written statements  regarding the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.  Katrina caused damage to much of south Louisiana including New Orleans on August 29, 2005.


Below are the written comments sent to Bayoubuzz:

 President Obama

Six years ago today, Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, upending families and ravaging communities – and no one will forget the tragic events of those days.  But what’s required of us is more than remembrance – what’s required of us is our continued efforts to make sure that New Orleans and the Gulf Coast fully recover, and to make sure that our response to such disasters is the best it can possibly be.


Over the past several years, we’ve seen what Americans are capable of when tested.  We’ve seen the grit and determination of people on the Gulf Coast coming together to rebuild their communities, brick by brick, block by block.  At the same time, we’ve made sure the federal government is doing its part to help.  We’ve cut through red tape to free up funding for recovery efforts in Louisiana and Mississippi.  We’ve taken steps to help school systems get children the tools and resources they need for a proper education.  We’ve broken through gridlock on behalf of tens of thousands of displaced families, making sure they have long-term housing solutions. And we’ll keep at it until these communities have come back stronger than before.


When it comes to disaster response, we’ve worked very seriously to enhance our preparedness efforts so that Americans are ready before disaster strikes, and to strengthen our recovery capabilities so that we’re more resilient after disaster strikes.  Over the last week, we have experienced the power of another storm, Hurricane Irene.  Before the storm made landfall, the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA worked closely with our state and local partners to preposition supplies and teams of first responders, and support their response efforts. Those response efforts are ongoing and we will continue that partnership, responding as quickly and effectively as possible, for as long as necessary, until the affected communities are back on their feet.


Today is a reminder of not just the immediate devastation that can be caused by these storms, but the long term needs of communities impacted by disasters – whether in Mississippi or Alabama, Tennessee or Missouri, North Dakota, or the east coast states impacted by Hurricane Irene. This Administration will stand by those communities until the work is done.  


U.S. Congressman Cedric Richmond (LA-02)

 “I’ll never forget Hurricane Katrina—the mix of a natural and a man-made catastrophe that resulted in the death of over 1,500 of our neighbors. Millions of folks were marked by the tragedy. On this sixth anniversary, I'm sending my heartfelt thoughts and prayers to those still struggling to rebuild—financially, emotionally, and structurally—from the storm.

“In the weeks and months after Katrina, many predicted that New Orleans would never recover.  Naysayers predicted our city’s best days were over. We knew better. We knew the difference between being buried and being planted to grow again. Six years later, New Orleans is once again, welcoming millions of visitors per year. The number of annual visitors was 8.3 million in 2010. Our population is growing, our unemployment rate is below the national average, and our schools and student are receiving resources they so desperately need. We’re on the mend, but we still have more to do. 

“I’m proud that we’ve improved our emergency communication, evacuation procedures, and levee construction but there is still work to be done in securing our city from the threat of storms. Our wetlands are the first line of protection against a future hurricane and more work remains in fortifying these defenses.

“In DC, I’ve passed amendments to allocate $6.3 million to keep our waterways open for business, $1 million as a down payment on our wetland restoration—our natural storm protection—and $5 million to ensure that drilling permits are reviewed thoroughly and efficiently. I’ve introduced eight bills to fight for support for our small businesses and ensure we get funding to rebuild public housing—among other things. Know that as you work to rebuild here at home, I’m fighting to get you the resources you need in DC.

“These past years, as we have been recovering and given our city a rebirth, we have been encouraged by our faith, knowledge, and steadfast belief that we will pull through. There will be challenges and setbacks, as there have already been, but we will continue, and we the citizens of New Orleans will prevail in bringing our city back.”



Plaquesmines Parish President Billy Nungesser


In 2005, Hurricane Katrina first made landfall in the Empire area of Plaquemines Parish.  Everything on the West Bank from Port Sulphur south was devastated as well as everything on the East Bank of Plaquemines.  Six years after Katrina, the Parish which was first hit comes back the strongest.

“We’re excited about the direction Plaquemines Parish is headed.  We didn’t take the usual government approach to the recovery, we thought outside the box, and the results have been strong.  Six years after Hurricane Katrina we have completed dozens of renovations and new construction projects, have a Master Plan study underway, established a paid firefighter system, re-instituted recycling, and have several traffic improvements coming, including the start of construction on the Bypass Road.  Our partnership with YMCA to run four community centers in recovering areas of the Parish has been recognized as a unique public-private partnership that could provide the model for future expansion of the YMCA,” said Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser. 

“To get people back you have to have jobs.  We went to all the major companies and asked them to use local vendors and companies from around Louisiana.  If you want a job in Plaquemines Parish, there’s a job to be had and we’re very proud of that.  Since Katrina more than 900 companies have added Plaquemines Parish to the list of places they do business.  That’s huge and we want to make sure we continue that trend,” said Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser. 

“The Parish also had the vision of deepening Baptiste Collette to create a shorter route to the Eastern Gulf.  That project will be the back bone to the Eastern Gulf expansion.  It will help create and save many Louisiana jobs which otherwise may have gone to Mississippi or Alabama, and we’re very proud of that,” said Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser. 


Slidell Police Chief Randy Smith


"The outpouring of help we received from faith-based organizations, the American Red Cross, other law enforcement agencies and fire departments must never be forgotten and must always be repaid," Smith said.  "Our community recovered faster than anyone would have expected, both from our own hard work and the immeasurable contributions of perfect strangers.  They didn't know us, but they came running to our aid in the time of our greatest disaster.  We must always be ready to do the same."

