When Hurricane Katrina touched down in New Orleans in late August 2005, nine-year-old Nia Burnett was too young to realize that her life would never be the same. Nia's family had chosen to stay in the city and wait out the storm. They all headed to a local hospital for safety. What they found were corpses lining the hallways. The whole building smelled like rotten flesh. Nia remembers later standing on the roof after the hospital started flooding, waiting to be rescued. Below her, she watched as all the neighborhoods she used to play in with her friends were swallowed up by the rising waters. Meanwhile, even more bodies floated around the hospital. It wasn't until 11 years after the storm that Nia was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
August 29 will mark the 18th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, one of the deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history, which devastated much of the Gulf Coast (specifically Louisiana and Mississippi) and disproportionately struck New Orleans. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration states that this Category 4 hurricane caused at least $108 billion in structural damage, leading to more than one million people being displaced, many permanently, especially the poor and people of color. According to livescience.com, an estimated 1,833 people died in the hurricane and the flooding that followed. (Aug. 27, 2015) That flooding, mainly caused by broken levees, overwhelmed the Ninth Ward, a predominant working-class Black neighborhood in New Orleans.
By Bill Quigley for Popular Resistance. Dear Fellow Hurricane Survivors: Our hearts go out to you as you try to return to and fix your homes and lives. Based on our experiences, here are a few things you should watch out for as you rebuild your communities. Here are twelve lessons from a survivor of Hurricane Katrina which hit New Orleans. The final two points are: Don’t allow those in power to forget about the people whose voices are never heard. People in nursing homes, people in hospitals, the elderly, the disabled, children, the working poor, renters, people of color, immigrants and prisoners. There is no need to be a voice for the voiceless, because all these people have voices, they are just not listened to. Help lift their voices and their stories up because the voices of business and industry and people with money and connections will do just fine. It is our other sisters and brothers who are always pushed to the back of the line. Stand with them as they struggle to reclaim their rightful place. Twelve. Realize that you have human rights to return to your community and to be made whole. Protect your human rights and the human rights of others.