Neighborhood residents and local, state, and national dignitaries (including Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Senator and keynote speaker Mary Landrieu and District E councilman Jon Johnson, who represents the neighborhood and organized the event) gathered this morning at the Hurricane Katrina Memorial on North Claiborne Avenue between Tennessee and Reynes in the Lower Ninth Ward, to honor the memory of the storm—and the lives lost and altered in its path—that devastated the neighborhood, resulting in a nearly 80 percent population loss between the 2000 and 2010 Census counts.
The event began with a performance by the Martin Luther King Jr. Charter High School band:
And continued on with a series of speeches from politicians including Mayor Mitch Landrieu, First Circuit City Court Clerk (and candidate for a judgeship in Orleans Parish Civil District Court Division B) Ellen Hazeur, State Sen. Cynthia Willard-Lewis, and Sen. Mary Landrieu, the event's keynote speaker.
Sen. Landrieu called on politicians at every level of government—city, state and federal—to step up efforts to save the neighborhood, which she said is "not where it deserves to be," despite some positive developments of late (an announced $38 million reconstruction of Lawless High School, which many current and former residents say should have happened years ago; as well as $45 million in newly allocated federal money, announced last week, to repair infrastructure in the neighborhood).
"I'm going to be pushing state government and city government to redouble its efforts in the Lower Ninth Ward," Sen. Landrieu said.
"This is a test of the strength or weakness of the United States of America," she said. "It's no challenge to rebuild a wealthy neighborhood. It's no challenge to rebuild an upper-middle class neighborhood. The test is whether you can rebuild a neighborhood that is rich in its cultural heritage but has some economic challenges."
Sen. Landrieu criticized political leaders' efforts (including her own), which she said were lacking, to rebuild and repopulate the Lower Ninth Ward.
"I'm going to tell the president he's got to do better. The Senate has to do better," she said. "The mayor's got to do better. And the governor better get down here and pay attention to what's going on in this neighborhood."