Although most of last Saturday was filled with rain, the spirits of the people who attended what was to be a Nature Walk at Joe W. Brown Memorial Park were not dampened.
A large group of elected officials, residents and other supporters braved the weather to remember the lives that were lost as a result of Hurricane Katrina, and celebrate the recovery that is coming.
Words of encouragement were given by Congressman Anh "Joseph" Cao, Deputy CAO Ann Duplessis, Council President Arnie Fielkow, Council Vice President Jackie Clarkson, Council District E Representative Jon Johnson, and State Representative Austin Badon. School Board member Ira Thomas also attended. Following their statements, the officials participated in a bell ringing ceremony.
Amy Legaux, Disaster Recovery Coordinator with the Audubon Nature Institute brought 64 butterflies to the event which were released into the park. Some of the butterflies, which included Swallowtails and Monarchs, lingered before flying away into the park, to the delight of those gathered under Shelter 1. Glenn Ousset, a regular volunteer at the Nature Center, also attended.
Tina Bouzon, who represented the Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation, reminded the crowd that it was the late Mr. and Mrs. Brown who donated land for the park and the Louisiana Nature Center. Although we've become accustomed to referring to the park simply as Joe Brown Park, Ms. Bouzon asked us to use "Joe W. Brown." Joe Brown was a boxer, who is sometimes mistakenly associated with the park.
Other special guests included Jean Fahr, Executive Director of Parkway Partners, with whom the Friends of Joe W. Brown Memorial Park & Louisiana Nature Center have partnered; and Ann Macdonald of the Department of Parks and Parkways, who provided a beautiful Magnolia tree for a ceremonial planting.
The highlight of the day was a visit from NFC Pro Hall of Famer and former Saints player, Rickey Jackson, who enthusiastically posed for pictures and signed autographs. Noah Lewis, representing Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, told the crowd about his initiative to "adopt" and develop young men, and the church's plans to break ground soon on a $20 million facility in the East.
Representatives of NOPD, including Sgt. Lawrence Dupree and Officer Eddie Dema, attended, while Karen Coaxum provided delicious, hot breakfast from McDonald's. Other supporters included Winn Dixie, Baskin Robbins, Sheriff Marlin Gusman, and Lowe's Home Improvement.
Hurricane Katrina which hit the Louisiana coast on Monday, August 29, 2005 was the costliest natural disaster, as well as one of the five deadliest hurricanes in the history of the United States. Wikipedia reports that, "Among recorded Atlantic hurricanes, it (Katrina) was the sixth strongest overall. At least 1,836 people lost their lives in the actual hurricane and in the subsequent floods, making it the deadliest U.S. hurricane since the 1928 Okeechobee hurricane; total property damage was estimated at $81 billion (2005 USD), nearly triple the damage wrought by Hurricane Andrew in 1992 . . . "
While the storm caused severe destruction along the Gulf coast from central Florida to Texas, the most severe loss of life occurred in New Orleans, Louisiana, which flooded as the levee system catastrophically failed, in many cases hours after the storm had moved inland. Eventually 80% of the city and large tracts of neighboring parishes became flooded, and the floodwaters lingered for weeks.
Thousand of Gulf Coast residents from Mississippi and Louisiana remain displaced and living in temporary accommodation five years later.
Lisa Stafford is publisher of NOELA News, The Eastern New Orleans Newsletter. She may be reached via email at NOELAbiz@aol.com.
Vincent Sylvain contributed to this article.
Photos by LeighAnna Marguerite.
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