BAYHAM: Looking Back At The Political Theatre That Was Katrina 10

Many people in the New Orleans area are sick of Katrina and would be happy to never see one more news report about the most devastating natural disaster in American history.

What took place last week probably did not help matters.

At times, Katrina 10 was a crass political show.

It was a choreographed self-promotion platform to make the mayor of New Orleans a national figure worthy of a speaking slot at the Democratic National Convention and perhaps a spring board for a cabinet post (in other words, the same thing Bobby Jindal was accused of using the governor’s mansion for).

It was an excuse for Louisiana’s absentee governor to return home to chase the national television cameras in-state instead of futilely trying to get them to pay attention to him in Iowa

It was a chance for a sitting president to use the failures of shoddy levees to promote his eco-statist agenda.

It was an opportunity for the spouse of a failing Democratic presidential to repair his political family’s relationship with black voters after belittling Barack Obama in the 2008 primaries.

And an attempt by another ex-president to polish a bit his own Katrina record in the midst of his brother’s struggling White House bid.

The sincerity of these people’s participation in the Katrina 10 events is questionable as the mayor, governor and three presidents all skipped out on visiting the only civil parish that was 100% devastated by Katrina, even though a mere ten minute drive from the French Quarter.

But as the national media forgot about St. Bernard while it was filling up with water a decade ago and never bothered since to remember it, the big shots were not going to cross the line of demarcation of media interest that is Fats Domino’s house on Caffin Avenue.

And “the parish” lacked the wailing human interest social narrative of New Orleans, which is not much different post-Katrina than where it stood pre-Katrina.

The sociological nonsense that got reported and the ridiculous posing that got broadcast and beamed around the world from the Crescent City attempted to romanticize a pre-existing human tragedy that was t-boned by very bad weather and exacerbated by federal engineering incompetence and indifference, if not outright denial.

A Total Loss

For practically everyone in an inundated area, Katrina was a life milestone; though I was 31 at the time of the storm, I continue to divide my life into pre-K and post-K sections.

For many, Katrina was more than just losing stuff as it led to a sudden redefinition of our lives.

How we looked at the world on August 26th, the last normal day for people in New Orleans and St. Bernard, would be forever different come August 29th.

I understand why people around the country can’t comprehend what people in the New Orleans area experienced.   Folks in other places try to equate it with a fire burning down their home and consuming all of their possessions.

While the property loss is similar, the personal loss is far greater.

Katrina did not just make hell on individuals and families but entire communities.

Even after a conflagration, your neighbor’s house is still there and your kids’ teachers are still at the same school.

The storm robbed some people of the world they knew.

Schools, churches, neighborhoods, restaurants were destroyed. You couldn’t go back to visit with neighbors who have themselves been displaced to parts unknown.

And then for those who could stomach it, there was the “mucking”, that is enduring the choking mold, sifting through the thick sludge and ooze and trying to decide to return or build a new life amongst strangers somewhere unfamiliar.

Few people could know what it means to have gone through Katrina.

The Comeback Story

It’s a shame none of the big shots decided to visit St. Bernard, for they would have discovered the Katrina Miracle that happened in the working class suburban community.

At a commemoration event, a state official declared that 90% of all of the recovery projects in the hardly affluent parish are complete- while New Orleans’ Charity Hospital massive edifice sits vacant and the Municipal Auditorium remain almost as much of a wreck on August 29, 2015 as it was on August 29, 2005.

Chalmette’s educational facilities are the most impressive in the southeast, not Louisiana but the United States.

The flood surge barrier running across the very water ways that served as conduits of destruction stands as an engineering marvel and is the largest such structure in the world.

If there is one place FEMA could spike the football, it’s in St. Bernard.

Unfortunately, the international and national media (ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FoxNews and MSNBC) didn’t bother making it over to the press box.

The current administration of New Orleans pins the blame on the preceding leaders, yet St. Bernard is now on its third parish president since Katrina.

The difference between the two communities is that while everyone in St. Bernard was affected by Katrina, they chose to not remain victims.

Danke Schon

And though the president deemed St. Bernard not worth visiting, some officials from northern Germany looked forward to the opportunity.

Months ago, St. Bernard received an inquiry from the local governing authority of a town in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany about what was being done locally to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Katrina.

Their emergency preparedness sector had moved a massive amount of staff and heavy equipment to the suburb of New Orleans to “dewater” the community. German engineers lived on a cruise ship docked in Arabi for two months as they worked to make St. Bernard inhabitable once again.

They were eager to see how things have changed in the decade since they returned to the continent, curious how a community that had been engulfed with ten feet of water in some parts had come back.

The Germans took great pride in seeing how their efforts paid great dividends.

Those who were on the ground/muck not long after Katrina had a greater appreciation for St. Bernard’s recovery than lazy news directors and reporters content with being chauffeured around by Mitch’s media handlers and spoon fed leftist narratives from the comfortable confines of the Sheraton Hotel.

Yes, the constant Katrina media coverage stung for many residents this week, but the “survivors” owed it to our rescuers to give them a since of closure as well.

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