NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- James Chaney spent the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina doing what he’s been doing since the killer storm crashed ashore--working on a damaged home.
’’My house is pretty close to being done, now we’re trying to get my sister home,’’ said Chaney, 39. ’’Thank God for family and friends. If it wasn’t for them nobody would ever get back here.’’
Two years after Katrina hit, a storm of bitterness and anger has yet to clear. While memorials were held to mark the day, residents fumed about the government’s response and marched to demand help.
’’We want people to know that nothing is being done to help people here,’’ said Samuel Banks, 40, as he marched with about 1,000 other protesters Wednesday. ’’How can the city rebuild if nobody has money or jobs?’’
President Bush visited the first school to reopen in the hard-hit Lower 9th Ward and pledged additional aid. ’’We’re still paying attention. We understand,’’ he said.
The Category 3 hurricane hit the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29, 2005, broke through levees and flooded 80 percent of the city. More than 1,600 people across Louisiana and Mississippi were killed.
Vast stretches of New Orleans still show little or no signs of recovery. A housing shortage and high rents have hampered business growth.
The homeless population has almost doubled since the storm, and many squat in an estimated 80,000 vacant dwellings. Violent crime is also on the rise, and the National Guard and state troopers are supplementing a diminished local police force.
Bush, Mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco all have drawn heavy criticism in the storm’s aftermath. Blanco opted not to run for re-election this year after polls showed her popularity at rock bottom.
’’They talk and talk about what they’re going to do,’’ said Clarence Russ, 64. ’’There was supposed to be all this money, but where’d it go? None of us got any.’’
He was trying to put the finishing touches on his repaired home in the Lower 9th Ward -- the only restored home on an otherwise desolate block.
’’It’s a sad city now,’’ Russ said as he scrubbed away at the big black ’’X’’ spray-painted during house-to-house searches for bodies in September 2005. ’’All our friends are gone. It’s just us and a bunch of ghosts down here.’’
Bells pealed amid prayers, song and tears at the groundbreaking for a planned Katrina memorial at a New Orleans cemetery. The memorial will be the final resting place for more than two dozen unclaimed bodies.
’’We ring the bells for a city that is in recovery, that is struggling, that is performing miracles on a daily basis,’’ said Nagin, who famously cursed the federal response in a radio interview days after the storm.
In Mississippi, about 100 people prayed and sang in the shadow of a Katrina monument on the neatly manicured town green of Biloxi.
The memorial itself stands about 12 feet tall, marking the peak of the muscular tidal surge that sucked entire neighborhoods out to sea and tossed ashore hulking casino barges longer than football fields.
Occasionally during the solemn service, snippets of music could be heard from the Hard Rock hotel and casino across U.S. Highway 90 -- a sign of the rebounding Gulf Coast tourism market.
’’We have a new outlook on life and a new appreciation for what’s really important in life. It’s not your car or your clothes or your possessions. It’s being alive and knowing the importance of family and friends and knowing that we all have a higher