New Orleans The Gulf Coast mixed somber ceremonies with New Orleans’ signature flair to mark the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and honor those killed during the catastrophic storm that drowned much of the region’s dominant city and devastated coastal towns in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana.
Monday marked the passage of six difficult years of rebuilding for the region, which is showing signs of a strong recovery from the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. The storm killed more than 1,800 people, a majority of them in New Orleans where water filled up the city after levees and floodwalls built by the Army Corps of Engineers failed.
Despite the hardships, many residents were upbeat.
“We’re coming back, one house at a time, just like the community was built so many years ago,” said Ronald Lewis, 60, who lives in New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward and runs a Mardi Gras Indian museum called the House of Dance and Feathers. He was one of the first residents to build back after Katrina.
To commemorate those lost in Katrina, Lewis and his Original Big 9 Social Aid and Pleasure Club marched a second-line down one of the only streets rebuilt in the neighborhood’s worst-hit area and hung a new wreath on an oak tree for one member’s mother and niece killed in the storm. The wreath changing has become a yearly ritual for the anniversary.
It wasn’t an altogether sad event, with people coming out of their homes to dance to the music and greet friends.
Also Monday, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and his sister, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., joined hundreds of people for a walk to the top of a bridge in the Lower 9th Ward where a bouquet of flowers was tossed into the Industrial Canal. The floodwalls along the canal burst open during Katrina and led to deadly flooding.
Similar events were held elsewhere on the Gulf Coast. In Biloxi, Miss., the names of storm victims were read aloud as about 100 people gathered in prayer at the Katrina Memorial site on the Town Green.