Dear friends of New Orleans, tomorrow is the 3rd Katrinaversary as we call it in New Orleans. Writing my annual Katrina letter is like giving birth. It is very painful, but it is worth it in the end. I think this may be my longest Katrina letter in three years. I have a lot on my mind so please bear with me...New Orleans is doing better than she was last year, but she still has a very long way to go. Many parts of the city remain devastated. Hurricane Katrina destroyed far more residential property than had any other recent hurricane, completely decimating an estimated 300,000 homes. So, you can imagine that it will take us many more years to get the REBUILD completed or I will use a phrase I learned while evacuated to Tulsa for 3 1/2 months, "to get R dun." This REBUILD is a marathon not a sprint. Without the help of volunteers from all over the country and the world much of the REBUILD could not have been completed. I would like to take this time to thank all of the volunteers who have come down here in the last three years to help us gut homes, build homes and loan a shoulder to cry on. I also would like to acknowledge the vast number of volunteers who have decided to make New Orleans their permanent home. Thanks to all of you for believing in our city and for wanting to be a part of this monumental task at hand. It is the largest REBUILD in American history. There are no books to tell us how this was done before. Not unless we look to how Europe was rebuilt after WWII. All of this being said, It is truly an exciting time to call New Orleans home. Now, let me move onto some nagging issues. I cringe when I hear people say, "New Orleans will never be the same again." Most often when this is said it is in a negative way. As if to say, New Orleans can't be the wonderful city it was before. They are WRONG. New Orleans is striving everyday to be BETTER than she was before the storm. We don't want the same ole' New Orleans that was only known for booze and a good time. The citizens of this city desire much more. We are working to build a city with a cutting edge Bio-Med industry, Hollywood South and Technology sector. Our young people were leaving the state of Louisianalong before Katrina hit. We were experiencing the "brain drain" many towns in America have been dealing with. Now, young people are moving back to be a part of our exciting rebirth. We have teachers, doctors, nurses, engineers just to name a few coming to NOLA to help breathe life into it once again. As I said before, it is an exciting time to call New Orleans home. Post-Katrina NOLA has the opportunity to re-invent itself and be better than before. Our public schools are being overhauled. New Orleans Public Schools were recently featured in the New York Times for being a model for the rest of the country. Click here to read article WOW! Who would have ever thought our schools would be a role model for the whole United States? It is a true testament to the rebirth of New Orleans. There may be some nay-sayers out there. But, I know most locals are excited about this opportunity to finally make New Orleans Public Schools work for the children who need it so desperately. Katrina ripped the veil off our eyes. She exposed gaping wounds in our city for all the world to see. These same wounds exist in every urban city in America. Unfortunately, NOLA had to be the city to show the United States what is happening in every city to its own poor and elderly. It's bigger than New Orleans. The issues of poverty, crime and corruption are in your own backyard if you care to look hard enough. Most people don't want to dig deeper and uncover these painful truths. Honestly, I think it is human nature to be non confrontational when it comes to serious problems. It is easier to just walk away than try to fix things. Thank God many have chosen NOT to walk away from their beloved New Orleans. It is because of the dedicated citizenry of New Orleans, that she is being REBUILT now. When the veil was lifted 3 years ago, the citizens were awakened. We are vigilant about uncovering corruption. The storm has energized NOLA citizenry. We are angry and we are vocal. People are blogging, going to meetings and educating ourselves about potential political candidates. Yes, it's a new day in New Orleans. Click here to read one of the citizen blogs
I also want to acknowledge the rebuilding of Lakeview and 9th ward. These two neighborhoods are very different from one another, but each one has determined citizens rebuilding it. Lakeview is faster to come back as it is citizens were most often middle class to upper middle class. Thus, they had the means to rebuild at a faster pace b/c their resources were greater. The Ninth Ward is much slower to be rebuilt. I drive through the neighborhood every few months to see what is happening down there. For the first two years, I would leave there nearly in tears. It is only upon my last visit in early August 2008 that I had a smile on my face. There are some new homes being built both by owners and by charitable organizations. Brad Pitt's Make It Right organization is building some homes on one of the main streets that sits parallel to the former federal levee breach. The homes are cutting edge green friendly. I know the owners of these new homes will be so proud to live in them. Please visit the Make It Right website to make a donation here. Thank you Brad Pitt for not forgetting about us!!! You are a blessing to us all. My pictures reflect the chaotic and frenetic sense of our rebuilding. Some people are home and some are not. You often will see a newly built home and then a blighted home right beside or across the street from it. This is the story of our rebuild at this time. 300,000 homes are going to take many years to be rebuilt. And, don't forget about the hospitals, police stations and fire stations that still have to be built! If you live ANYWHERE near a body of water please visit areweatrisk.org
to learn if your levees are safe. Also, please take a moment to sign the petition to ask that there be an 8/29 investigation into the Federal Levee failure that drowned New Orleans at levees.org
. The Army Corps of Engineers investigated ITSELF after the federal levee failures. That is just not acceptable. America deserves more from its government. Here is a video entitled Why do we need an 8/29 Investigation?
to learn more about the 8/29 Investigation. Please continue to come visit us if you live out of town. The French Quarter is pretty as ever and the food is some of the best in the world. We need each of you to keep visiting New Orleans in order for her to stay healthy and vibrant. New Orleans businesses still your support and will for many years to come. Most of the nation has moved on with the natural ebb and flow of life. New Orleanians can't move on until we can put the REBUILD and the levee failures behind us. As the years progress, please remember that New Orleans is not finished rebuilding and still needs your help. * this was written 4 days before Gustav was forecasted to move into the Gulf of Mexico and possibly hit New Orleans. Now, on the eve of the 3rd Katrinaversary, it strikes me with the utmost irony. THANK YOU ANDERSON COOPER FOR BEING ONE OF OUR BIGGEST CHEERLEADERS!! My picture with you is one I will treasure always. You are an adopted son to all New Orleanians. Pray for us in New Orleans. Much New Orleans Love to All.