The passion was actually palpable when I called Cynthia Ross Kendrick to inquire about her feelings regarding Hurricane Katrina and her former city of New Orleans. Even through the telephone, the waves of emotions were a force.
“Katrina gutted the city of its flavor and its people,” she lamented. She went on the say that New Orleans reminded her of the movie Pet Sematary. “The pet was dead and buried, but that same pet after being dug up and brought back was never the same,” was Cynthia’s observation. (In the Stephen King 1998 movie Pet Sematary, the cemetery had the power to raise the dead).
That Hurricane Katrina caused the death of New Orleans 10 years ago might be debatable but that over 1,800 people were killed, thousands lost their homes, and there was approximately $151 billion in damages is not debatable. And still I weep was resonating in Cynthia Ross Kendrick’s voice.
“It took me 5 years to go back to New Orleans, and I really cried,” she said. Even though Cynthia had moved to metro Atlanta long before Katrina hit, the city is still deeply entrenched in her heart and soul. Her tone motivated me to find out even more about the storm’s aftermath.
I learned that 3 days before the storm made landfall as a Category 3, AccuWeather meteorologists urged residents to take action as they warned of a “catastrophe in the making in New Orleans” and predicted that “Katrina could be one of the top Gulf hits in modern times.” This report according to Kevin Byrne, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer.
However, what the weather service did not know was that tens of billions of gallons of water would spill into numerous areas of New Orleans causing a devastation beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. More than 50 failures of the levees protecting the city caused the flooding of over 100,000 homes and businesses, according to reports.
And now 10 years later, “the lower Ninth ward still looks much the same as right after Katrina, in fact it looks like a third world country,” Cynthia solemnly declared. “In the pre Katrina New Orleans, you could actually know what section of town you were in by the style of the houses. Now with houses going up willy nilly, that uniqueness is gone,” she went on to say almost wistfully.
According to Yahoo news reporter Lisa Belkin, over 100,000 former residents have not returned, mostly African Americans with lower incomes. This is yet another tragic situation Cynthia and I discussed. To this end, Dillard professor Gary Clark, spoke to the Associated Press about gentrification being a probable cause of this continued displacement. Professor Clark said, “New Orleans is becoming a boutique city like San Francisco. You may see black middle class moving in, but with gentrification there’s overwhelmingly white individuals of means who become the new urban pioneers.” (Courtesy of Dillard University)
And now I weep.