NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Between acres of aboveground tombs that are this marshy city’s way to inter the dead, there is a strip of land that is an empty tribute to the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Unknown to most in town, including the relatives of those who died in the storm, it is the chosen site for a memorial to an estimated 1,600 fatalities, and will serve as the resting place for 85 bodies that remain unclaimed nearly three years after the disaster. During a second-anniversary ceremony, Mayor Ray Nagin shed a tear, gave $1 million in taxpayer money to the project, and delegated management to a city coroner intent on a monument that would double as a warning to be better prepared for the next hurricane.

“This is an example of the dead helping the living,” said New Orleans Parish Coroner Frank Minyard. “The underprivileged African-American community suffered worst in this storm and we have to make sure for the next storm that it doesn’t happen again. Hopefully, this memorial will be a reminder of that.”

But nine months later, 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 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. Few expect the monument to be built by the target date of Aug. 29, Katrina’s third anniversary.

“Maybe by the fourth anniversary, maybe the fifth,” said Gwendolyn Davis Brown, 53, the niece of the Rev. Lonnie Garrison, a longtime pastor at Pilgrim Progress Missionary Baptist Church in New Orleans who died in the aftermath of the storm. “There’s so much stuff going on in the city, people still have to get back into their homes,” added Patsy Garrison Dupart, 58, Garrison’s daughter.


Full Story: