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Five years after Katrina, 'Big Easy' thrives

By Catholic Online
August 26th, 2010
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Hurricane Katrina blew through New Orleans five years ago. A nation watched in shock and horror as this onetime garden spot of the American South became inundated with floodwaters, the bodies of countless drowning victims floating down neighborhood streets. New Orleans has largely regained its foothold as a tourist destination, although many pressing issues remain.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The five-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina was observed by a recent screening of director Spike Lee's new documentary, "If God is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise," a sequel to his film "When the Levees Broke."

One of the displaced New Orleans residents featured in both films is Phyllis Montana-LeBlanc. "We have come some ways in a lot of areas and in a lot of areas we are still lacking, we are still needing. In my area of New Orleans East we still do not have a hospital five years later," she says.

"The thing people need to know about us is that we are still standing and we are still here. We are unbent and unbowed and the resilience of the people is going to be the thing that resonates for such a long time," she says.

Business is brisk in the French Quarter, and while the recent spill in the Gulf of Mexico caused a temporary dip in restaurant visits, government inspectors say seafood from the Gulf is now safe to eat.

"We are having a fantastic year," Kelly Shulz with the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau says. "When the oil spill happened we wanted to continue that fantastic year, we wanted to continue the momentum. So, although there has not been any oil in New Orleans, we have worked really hard to get the message out that all of the things visitors come to enjoy in New Orleans are unaffected," she said.

"I do think business is really thriving in the French Quarter," French Quarter restaurant owner Andrew Engolio says. "I think it is doing better than even before Katrina, which is wonderful. We thank all the people who are coming from out of town, all the tourists. It is really helpful," he said.

However, there are parts of the city where recovery is less evident. In the lower Ninth Ward, where many middle-income African-Americans once lived, Katrina's destruction remains highly visible.

A recent poll showed crime is the number one concern of most city residents and many areas remain blighted. Both government and private funds support rebuilding projects here, like these flood-resistant houses.

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