Several women from New Orleans, La. who survived the disaster of Hurricane Katrina shared their heart-wrenching stories at West Chester University on Wednesday, March 5, eager to spread their hope for their beloved city.The event in Phillips Memorial Library started with a short video presentation of the condition of New Orleans and the volunteer work being done to help. It shed light on the lack of assistance they have in New Orleans. A woman who organizes some of the volunteer work in New Orleans explained the situation.
“People are just as important, or even more important than donations. We need all the help we can get,” she said.
After the video presentation, the women of NOLA started telling their stories, each one just as tragic as the other. Many of the stories showed hints of outrage towards the lack of assistance from the government. Others shared their heartache with whoever was listening, hoping to rally supporters for their cause, which is the rehabilitation of New Orleans and its people.
A woman of NOLA and a Red Cross worker stated that there is about 9,000 square feet of land still devastated by the hurricanes of 2005, especially by Hurricane Katrina. That amount of land is equal to the size of the states of Pennsylvania and New York put together.
“Two and a half years later, only about nine percent of New Orleans residents are back in their homes. I am utterly disgusted with all levels of the government,” she said.
She also stated how most of the help is coming from volunteers who have no real disaster relief experience instead of paid professionals. The suicide rates are significantly higher in post-Katrina New Orleans as well.
On the contrary, the government did provide many families with trailers to live in while their homes were rebuilt. Unfortunately, almost three years later, many families are still living in trailers and waiting for their homes to be fixed. In very recent events, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, has told families in the trailers that they need to get out within the next two weeks due to unsafe formaldehyde levels. This caused all of those families to be relocated once again.
One of the older women of NOLA said, “To go to a shelter was out of the question for me.” She explained how she was a native of the city and stayed in her home during the storm. She was able to ride out the hurricane successfully, but then some other trouble came after the storm.
Two of the law enforcement agencies, the ATF and the DEA, of the United States Justice Department, tried to force her off of her property, even after she explained she was fine and had plenty of supplies to stay. “They had their guns at ready and they acted as if the Bill of Rights did not exist.”
Another woman of NOLA told her story of Hurricane Katrina when she was stuck in a police station where she worked. When the evacuation order was given, she and her family, including a toddler, had to start walking. A complete stranger saw the family trudging along the road and offered them a ride to Baton Rouge. When they arrived in Baton Rouge, she discovered that her mother had died in the convention center during the evacuation effort.
There were many other stories of hope and anguish throughout the two hour event, including a story of a woman who chose to leave the country due to the financial devastation she went through and the way that the United States completely failed her in her time of need. Escape has been the answer to many of these people’s problems, but for others escape is not even in the picture.
Jay Dechant is a fourth-year student majoring in history. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.