Nine Years Later

I shared this article on my personal Facebook page and posted it in the article archive but I thought it deserved a bigger commentary.

Ted Jackson wrote and compiled an interesting piece on Hurricane Katrina recovery in New Orleans, (I suppose in part as preparation for the 9th anniversary coming up). He has juxtaposed photos from during and immediately after Katrina with photos from the same places now (see example on left). At first I was simply struck by how this is relatively unique. Typically articles include before/ after photos, not after/ now photos. He has reinvented this classic communication method in a really effective way.

As anyone with any connection to New Orleans knows when you travel outside the Gulf Coast and people find out where you're from you are inevitably asked, "How are they doing? Are they recovered yet?". I've been getting asked this since 2007 - it's only been in the past year that I've had to pause before I answer. I expect next year especially, with the 10th anniversary, that there will be debate across the internet of if New Orleans is recovered.

"Today, I often hear tourists and visitors remark about how surprised they are to see no scars remaining of Katrina. The main artery of the city so efficiently transports folks from the airport to the French Quarter, who would know?"

As disasterologists know, recovery has no endpoint. Deeming a community "recovered" is tricky as it varies for everyone. I could make an argument either way for New Orleans as of August 26, 2014. Yet, interestingly, he doesn't give his opinion either way, although his photos speak for themselves.

What I found to be most intriguing is why we don't see more articles like this - showing the after/ now. I would venture that this speaks to the frequency to which we forget disasters that have happened. As someone with a focus in community recovery I often wonder how we can ensure that communities aren't forgotten before they are "recovered". Many communities can barely rebuild what once stood let alone move forward with "lessons learned", changing the way we prepare, implementing mitigation measures. These things all happen years after an event has occurred and require financial commitments that exceed local budgets and knowledge.

I think pieces like this go a long way in showing the realities of what recovery looks like. These photos offer an accurate representation of some areas thriving while others, minus the water, look the same as August 2005. More reflective articles, years down the line, such as this could begin to change the public narrative of recovery from an awareness of months after to years after.