As the three-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaches, the AP is reporting that few expect the New Orleans Hurricane Katrina monument to be built by the target date of Aug. 29. During the second-anniversary ceremony, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin promised $1 million to the project, which will be a tribute to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, the estimated 1,600 fatalities, and the resting place for 85 bodies that remain unclaimed nearly three years after the disaster.
According to the AP:
What could have been an inspiring focal point for New Orleans has dissolved into a project that is forgotten, frustrated and delayed - much like the Katrina recovery itself. Some say a lack of follow-up by the mayor is the cause, but [New Orleans Parish Coroner Frank Minyard] places the blame on his own overburdened office, and the fatigue of a scattered city that had its share of problems long before the levees failed.
Facing South has reported on the slow recovery and the continued barriers to rebuilding for many New Orleans residents. A post-Katrina housing crisis continues to feed a surge in homelessness. More than half of the working poor, elderly and disabled who lived in New Orleans before Katrina have not returned. Because of critical shortages in low cost housing, few expect the tens of thousands of poor and working people to ever be able to return home.
Last week the Census Bureau reported that New Orleans ranks as the fastest-growing large city in the nation. New Orleans' population rose 13.8% to 239,124 in the year ending July 1, 2007 (still a marked decrease from the city's population in 2000 when it stood at 484,674).
But while an estimated 67 percent of New Orleans population has returned since the 2005 disaster, government statistics indicate many are not original inhabitants, with up to 200,000 pre-Katrina residents forwarding U.S. Mail to other parts of the country a year after the storm.
The AP reports that there is no organized group of surviving family members, as was seen after the 2001 World Trade Center attacks, to push for the memorial. Dislocation is blamed for the lack of activity to support the monument, but many non-profit and community groups that have returned to the city say they are still too overwhelmed with caring for the survivors' recovery needs.