On August 29th of 2005, Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast.
When it came, the levees broke. Louisiana is about six feet below sea level. The water washed over New Orleans and surrounding cities. The driving rain, rushing levee waters, and persistent wind speeds of 145 miles per hour caused great devastation.
When the storm cleared, Katrina had immersed entire towns and neighborhoods in several feet of standing water. The hardest hit town was Houma, Louisiana, but many surrounding towns and neighborhoods, including New Orleans, were severely affected by the storm. Eighty percent of the area was flooded to the rooftops. The hurricane also damaged the coasts of Mississippi and Alabama, as well as other parts of Louisiana. An estimated 13,000 people died in the tragedy. More than a million people were displaced.
Katrina was the worst natural disaster in United States history.
A day earlier, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin had ordered the area evacuated. However, the people who lived there were very low income, and many of them did not have the means to leave town. So 150,000 people stayed behind. Soon, many were dead, as others stood on their roofs to avoid drowning. They were hot, hungry and panic stricken. But they would just have to wait. Two days after the catastrophe, President George Bush was still on vacation in Martha's Vineyard. It took four days for any major relief efforts to even begin.
Suddenly, it occurred to the collective consciousness of our nation that the victims of this disaster were poor and black. This would explain the slow response of George W. Bush.
Events such as this one are every insurance company's worst nightmare. To make a long story short, insurance didn't pay much, and he insurance companies went bankrupt. This left homeowners with unlivable houses they could not afford to repair. Making matters worse, the insurance paperwork, in most cases, had been inside the destroyed house. In other cases, no homeowner’s insurance was purchased, as many of these homes were inherited from other family members, and very low income people cannot necessarily afford to buy home owner insurance.
A million displaced people were eventually escorted to stadiums, which served as a kind of holding shelter until a more permanent solution could be found. Few permanent solutions were found, and conditions soon deteriorated into unsanitary surroundings, low food and water, and sometimes violence.
Then, reporters gradually stopped covering Katrina in the news. Since then, those one million displaced people have been finding their own way, oftentimes living under bridges or in substandard trailers.
A few years ago, Brad Pitt spearheaded the rebuilding of the most devastated areas of the region. He called his high falutin' project the “Make it Right” foundation. He appears to have fancied himself heroic, running a contest for the design of new homes, having them built, and then selling those homes to “low income” families for $30,000, all the while exploring his love of architecture, while also satisfying his extreme need for attention.
He could have sold those homes back to the original property owners for a dollar. He would have no trouble finding them. Some of them still live under a bridge just two miles from his grand New Orleans mansion.
Contributor & Chief Coffee Maker