It’s been four years and four days since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast Region. The storm claimed the lives of close to 2,000 people and caused billions of dollars in damage. There is no question that it was the worst natural disaster this country has ever seen. People died, the levees broke, and FEMA failed.
As the world pauses and turns its eyes and thoughts to reflect on what happened four years ago, one question that will certainly be on everyone’s mind: has the government forgotten?
Hurricane Katrina occurred under the administration of one president, but has been passed along to President Obama. Former Sen. Obama pledged he would keep the broken promises made to the people of New Orleans, ensure the federal government would be prepared the next time around, and rebuild from this disaster better and stronger than ever. The President has been in office for just over eight months, yet he has not visited the region once. Although in a recent weekly radio address, he noted that 11 members of his Cabinet have been to the region and he would visit by the year’s end.
Many cite the progress that has occurred since the storm. In many areas homes are being rebuilt, businesses are once again opening their doors, and school districts, like the Recovery School District are working to ensure low performance schools are transformed all across New Orleans.
While these successes are encouraging, there is so much more that can be done. I’ve had the opportunity to visit New Orleans four times to do relief work, since August of 2005. I can tell you in places like the Lower Ninth Ward, where the storm hit the worst, things are simply not getting better. This is of course the historically black part of the city, and a recent Gallop poll suggests that only 20 percent of residents have returned home.
Other areas of New Orleans have seen residents return rate of 75 percent. Many suggest the disparities exist because of the deep divisions, particularly along racial lines. Others blame it on local corruption, crime, and failed economic growth. If we can spend over $915 billion between the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan then we must be able to pump money into our own issues here at home.
Whatever the causes, now is the time for President Obama, Congress, and all Americans to push forward and put the conflicts of the past behind and focus on the common challenges and opportunities that face everyone in the region.
Lets renew this country’s promise and ensure that New Orleans best days are ahead of it.
Vincent Evans is senior Political Science Student from Jacksonville.