Viewpoint: Isaac: a chilling reminder of New Orleans’ stormy past

By Amando Dominick
Sraff Writer

August 29th, 2005.

On undeniably the darkest day in the rich history of the city of New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina absolutely destroyed the city, its coast and the surrounding area.

The city was filled with standing water of several feet for days, the storm surge reached twenty feet high and sustained winds exceeded 140 miles per hour.

People looted houses, martial law was in effect, businesses were closed, families were separated across miles of state lines, people died from both natural means and from violent ends.

Order was no where to be found.

If someone had seen photographs or videos of the city on that day, they would assume they were looking at a third world country.

Instead, they would be looking at a city terrorized by nature, ignored by many, neglected by the government, and left to fend for itself for days.

Fast forward to August 28th, 2012.

Seven years later and my neighbor’s house in Gentilly, located in the Orleans parish of the city about ten minutes from the Superdome, remains unkempt. The place was finally just gutted of its storm debris about a year ago. The storm left scars on the city that will last a lot longer than rotted houses.

Some people still flinch when they think of the destruction.

Others have even developed a phobia of water.

Isaac is not the raging category five that Katrina was, but another hurricane is the worst gift to give a city in the middle of recovery.

That is exactly what the city is in for as it braces to face Hurricane Isaac on August 29th, 2012, exactly seven years after Hurricane Katrina.

Many in the city are riding out this storm in their own homes, and are even hosting parties with their friends out of pure defiance of nature.

However, this anniversary rings as a dark reminder that although seven years have passed, the city has still not healed.

Why would anyone even want to live there? It’s several feet below sea level in the shape of a bowl, just waiting to be filled in.

As a direct result of the storm, nearly 2,000 people were killed, and 80 percent of the city flooded, because the levees failed.

When it came time to fix them, corrupt politics, finger-pointing, endless blame and red tape all inevitably led to nothing productive ever getting accomplished. Many people still don’t trust the levees any more than the politicians.

Still, I could list for hours why anyone would want to call New Orleans their home, but I shall quiet myself before I rant.

New Orleans is a beautiful city in many aspects.

It is unique, charming — magical, even.

Its unique culture, history and heritage is the envy of the other forty-nine states, not to mention its world-class food.

However, if work is not done to protect this city, then “New Orleans” may very well have to be renamed “Atlantis.”

The city claims that they’ve spent billions of dollars repairing levees, but with New Orleans politicians being exposed for corruption and pilfering money every time you open a newspaper, the average citizen can understandably find it hard to believe that all of that money went towards protecting their city.

Celebrities like Brad Pitt and Ellen DeGeneres have defended the city both with their words and actions, donating their time and money to assist those still reeling from the effects of the historic storm, but it is the politicians, local leaders and federal government who should be stepping up to help this great city.

New Orleanians live in constant fear six months out of the year during hurricane season that a huge storm can suddenly brew up and, within days, destroy everything that they have ever loved and valued.

Many who evacuated during Katrina were scattered around the country, from Houston to Virginia to California to as far away as Alaska.

The hurricane fundamentally changed the way people viewed everything.

Even now, everyone uses it as a reference point. They say things like, “hey, you remember when that corner store was there before Katrina?”

New Orleans is a strong city filled with resilient people, but when will enough be enough?

A good percentage of those who safely evacuated out of the city saw the effects of the storm, saw that their house was demolished, heard of friends who died in the chaos and decided that maybe New Orleans simply was not worth the fight anymore.

Now with a solid category one hurricane landing seven years to the day after Katrina, the question is ‘At this rate, how long will our city last?’

Anyone and everyone who can help must take swift, efficient action to protect the city from nature before it is too late.

This means rebuilding wetlands, building stronger levees, more efficient evacuation plans, and other measures to prevent disaster from destroying everything once nature rears its ugly head.

Tangible things can be replaced, memories and people, however, are irreplaceable.

The city learned that lesson the hard way on August 29th, 2005, as Katrina killed nearly 2,000 people, 80% of the city was flooded, and a countless amount of photographs and records were destroyed, all because the mechanisms designed to protect the city failed.

Isaac, a pathetic excuse for a hurricane, is a chilling reminder that it is possible and realistic for another catastrophic storm to pass through New Orleans.

If people sit idly by while the city drowns, they are willingly throwing away generations chance to experience the great beauty that New Orleans has to offer.

Do not let the time come when all you have to show of the city are pictures of places that you once loved, but now sit several feet under the Gulf’s warm water.

Amando Dominick is a Sophomore psychology pre-med major from New Orleans.