Saturday, August 29, 2015

Katrina 10 Years Ago

Hurricane Katrina, the most destructive and third deadliest hurricane in US history (1. Galveston Hurricane of 1900, 2. Okeechobee Hurricane of 1928), hit New Orleans and the Gulf Coast ten years ago this weekend.  The official death toll was over 1800 with about 1400 of those deaths in New Orleans.  The death toll and destruction were compounded by poor engineering decisions from decades earlier, by late and muddled government responses, by corruption, and by callous racism.  It was a natural disaster made into a catastrophe by human bungling and corruption.

Most of the coverage of the anniversary of the hurricane is upbeat stories about recovery.  Our culture just doesn't do sad very well, and sees grief as a disease to be treated rather than as an inevitable part of life and mortality to be suffered.  New Orleans and the Mississippi Delta will never be the same again, if for no other reason than those 1800 and more lives can never be replaced.  I also fear that the hurricane became a real estate development opportunity transforming a large mostly Black city into a smaller Whiter, and wealthier city with skyrocketing housing costs.  Many of the original residents of the city who fled can no longer return.

Here is Bessie Smith singing "Backwater Blues" which she wrote in 1927 after witnessing a record flood of the Cumberland River in Nashville, Tennessee on Christmas day, 1926.  The song soon became associated with another major natural disaster compounded by human negligence and callousness, the great Mississippi Flood of 1927.

No comments: