The anniversary of Hurricane Katrina always triggers mixed emotions in the hearts of the storm's survivors. We mourn the more than 1,500 Louisianans who died in the cataclysm caused by the federal government's failure to design and build floodwalls that performed as promised. Many thousands more lost their homes, businesses, neighborhoods, churches, playgrounds and institutions that made southeast Louisiana "home." At the same time, we remember the words of our first post-Katrina Commentary on Nov. 1, 2005 (Gambit was knocked out of publication for nine weeks by the storm): "This is a time of tremendous challenge — and virtually unlimited opportunity. Let's not squander it." With each passing year, all of southeast Louisiana has gotten stronger in ways that many thought impossible before Katrina upended everything — and challenged all of us to pull together like never before.
Katrina exposed long-simmering problems that have plagued New Orleans for generations, particularly those of race and class. Many of those problems persist, as evidenced by the recent spike in violent crime. The storm also united many New Orleanians and galvanized efforts to bring about political reforms that once seemed impossible. Thanks to citizen-led initiatives, New Orleans now has one assessor instead of seven, one sheriff instead of two, one of the nation's most improved public school systems, regional rather then parochial flood protection authorities and higher ethical standards for elected officials. More remains to be done, of course; the fight for good government never really ends.
One other emotion that we must always embrace at this time is profound gratitude. More than 70 countries and hundreds of faith-based and secular nonprofits sent aid and volunteers to south Louisiana after Katrina and Hurricane Rita. Many of those volunteers stayed and now are among the throngs of new New Orleanians. Others arrived as the city's recovery gained traction, making New Orleans the nation's most attractive city to young people. As happened many times in our city's history, the new arrivals brought with them new energy, new vision and an infectious sense of purpose that has reminded natives of our city's uniqueness and possibilities. They have seen and felt natives' perseverance and passion, and in turn they have made and continue to make tremendous contributions in New Orleans' artistic, culinary, musical, theatrical, civic, political and educational arenas.
As we look back over the changes of the past decade, we are mindful of the changes Gambit has made during that same time. Like New Orleans, we are smaller but even more resilient. Also like New Orleans, we cling to the things that make us unique. Our mission remains unchanged, and our commitment to provide metro New Orleans with an alternative voice remains unshakable. Going forward, we will continue to criticize those who deserve it and promote the things that make New Orleans the great city that it is — our arts, our neighborhoods, our music, our food, our very culture.
On this 10th anniversary of Katrina, we join all New Orleanians — the old and the new — in the mixed emotions of sorrow, celebration and gratitude. We hope New Orleanians will continue to pull together to face the challenges that confront us.