State Rep. Kevin Pearson
"Like many in St. Tammany Parish, my family and I sustained personal losses when Hurricane Katrina made landfall six years ago," Pearson said.  "Not only our homes and property but our emotions were damaged as we struggled to cope with something we never believed would happen. In the days and weeks that followed, Slidell and Pearl River communities solidified and rose up together to make things better.  Local governments were leaders.  The state followed later.

"Today, things are better.  Not only are there few visible traces of Katrina's devastation, but our communities are stronger and policies are in place that make us better able to address emergencies when they happen.  Emergency operations have been streamlined and improved, by both local and state governments.  Volunteer and non-profit organizations, including our faith-based institutions, are better equipped and prepared, benefiting from the generosity that arose after the storm and from the realization of their vital role in disaster response in recovery.  And all of us, I believe, have a better understanding of how all our lives are intertwined and how we must hold our governments and each other accountable.

"Nothing can erase the memories of Katrina's wrath, but we can celebrate the recovery of our cities, our parish and our state, and remember that no matter what happens we will not just survive, but thrive - together."

Louisiana, State Sen. Jack Donahue

On the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's landfall in southeast Louisiana, state Sen. Jack Donahue said while the memories of the storm haunt us, our community and our state have been strengthened by the experience.

"There are no good memories to be found in my recollections of Hurricane Katrina and its impact on our state," Donahue said.  "But there are positive outcomes that can be seen.

"First and foremost, we learned the strength and character of our own community and were reminded of the good-heartedness of people everywhere.  Neighbors helped neighbors, strangers helped strangers, and literally tens of thousands of people poured into our area to help with emergency response, cleanup, and recovery.  From meeting basic needs to dealing with long-term effects on mental health, people came together and did what had to be done.

"The failures of our state and federal governments were self-evident, but so was the remarkable response of local leaders.  In the Legislature, we have taken action to strengthen emergency response with 'interoperability' that connects emergency responders across parish lines.  We have passed laws to protect consumers from irresponsible insurance companies that fail to live up to their obligations.  And we have established stronger relationships with other communities in our state, knowing that we rely on each other - not just in bad times, but in good times, too.

"President Kennedy once said, 'A rising tide lifts all boats.'  The tidal surge of Katrina was devastating, but in the end it elevated all of us.  We are a better state, having learned the lessons of our own missteps and having taken action to prevent history from repeating itself.  We are a better community, and the anniversary of Katrina is the perfect time to reflect on the neighborliness we saw put into action during those difficult times and to put it into action every day.

"I would never have wished for such a calamity as Katrina was, and none of us could have foreseen the consequences of that terrible storm.  But we also never would have imagined that what felt like the end of the world was the beginning of Louisiana turning a corner in our history, both in government and in community.  Katrina changed things.  We will never be the same.  We will be better."


Louisiana Rep. Greg Cromer 

"As bad as Katrina was for our community, I saw it bring out the best in our citizens and those are the memories I cling to.  I remember watching our community pull itself back together, taking care of each other and ourselves.  I saw people who had lost everything get out of their cars in food, water and ice distribution lines to help strangers load their cars.  I saw people help their neighbors - and even strangers - clear their yards.  The people of St. Tammany Parish took care of themselves and each other, without a lot of assistance from the outside.  Our folks stepped up and helped the elderly and the needy.  I saw families without shelter of their own setting up facilities for those even less fortunate.  I saw people who had nothing park their cars, get out of food lines, and help our deputies, police officers and National Guardsmen so they could have a break out of the heat.  They asked for nothing in return.  Those memories I will never lose and they show the substance of our citizens."


Louisiana Rep. Nita Hutter

"Today, we remember the unspeakable tragedy that struck six years ago. For many, it is a time of renewed grief. Thousands of people lost their lives, many of them poor, aged, infirm or helpless. Literally hundreds of thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed across our state. Commerce came to a stop, and our state seemed lost in despair.

"But we rose up. Volunteers from emergency responders in other states and countries to average citizens around our country flocked to us. One of my strongest memories of Katrina's aftermath is the arrival of Royal Canadian Mounted Police - the first outside emergency personnel to reach us in St. Bernard Parish. While disappointments in our bureaucracy were many, messengers of hope from both near and far - Hide quoted text - brought us renewed energy, drive and determination to rise from our misery into renewed prosperity.

"The struggles that began on this day in 2005 were many. In addition to losing my own home, I have personally struggled with contractors who defrauded me and my neighbors. I have wrestled with a lack of healthcare access for my community and for my elderly mother. Today, six years later, my home is finally almost restored. Many others had these experiences and all of us have shared in the recovery in some form.

"As a legislator, I worked with many of my colleagues to make significant and lasting changes so that such things will not recur. We have worked to solve the insurance crisis that followed. We have worked to restore our infrastructure and harden our ability to communicate in a time of disaster. We have strengthened our education system to keep our children and grandchildren here and to make for a better economy, ensuring the next generation of leaders will not leave Louisiana. We continue to restore and improve our healthcare institutions so no Louisianan will have such limited access to hospital facilities and healthcare providers as we have endured in recent years.

"We have accomplished a great deal, but much more remains to be done. And in the doing, we must never forget what happened here. While all of us would prefer to forget those horrible events, we must remain vigilant in our recollections. History cannot be allowed to repeat itself, and pausing to remember the lost, to honor those whose heroism gave us hope, and to re-engage our determination to do better are all part of our obligation as leaders and as citizens.

"May God continue to bless this ongoing recovery, and may we celebrate our God-given determination and resiliency."



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