The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Katrina survivors still struggle two years later

Two years ago, Hurricane Katrina swept through Mississippi and Louisiana. It destroyed homes, community centers, places of worship, parks and historical landmarks. Its effect were far-reaching, and though our government mostly ignored the plight of its displaced people, the hurricane’s devastation was felt throughout the country.

It’s important to note that Louisiana didn’t suffer because of the hurricane. Rather, Louisiana suffered because of the broken levees. As Katrina passed east of the city of New Orleans, every levee in the city was breached and 80 percent of the city flooded. More than 200,000 homes were destroyed and more than 1,100 residents of Louisiana lost their lives. Had the levees been repaired and maintained, as was required by the U.S. Army Corps, Hurricane Katrina would’ve made significantly less of an impact on the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana.

When the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami hit, America was quick to help. We had troops overseas instantly providing food, water, shelter and medical assistance. It seems when international disaster hits, America is eager to put its name on the list for charitable contributions and disaster relief. Is our government so concerned about our image overseas that when disaster and tragedy strike our own communities, we turn a blind eye? Where was our government when Hurricane Katrina pummeled Louisiana and Mississippi? Where was our government when people were swimming through their streets, dying of dehydration and sickness as a lack of food and clean water ravaged their health and spirit?

Though our country may be economically rich, our government is lacking devotion to its own citizens. I was shocked when the news cameras showed people having to loot for their dinner and children wading past the bloated bodies of their grandparents. I was shocked when my aunts and uncles told me about snakes invading their rooftops as they waited to be rescued, as it was the only place the snakes could go for shelter. I was shocked that our government wasn’t there.

The people of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama were forgotten. Even weeks after the storm, people were fighting one another for the small, cramped trailers the Federal Emergency Management Agency dumped off in the different districts of Louisiana. Imagine how it would feel to be stranded on the roof of your house for days without food or water, not knowing where your loved ones were or if they even survived. I was told that many victims had to wait several days before they were rescued. Some were not rescued at all. Those that perished inside of their destroyed homes were victims of the lack of organization and assistance from the government.

In addition to the amount of time it took for assistance to arrive, when troops did show up they were forceful and rude, sometimes threatening to shoot people entering their own homes. It must feel pretty spectacular to approach your destroyed home and be threatened at gunpoint if you go inside.

Something has to be wrong with a federal government that has been sued multiple times by its own citizens. As we speak, the residents of Louisiana are pursuing a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the federal government for the faulty design and maintenance of the levees. I don’t understand how the government could disregard a state of people in so much need. A natural disaster is a huge crisis, and that our nation never properly gave assistance is outrageous.

Luckily, the south has always had an immortal soul. Though the Cajun Coast was physically destroyed, its remaining citizens were quick to begin the rebuilding. The city of New Orleans is thriving. This summer, I visited New Orleans and was impressed by the perseverance, hope and dedication of the survivors of the storm. Although the people of Louisiana seemed gracious for what little help the nation gave them, I was told about the city’s growing suicide rates and lack of financial resources.

Despite that, the people of Louisiana have done a remarkable job piecing together what remains of their state. They’re eager for tourism and encourage people to visit often. During my visit, I was impressed and humbled by the beauty of the city and the locals’ determination to rebuild and the generous southern hospitality.

If we ever experience another natural disaster as devastating as Hurricane Katrina, I hope our government will be more forthcoming and prepared. I hope that whoever is displaced will be rescued and supported, with kind words and warm hearts awaiting their safe arrival. There’s no excuse for the U.S. government’s multiple mistakes in the handling of the relief and rescue of the victims of Katrina.

To support Louisiana’s quest in rebuilding the levees to code and safety standards, visit Levees.

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