It’s been 17 years. Can you believe it? Time has flown by. Everybody has gotten so much older and thicker. 17 years is not a particularly memorable milestone. But here at Think 504 we would be remiss if we didn’t participate in that infamous human tradition of commemorating bad stuff that has happened to us.
For some reason Katrina is suddenly back in fashion now. The 5 Days At Memorial mini-series and the Katrina Babies documentary has the city and our trauma in national focus again. So lets look back and see what has changed and what has not in the 17 years that have passed.
Has New Orleans Changed at All?
17 years ago, we citizens were dealing with an ineffective mayor who was on the verge of talking himself right out of office.
17 years later, guess what, we citizens are dealing with another ineffective mayor who is on the verge of talking herself right out of office.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell hasn’t had anything as definitive as Chocolate City, yet. But she has had a number of micro-Chocolate Cities. Accumulative aggressions that have at one time or another irked the nerves of just about every citizen. For example, she was asked why she didn’t show support for those victims of carjackings instead of the carjacker. The mayor, on TV, said she rubbed them on the shoulder right before walking out on their victim statements. 🤦🏿♂️.
17 years ago, kids in New Orleans were subjected to a public school system that left them fit for a future of unemployment or jail time.
17 years later, kids in New Orleans are subjected to a charter school system that leaves them fit for a future of unemployment or jail time.
And 17 years ago, black people held political and financial power that was disproportional to their status as the majority population of this city.
17 years later, black people still hold political and financial power that is disproportional to their status as the majority population of this city.
17 years ago, there were kids now known as Katrina Babies being rescued out of attics and off rooftops. Their stories generally went untold.
17 years later, someone finally decided to document their trauma.
17 years ago, there were also a different kind of Katrina babies. These babies weren’t being rescued out of attics and off rooftops. Instead, these babies were being made in hotels and bedrooms across the country by traumatized couples who were stranded from home.
17 years later, those Katrina babies are all grown up and traumatizing the city one car jacking at a time.
17 years ago, a hurricane left the insurance industry a mess in Louisiana.
And 17 years later, a hurricane has once again left the insurance industry a mess in Louisiana.
17 years ago, the Saints were led by a streaky black quarterback prone to throwing just as many interceptions as touchdowns.
17 years later, the Saints are led by a streaky black quarterback prone to throwing just as many interceptions as touchdowns. This one doesn’t smile after throwing them, though, thankfully.
17 years ago, the Saints were an all-time losing team that had only been to the playoffs 5 times in its 39 year history. And of those 5, it had only managed to win one game.
17 years later, the Saints are a perennial playoff team that has won a Super Bowl, was robbed out the chance for another, and has racked up the 5th most wins since 2010 along the way. And there’s no threat of them moving to San Antonio, Tom Benson.
17 years ago, New Orleans was a city incapable of dealing with a major hurricane.
17 years later, New Orleans is still a city incapable of dealing with a major hurricane. We got the water part figured out. It appears that the city will never be subjected to catastrophic flooding again. But now if we could just figure out how to keep the lights on, Entergy.
17 years ago, we were all questioning the future of the city. After Katrina, there was all kinds of talk about a new New Orleans and doing things right this time. And that talk left a lot of us wondering exactly who would be welcomed in this new New Orleans, and if it would ever resemble the place we once called home.
17 years later, we’re not wondering anymore. The new New Orleans is coming into view. In many ways, it looks a lot like the old one. And in many ways it doesn’t. Slowly, the future seems to be pointing towards a gentrified city that will have seen a lot of black people displaced or priced-out of the neighborhoods they grew up in. I wonder if in 17 years, we’ll all gather to commemorate and document that trauma.