Can you believe it’s been eight years already since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. What a debacle of communication and preparation. Hurricane Katrina made landfall near as a Category 4 hurricane on August 29, 2005. Katrina was the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States. In addition to the devastation for New Orleans, the hurricane caused havoc along the coasts of Mississippi and Alabama. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin ordered a mandatory evacuation of the city on August 28, but an estimated 150,000 people, who perhaps did not have the resources to leave, ignored the order and stayed. Katrina caused record storm surges all along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The surges overwhelmed the levees that protected New Orleans. Eighty percent of the city was flooded and many people took to the rooftops to escape the onslaught.
It was the response of a few brave rescue workers, private citizens, and safety workers that saved thousands. And it was the negligence of politicians and FEMA that contributed to more than 1,300 deaths. In all it is estimated that there was $150 billion in damages to the area. One million people were displaced by Katrina, something not seen in the US since the Great Depression.
One of the great follow up stories to the storm is that the Church showed up. Some organizations came, helped, and left, but countless people from the region experienced the staying power and repeated help of people of faith who came and stayed and came back. As one of the local officials said, “Unlike much outside assistance, the Church remained after a disaster. In the ensuing years of recovery and rehabilitation, the Church responds holistically, facilitating lasting change. Looking back on Hurricane Katrina at its eighth anniversary, the significance of the Church in disaster response is evident far beyond any governmental help.” It’s nice to hear of the staying power of people of faith. Have we learned? We can’t prevent disasters but I hope we know better how to respond.
As another person, displaced by Katrina said, “I cried out, ‘God help us’, and His people came to my rescue.”