Mississippi and Louisiana marked the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on Saturday by ringing church bells, laying wreaths and celebrating the resiliency of a region still recovering from a disaster that killed more than 1,800 people and caused $151 billion in damage.
Addressing dignitaries at New Orleans’ memorial to the unclaimed and unidentified dead, Mayor Mitch Landrieu spoke of the dark days after the monstrous storm and how the city’s residents leaned on one another for support.
“We saved each other,” he said. “New Orleans will be unbowed and unbroken.”
In Mississippi, churches along coastal Hancock County tolled their bells in unison Saturday morning to mark a decade since Katrina made landfall in the state.
Eloise Allen, 80, wept softly into a tissue and leaned against her rusting Oldsmobile as bells chimed at Our Lady of the Gulf Catholic Church, just across a two-lane street from a sun-drenched beach at Bay St. Louis.
Her home, farther inland, was damaged but livable, she said, but her daughter lost her home in nearby Waveland. Many of her friends and neighbors also suffered.
“I feel guilty,” she said. “I didn’t go through what all the other people did.”
In Biloxi, clergy and community leaders gathered at a new minor league baseball park for a memorial to the hurricane’s victims. A concert celebrating the recovery was planned for the evening.
During a prayer service at a seaside park in Gulfport, former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour praised volunteers who worked on the recovery. He said more than 954,000 people from around the country came to Mississippi to help in the first five years after the storm. Many, he said, were motivated by faith.
“They thought it was God’s command to try to help people in need,” Barbour said.
Katrina’s massive storm surge scoured the Mississippi coast, pushed boats far inland and wiped houses away, leaving concrete front steps to nowhere.
In New Orleans, wide-scale levee failures on Aug. 29, 2005, left 80% of the city under water.
New Orleans has framed this anniversary as a showcase to demonstrate to the world how far the city has come. In the week leading up to the anniversary, the city has held lectures, given tours of levee improvements and released a resiliency plan.
Many parts of the iconic city have rebounded phenomenally, but many residents, particularly in the black community, still struggle.
In New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward, residents and community activists gathered Saturday at the levee where storm waters broke through, submerging the neighborhood.
After speeches, a parade snaked through the neighborhood as music spilled from boom boxes and people sold water from ice chests under the hot sun.
Wilmington Sims watched the parade from his front porch. He’d helped build the porch before Katrina, then had to redo the work after flooding damaged his home’s first floor.
He said the outpouring of support was “uplifting,” but he said many people still need help and the Lower 9th Ward needs economic development.