Post-Katrina: Remembering New Orleans Five Years Later

Zulu Parade, Mardi Gras, 2005

I am feeling a little melancholy, which is a familiar feeling at this time of the year. It is the five year anniversary of Katrina. I wonder should we use memorial rather than anniversary since the latter suggests a celebration like a wedding anniversary?

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I evacuated New Orleans five years ago. I’d been living on Perrier Street in the Garden District for a year, and loved being in the city. When Katrina started swirling in the Gulf of Mexico, Mayor Ray Nagin called for the people to evacuate.

I haphazardly threw some things into my car because I had evacuated the summer before in 2004 returning quickly to the city. I was working on a book so my files and computer were more important than my clothes.

I went to my brother in Stone Mountain and kept CNN on during all my waking hours. At first, the city was safe, the hurricane had passed. But then the levees breached. There was nothing but chaos in the CNN coverage. They were even showing the faces of missing children but then stopped.

I did not return to live in New Orleans as I did that first year. I stayed in Atlanta struggling with painful emotions in the aftermath for a number of years.

Mardi Gras. Audubon Park. Studio in the Woods. River Road. Algiers. Lower Ninth Ward.

6 responses

  1. While I got through the storm and flooding ok–job (such as it was) intact, living quarters secure (outside a slightly leaky roof), myeself in one piece, the whole thing really frightened me. It was (and still is) terrifying to contemplate how close we are to a complete breakdown in the social order. A friend recently told me that we are all 3 meals away from savagery. I found it hard to disagree.
    It was also frustrating that in a sense, with the city leveled, it did provide an opportunity to start over. What I saw in local governemnt was a frantic effort to restore certain old orders rather than looking to build new, healtier and more sustainable orders.
    But five years later, I really can’t complain without sounding utterly ungrateful. I’m in a safe place, I’m in grad school and I have so much to look forward too.
    I’m contemplating having a new tattoo done after graduation next year. A combination of the hurricane symbol, the fleur de lis, and UNO’s motto (if they have one). I don’t have visible battle scars from my experiences during and after Katrina so this will be my “scar”. Something I can point to and remember that I’m a lot stronger than I thought I was August 28, 2005.
    In a lot of ways, Katrina is probably the major turning point in my life–a closure of the old and getting on with the new.
    I agree with you Dianne about calling this date, August 29, 2010, a “memorial” rather than an “anniversary”.
    From one survivor to another. . .
    Be Swell Dianne.
    Lauri A. Dorrance

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