It’s hard to believe that Hurricane Katrina made landfall five years ago, causing flooding that spanned large portions of the city of New Orleans.
The pictures of this natural catastrophe still speak for themselves:
Less than two years after Katrina, historians were already beginning to grapple with its historic significance. Dr. Cheathem had the opportunity to visit New Orleans in October 2008 during the annual Southern Historical Association meeting. He and approximately two dozen other historians spent an afternoon touring Katrina-affected areas with Ivor van Heerden, co-founder of the Louisiana State University Hurricane Center and the leading critic of the lack of hurricane preparation and response by numerous federal, state, and local agencies.
Over three years after the fact, the effects of Katrina were still obvious.
In the above Dec. 2005 photo, you can see where the water came through the Industrial Canal levee and wiped out parts of the Lower Ninth Ward. Here is what the Lower Ninth looked like when Dr. Cheathem visited in Oct. 2008:
If you haven’t visited New Orleans since Katrina, make sure you go to the Lower Ninth Ward, if nowhere else in the city. It is a sobering reminder of how fragile our infrastructure is, even in the 21st century. It also reflects the tenacity of the human spirit in an area that was already on the economic and social margins.