Friday, November 02, 2007

Katrina Recovery Still in Progress

In the latest issue of their flight magazine, Northwest Air published an article about how New Orleans has recovered from Katrina--no more FEMA trailers, no more blue tarps for roofs, all of the French Quarter up and ready for tourists. This, of course, is not true and LeDayne McLeese Polaski of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America (BPFNA) has written the following letter to the magazine protesting their lack of awareness of the on-going problems. LeDayne, by the way, is the BPFNA's liaison to Churches Supporting Churches, a dynamic initiative that seeks to rebuild and strengthen a number of African American congregations and communities in New Orleans that were seriously affected by Hurricane Katrina

November 2, 2007

Jim Cron, Editor in Chief
NWA World Traveler
MSP Communications
220 S Sixth St, Suite 500
Minneapolis, MN 55402

Dear Mr. Cron.

I was utterly shocked by the article in the October 2007 issue of your magazine entitled "Back in the Big Easy." The front cover of your magazine and the first sentence of the article both boldly claim, "New Orleans is back." I travel to New Orleans monthly as part of the on-going recovery effort and can say that this assertion is heart-breakingly false.

I will name just a few of the many reasons that it is highly irresponsible to proclaim the city to be "back." As of August 2007, two full years after Hurricane Katrina­ only 40% of the students have returned to New Orleans' schools, a full one-third of the pre-storm residents have not yet been able to return home, 45,000 Louisiana families still live in FEMA trailers which have now been demonstrated to be harmful to their health, and a recent study conducted by the New Orleans Health Department revealed that death rates of current and former New Orleans residents are 47% higher than they were before the storm. Rental prices have skyrocketed. Crime has surged. Schools are struggling. Many residents are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. These continued hardships were lightly dismissed by the author of the article with such phrases as "But it is getting there" and "most of the countless blue tarps protecting homeowners' damaged roofs are gone." To stand in the midst of the Lower Ninth Ward is to witness an incomprehensible level of destruction that has only just begun to be addressed. There are indeed few blue tarps here but only because there are so few homes left. Other neighborhoods are still a sea of blue. The remaining work, the remaining suffering, is immense.

You, of course, publish a travel magazine, and I understand that you are by nature focused on the tourist industry within the city. It is indeed true that travelers can and should visit New Orleans ­they will find a lovely city with a warm welcome and much to enjoy. The city is perfectly ready to receive and entertain guests. Yet even a block or two off of Bourbon Street, it is clear that all is not well ­ many businesses have yet to re-open, many that have re-opened are struggling, and some are closing again for good. Moreover, for many or most of the residents and former residents of the city, life remains an overwhelming struggle­ and while many are facing that struggle with great courage and hope and determination, many others live in complete despair. You could honor all the survivors by being honest even while proclaiming that the city is open to visitors, you could also make it clear that the wounds of the city and all those who call her home are still very much in need of care. You could maintain integrity and the purpose of your magazine by calling people to visit the city while making clear the need to recreate it for all its citizens.

The article that you printed is simply false. I request that you print a correction in your next issue.


Rev. LeDayne McLeese Polaski, Program Coordinator
Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America
4800 Wedgewood Drive
Charlotte, NC 28210
To learn more about the ongoing challenges faced by the people of New Orleans, click here and here.

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